Synthetic biology is developing tools and frameworks to design the building blocks of life. This ability promises to revolutionize economies and societies, offering new approaches to transform industries and overcome global challenges. The impact areas are manifold: synthetic biology is driving innovation in manufacturing, healthcare, energy production, information storage, environmental remediation, materials and many more. However, these impacts so far are being driven and felt by a select few globally. As synthetic biology matures, we have choices in how we shape the future. How can we realize the potential of synthetic biology to benefit people and the planet? The Global Future Council on Synthetic Biology is re-examining the past and the future of synthetic biology, considering what values can guide more effective, equitable and ethical outcomes, and developing the stories and strategies we need to realize the futures we desire.