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  • This article was first published in GreenBiz and was co-written by Aiste Brackley, Trends and Research Manager at SustainAbility and Alex Lewis, Senior Research Analyst at GlobeScan.

    In some respects the Volkswagen emissions scandal could not have come at a worse time. Unfolding two months before the historic COP21 climate summit in Paris, the revelations that the car giant cheated emissions tests reinforced long-held suspicions among some skeptics that the private sector’s buy-in over climate change was superficial. The 2015 Climate Change Survey, GlobeScan and SustainAbility’s most recent survey, reveals that international sustainability experts continue to view the contribution of business as modest. However, if we are to see meaningful long-term progress, national governments as well as the private sector will have to step up, as the two institutions will be critically important for the implementation of the post-COP21 framework.

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  • Will Geoff Lye's latest grandchild, Leo, wonder why it took us so long to avert the huge impacts of climate change?

    This is the second in a series of blogs Geoff Lye will produce in the run up to COP 21 and through the conference itself. His blogs from most COPs since the Bali conference in 2007 can be found here .

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  • Flickr image of Cemex concrete house in Mexico by Concrete Forms

    Latin America has been on a strong growth trajectory for the last decade, resulting in impressive improvements in social and environmental outcomes. Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and strong national action on deforestation and renewable energy investment by several countries has resulted in steady progress on climate change. The region’s continued growth is at risk though, due to China’s decelerating growth. That’s forcing Latin America governments and companies to focus on more immediate local concerns rather than providing a strong regional roadmap for long-term sustainability. But there is a silver lining. A new localized approach to corporate sustainability is resulting in a wave of innovative solutions to entrenched social problems.

    Sustainability under fire
    The Latin America region experienced strong growth throughout the 1990s and early 2000s on the back of voracious demand for raw materials and food crops from China. But the region was struck hard by the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and has been reeling ever since. Sluggish recovery in several countries has been exacerbated by the slowing down of the Chinese economy in 2014-2015, especially with reduced demand for Latin American exports. Regional GDP growth has dropped from 6% in 2010, to an estimated 0.8% in 2014, according to the World Bank.

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  • Flickr image by digitalpimp

    This is the first in a series of blogs I will produce in the fortnight running up to COP 21 and through the conference itself. As a regular attendee and reporter from most COPs since the Bali conference in 2007, I must admit to a feeling of déjà vu. The world’s leaders will be coming together in yet another of the UN’s last chance climate saloons to try to deliver a global agreement to avoid breaching the 2°C threshold.

    After COP 17 in Durban I decided, in frustration at the lack of progress, not to attend future events. Yet here I am – travel and hotels booked – excited once again in anticipation of joining the biggest ever assembly1 of climate professionals, activists, politicians, technologists, scientists and economists. For the first time, however, I have failed to get accreditation to the UN’s Blue Zone – and I know that my blogs will be weaker for that. But at this COP, most of the most interesting events and networking venues are outside the formal conference. This will create a far more open environment for most attendees and I can guarantee that there will be no shortage of surprising, inspiring and, in equal measure, depressing stories over the coming weeks.

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  • Flickr image by sandeepachetan

    As Latin America’s largest economy and the host of the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil is a regular fixture in international news. Brazil is also widely recognized for its leadership on sustainable development issues, especially for reducing deforestation and pioneering clean energy. However, progress remains uneven as the country is struggling to come to terms with one of the worst droughts in history, a chain of corruption scandals and continuing dependence on fossil fuels.

    SustainAbility recently met with Álvaro Almeida and Rúbia Piancastelli of report:sustentabilidade, Brazil-based sustainability advisory firm and organizer of Sustainable Brands Rio, to talk about the country’s changing sustainability landscape.

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  • Is CSR Dead?

    16 Oct 2015John Elkington

    John Elkington at the SustainAbility London office

    John Elkington, SustainAbility co-founder and honorary chairman, launches an occasional series on the business agenda.

    ‘Turkeys vote down Christmas.’ That’s one way of reporting the result of a Barclays debate on 8 October, in which I was pitched head-to-head against Mark Kramer of the Shared Value Initiative. The key question: ‘Is CSR Dead?’

    There was a crackle in the air as the debate began. #TeamMark was ably supported by Janet Voûte, Global Head of Public Affairs at Nestlé, while my #TeamJohn partner was Covestro CEO Patrick Thomas. Long story short, Patrick and I won with 75% of the vote. But short stories can mislead.

    When Barclays first suggested the theme, both Mark and I protested. The question felt tired. But the intense social media buzz soon proved us wrong. People clearly wanted to discuss whether CSR was dead or alive. (And that was even before the wheels came off VW.)

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  • Flickr image by Jon Åslund

    This post was originally published as part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, “What’s Working: Sustainable Development Goals,” in conjunction with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This post addresses Goal 17.

    You might think the 17th Sustainable Development Goal is a bit lofty, and maybe better for another stakeholder to tackle. “Perhaps someone more UN-ish,” you might be inclined to note. Yet, as with all of the SDGs, Goal 17 is designed with the Future We Want in mind (not global multi-lateral institutions), and it will take the resources of the most influential forces we’ve got, which means — as often as not — the corporate sector to create this future.

    There are 19 targets nested within Goal 17 — clearly not all of them are the right fit for every company. But almost certainly, at least one of these targets is something each company can consider and align with current or planned efforts.

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  • Image by Mark Lee

    As I dropped my young kids off for their first days of school this year, I was reminded of my own unique back-to-school moment. In 1985, I detoured from the normal high school path to spend 12 months between my sophomore and junior years on student exchange in Brazil.

    For a teenager from the small working class city of Salmon Arm in Canada, the year was profound. The exposure to the social and environmental challenges of development in an emerging economy shaped the choices I made in university and led me to a career in the sustainable development field.

    The experience was made even deeper given that 1985 marked Brazil’s return to democracy after a lengthy military dictatorship. Witnessing that transition, and Brazilians’ reactions to it, pushed me to reconsider individual and societal freedoms as well as the ways countries shape themselves domestically and position themselves among other nations.

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  • This piece was originally published in the autumn issue of Radar Magazine – Issue 08: Beyond the Company, The Future of Sustainability Goals.

    Redefining success in business is a pretty ambitious goal, and is one that the B Corp movement has been working towards since 2006. SustainAbility, for over 25 years, has been working to make business and markets more sustainable, and is proud to be one of the first certified B Corps in the UK and to be part of this global movement.

    We spoke with the key figures behind the launch of B Corp in the UK, as well as some companies in the B Corp community, to discuss their ambitions and how they see the movement developing.

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  • A series about regional trends: The water crisis in Latin America challenges business as usual and spurs innovation.

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  • Flickr image by WorldFish

    This article was co-written by Lindsay Clinton and Rochelle March.

    As São Paulo, Brazil, suffers from the worst drought in its history, multinational pulp company Fibria, which is headquartered in the city, is one of many that has felt the pinch. At times, water has been shut off to 40% of the city and even now, after the rainy season, only 6-13% of the city’s reservoir’s capacity has been filled. In response, the company is working to reduce the amount of water it uses for forest irrigation.

    This isn’t the first time that Fibria has had to adapt to a shifting environment. Over the last several years, the rising scarcity of several essential resources – including water, fertilizer, labor and land – has pushed the company to reconsider its business model. It has diversified into renewable energy, biofuel production and sustainable real estate development. Fibria’s goal is to make these portfolio additions 20% of total free cash flow by 2025, making the company less pulp-dependent and giving it alternative options for future business growth in light of looming sustainability challenges.

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  • Flickr image by Melanie Holtsman

    Our economies in their present forms are unsustainable. Our planet has been subjected to the Great Acceleration of humankind’s impact, which presents immense risks to the health of the biosphere and our civilization. Our impact is directly linked to global economic growth.

    At SustainAbility, as we argued in our report Changing Tack, business can be a great driver of change but the present rules of engagement in business, finance and markets are largely unchanged since the 19th century. Meanwhile, global growth has stalled and, eight years after the financial crash, many developed world economies continue to be moribund. A change in how we run our economies and business is urgently needed. And for that we need leadership.

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  • Flickr image by Mary Anne Enriquez

    This article was co-written by Lindsay Clinton and Rochelle March.

    Last year, the CEO of Fortune 250 energy provider NRG wrote a letter to shareholders about the lack of innovation in the energy industry. “There is no Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google in the American energy industry today,” David Crane wrote. “NRG is not that energy company either, but we are doing everything in our power to head in that direction – as fast as we can. But we need to pick up the pace further, and that is what we intend to do.”

    Although NRG’s portfolio still includes 30% coal-generated power, it is repositioning itself and its business model to guide energy users from a grid-based power system to a distributed generation system. It’s also developing products and services related to electric vehicles, rooftop solar and home energy efficiency.

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  • Where to Find the Holy Grail of Customer Engagement

    24 Jun 2015 – Rebecca O'Neill

    Flickr image by Nicolas Nova

    The potential for consumers to affect sustainability outcomes is on the rise. Thanks to the ever-increasing amount of information on the affects of products in a supply chain, the power of the consumer seems to be growing.

    However, whether they actually use that information to make better decisions with their wallets is the million-dollar question that continues to vex the sustainability community.

    As the debate trundles on over whether consumers really do care, innovative initiatives, platforms and tools are emerging that transform consumer behavior to more effectively embrace a sustainable future.

    Consumer engagement was one of SustainAbility’s 10 trends for 2015 and is increasingly being tackled by a wide range of brands and stakeholders.

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  • Check out the results of SustainAbility/GlobeScan's leaders survey in an engaging and easy-to-share infographic.

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  • How can we transition to a sustainable economy?

    This article was co-authored by Rob Cameron and Lindsay Clinton.

    The UK election was fought largely on the issue of the economy. The Conservatives, with its surprise majority have promised to reduce the deficit by £30 billion. Fixing the economy and balancing the books is undoubtedly of great importance for the economy—as long as it is done sustainably.

    It’s a simple fact: the economy is a sub-system of our ecosystem. And yet, it has become commonplace to believe that the opposite is true – that the economy is the dominant system.

    The consequences of prioritising the economy and GDP above all else have become all-too visible: climate change, water scarcity, deforestation, soil depletion, resource shortages—but it is not only the environment that is paying a heavy price. The current economic model can be tied to rising workplace stress and illness, obesity, malnutrition, increasing inequality, and more.

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  • Monique Oxender, Keurig

    When a company is growing and changing as quickly as Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (Keurig), the sustainability challenges become increasingly complex. To address these issues in the most effective, comprehensive way, Keurig has drawn on external insights and expertise through its External Advisory Panel (EAP). This panel is made up of notable academics, NGOs, and industry personnel, each with relevant sustainability expertise.

    Lorraine Smith, Senior Director of SustainAbility’s office in New York, recently had the opportunity to catch up with Keurig’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Monique Oxender, to look back on the first two years of the EAP engagement process—which is facilitated by SustainAbility—to reflect on the benefits and challenges of external stakeholder engagement and to glimpse at the path ahead.

    Lorraine Smith: To set the stage, can you tell us why Keurig created a formal external engagement process in the first place?

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  • It has been more than two decades since policymakers, scientists, NGOs and other changemakers gathered in Rio de Janeiro for a historic summit that would set the direction of sustainable development for years to come. Since the 1992 Earth Summit, progress on climate change and sustainability has been uneven, and, many will argue, disappointing. As the date of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris approaches, the global community is facing another seminal year, building hopes that the December 2015 summit will mark the beginning of a new chapter with ambitious goals and more decisive action.

    For SustainAbility and GlobeScan’s annual Sustainability Leaders survey, we asked expert stakeholders representing business, government, NGOs and academia across 82 countries to evaluate the progress that institutions have made since the 1992 Earth Summit and reflect on their expectations for the next 20 years.

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  • Flickr image by SecretLondon123

    Not many of us saw that coming did we?! I’m referring, of course, to the extraordinary outcome of last week’s UK election. As I write, David Cameron is making the finishing touches to his new government that, naturally, is claiming a mandate for its policy portfolio. Will we see the sustainability agenda figure highly in this portfolio?

    This was an extraordinary election for many reasons; not least that 3.9 million people voted for UKIP – not to be glossed over, but not a topic for this piece. Of more interest here is that over a million people voted for the Green Party. Is this the beginning of a “green political revolution”? I wish it were so, but sadly I doubt it.

    For some years, I have wondered whether our broad range of sustainability concerns adds up to a full political agenda. Or rather, should we be campaigning for those sustainability issues to be addressed across the political spectrum? Indeed, some people turned this question into a criticism of the Greens: that they were more “campaigning group” than “party.”

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  • John Elkington at the SustainAbility London office

    The SustainAbility London office regularly invites practitioners from within our network to speak to the team over lunch to share insights from their own work as well as their perspective on the sustainability landscape at large.

    SustainAbility was pleased to host John Elkington, Co-Founder and Honorary Chairman of SustainAbility, and the Volans team to discuss their latest publication The Stretch Agenda, a report intended as a playful provocation to big business to redefine the future of leadership in the Breakthrough Decade from 2016 to 2025.

    The Stretch Agenda is a dramatised portrayal of conversations that are already taking place in boardrooms across the Global C-suite. The piece in written as a “playper,” as opposed to a traditional report format, to provide fresh voices and perspectives on the sustainability agenda from the point of view of top decision-makers and strategists within a fictitious global company, ‘MN-Co’. The reader is given insight via a discussion between the Chair, CEO, CFO, CHRO, CMO and an incoming CXO (Chief Sustainability/Stretch Officer) and two young leaders as they ponder how to shift their company’s business model to address the economic, social and environmental challenges that lie ahead.

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