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    More than a million refugees crossed into Europe in 2015 alone, part of the 50 million refugees worldwide. According to the World Economic Forum, if a country was created from all the displaced people it would be the 24th largest in the world.

    Migration is not new, but the scale in Europe in contemporary times is. It is not the first refugee crisis – consider Europe after World War II, and situations in the Middle East, Africa,Latin America and Asia since – only in a higher concentration (largely by Europe’s own doing) and closer to home. Only true optimists would say it is the last. Lest we forget, the oldest refugee camp (since 1991) is a long way from Europe in Dadaab, Kenya, hosting more than 300,000 refugees. While it’s the latest chapter in a long history of displacement, the ‘choices’ migrants have are still abysmal: refugee camps, urban poverty and/or dangerous, usually illegal journeys to safety.

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    On Friday June 24th the result of the referendum will be known and the future direction of Britain will have been defined. And also on the 24th June we will wake up to a string of challenges: the need to address climate change and to implement the Paris agreement will still be there. Our air quality (still the cause of ill-health and early deaths) will still need improving. We will still need to ensure long-term sources of reliable, affordable, decarbonized energy to power our future. We will still need to reform corporate taxation. We will still need to meet rising demand for food as our population grows – which it will do whether we are in or out. And yes, with 65 million refugees on the move, we in Britain will still need to figure out how we respond to a global migration crisis that is likely to endure for many years to come. The list could go on…

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  • What I Have Learnt: Inge Wallage

    14 Jun 2016 – Zoë Arden

    Inge Wallage

    This article was originally published in Radar 10: Being Human.

    Part of being human is the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes or, better still, wear them. Inge Wallage, currently communications director at the International Water Association (IWA), is one of an increasing number of professionals who are blurring the lines between business, civil society, public sector and campaigning groups. Her career has spanned roles at Motorola, Statoil, Philips Electronics, Greenpeace and in communications consulting. This is what she has learnt.

    What I’ve learned after seven years in civil society and a career in business is that solutions for the future will come about by unusual suspects coming together and sector boundaries blurring – we bring water professionals together across disciplines, across sectors and across the world.

    Humans tend to believe in technocratic solutions but the reality is we need to come up with new ideas that might come through different roots such as philosophy. Even though IWA is a registered charity, it is starting to behave like an incubator and/or a social enterprise – you need to be agile to come up with water management solutions. We’re becoming more business process focused for good, not to make money.

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  • GlobeScan and SustainAbility have tracked expert opinions on sustainable development leadership for more than 20 years. Over these two decades, we have seen the sustainability agenda evolve and broaden, watched companies climb to the top of the corporate leadership list and then completely disappear from it, and witnessed many waves of optimism and pessimism as well as shifting expectations.

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. The report highlights five pathways that sustainability practitioners can leverage to more deeply integrate sustainability into their business: employing business model thinking; putting materiality to use; applying a sustainability lens to products and services; tapping into culture; and leveraging transparency. In the fifth of a five-part series, which was originally published on GreenBiz, we focus on leveraging transparency.

    Forming a culture that enables an employee to understand what sustainability means for both the organization and his or her role within it is necessary in order to embed sustainability deeply. Yet culture is difficult to define and often described simply as “how we do things around here.” To fully integrate sustainability issues into the company’s decision-making, employees need a clear set of values and shared understanding. And the company’s leadership will be critical too when it comes to enhancing or diminishing a shared understanding of sustainability.

    As many of us have experienced, culture can be resistant to change, even with the best strategy and leadership in place. As oft attributed to Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for lunch”. But whilst culture can be deep-rooted and slow to evolve, our research indicates that it is possible for corporate cultures to adapt. Moreover, given the
right conditions, progress can be made even within corporate cultures that do not have a deeply shared understanding of sustainability.

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  • Image via iStockPhoto

    This article was originally published in Radar 10: Being Human.

    Company approaches to supply chain well-being are increasingly centered on technologies and research that enable workers to express their concerns and give honest and open feedback of factory conditions.

    Globalisation, one of the most preeminent trends of the past several decades, has profoundly influenced how people communicate, travel and consume and how companies do business. It has brought new jobs and plentiful economic opportunities to developing nations in Asia, Latin America and Africa and has enabled multinational companies to cut costs and offer lower prices. Outsourcing has also brought challenges and companies have struggled to gain full transparency of increasingly complex and geographically dispersed supply chains and to maintain fair working conditions in factories. As advancements in technologies open new opportunities, a growing number of companies are turning to direct employee engagement to gain better visibility and improve worker well-being in supply chains.

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  • This article was originally published in Radar 10: Being Human.

    The ESG investing movement – which promotes the factoring in of relevant non-financial data into investment decisions – is gathering momentum, led by a small but growing number of asset managers. Arabesque Partners is one such company looking to lead the way to a sustainable economy through an innovative rules-based, technology-enabled approach to integrating ESG into investing.

    Michael Harvey recently caught up with Andreas Feiner, Head of ESG Research and Advisory at Arabesque Partners, to talk about ESG investing, human values, bias and robots.

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  • Fostering an environment where people can work with purpose by innovating for more sustainable outcomes can help inspire and retain employees. “There is an ugliness in being paid for work one does not like,” Anaïs Nin penned in 1941 in her diary. We may have to admit that the global workplace may indeed be in an ugly place.

    Gallup suggests that globally only 13% of employees are engaged in their work and its State of the American Workplace survey shows that 70% of workers are not engaged. In fact, 15.7% are actively disengaged and doing more harm than good at their companies.

    The majority of people are compelled to work not by passion but by practicality – by the necessity for food, shelter and security. But even today, when such practicalities are often within reach, employment tends to lack the trifecta of autonomy, mastery and purpose that psychologists and David Pink (author of Drive) believe marks meaningful work. This seems to especially be true among millennials, with only 28.9% engagement vs. their traditionalist (born 1922-1945) peers at 42.2%.

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  • Calling All Sustainable Brands Alumni

    29 Apr 2016 – Koann Skrzyniarz

    Sustainable Brands San Diego 2016

    I am delighted to present this blog post authored by KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Founder, Sustainable Brands Worldwide. While KoAnn has become a wonderful personal friend and colleague over the last decade, SustainAbility and Sustainable Brands are in the process of deepening our organizational relationship as well. First, in 2016 Sustainable Brands has joined SustainAbility and GlobeScan as a partner on our annual GSS Leaders Survey, the results of which will be presented on the main stage at SB San Diego this June. Second, I am now the Chair-elect of Sustainable Brands’ Advisory Board, a post I will assume fully in June, and in which I look forward to increasing collaboration between us still further while supporting the Sustainable Brands mission generally. Finally, because of our like-minded approach, this blog might be seen not only as a call to action for SB Alumni, but to SustainAbility’s network as well.

    Dear Friends,

    Ten years ago, GE had just launched Ecomagination, Walmart had stepped in to as a first responder to support those facing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and Al Gore had launched An Inconvenient Truth. These and many other signals portended the world we see today and were among the many signals that encouraged the launch of Sustainable Brands in 2006.

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. The report highlights five pathways that sustainability practitioners can leverage to more deeply integrate sustainability into their business: employing business model thinking; putting materiality to use; applying a sustainability lens to products and services; tapping into culture; and leveraging transparency. In the fourth of a five-part series, which was originally published on GreenBiz, we focus on leveraging transparency.

    SustainAbility has long recognized that corporate transparency is integral to sustainability. We have been active contributors to the evolution of sustainability reporting, from publishing our Global Reporters series (1994-2008) to fundamentally questioning reporting’s present day value in “See Change: How Transparency Drives Performance.” Ultimately, we recognize that reporting is just one tactic in a much broader, more strategic transparency evolution. With this in mind we explore how an emergent aspect of transparency – integrated reporting – can both drive and reflect larger efforts to integrate sustainability into business.

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  • Flickr image by Bailey Cheng

    Guest contributor Seb Beloe is Head of Sustainability Research at WHEB Asset Management and a SustainAbility Council member. This article was originally published on the WHEB blog.

    In November WHEB Asset Management published a blog highlighting deep flaws in ESG research that focuses exclusively on how companies operate, while ignoring the impact of products and services. In this article, we take aim at another part of the ESG industry that has become popular in recent years – ESG ratings.

    ESG issues are clearly material to company performance – the question is which ones

    It is important at the outset to underline that our investment process at WHEB utilises environmental, social and governance (ESG) information as a core part of our investment analysis. To quote from our Responsible Investment Policy, “We have strong conviction in the impact of ESG issues on company performance either in their own right or as a wider proxy for the quality of a business franchise, especially over a multi-year investment horizon.”

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  • Kavita speaking at the Thought For Food Summit in Berlin

    SustainAbility’s January 2016 report Orchestrating Change explored challenges and opportunities for more fully realizing the promise of multi-stakeholder collaboration for sustainability. Below, we talk with Kavita Prakash-Mani, Executive Director of Grow Asia, about how large-scale collaboration is and isn’t evolving, and what’s needed to bring its impacts to scale. (Note: Kavita is also a former team member at SustainAbility and is currently part of the SustainAbility Council.)

    Chris Gunther: Thanks for taking time to talk. Can you start by telling us more about Grow Asia?
    Kavita Prakash-Mani: Grow Asia was set up as a program from the World Economic Forum last year, in partnership with the ASEAN secretariat. Its goal is to create multi-stakeholder partnerships for inclusive and sustainable agricultural development in South East Asia with a special focus on supporting smallholder farmers to increase productivity and profitability, and also ensuring environmental sustainability.

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  • Flickr image by Caroline Ingram

    This article was originally published in Radar 09: Inside the Machine.

    The rise of the Internet and influx of connectivity around the world has enabled entirely new, more socially and environmentally impactful, business models to come to the fore. In fact, the term ‘business model innovation’ did not come to prominence until after the birth of the Internet in the 1990s. And similarly to the Internet, it saw an exponential increase in its popularity and usage into today’s ‘buzzword’ status. Below are just a few exciting examples of the many current and emerging business model innovations that are creating improved environmental and social outcomes, or are redistributing economical value more equitably throughout society.

    Technological Globalization, an Enabler
    The influx of digital technology and smartphones to hundreds of millions formerly excluded from the economy has provided access to finance, and created new job opportunities.

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. The report highlights five pathways that sustainability practitioners can leverage to more deeply integrate sustainability into their business: employing business model thinking; putting materiality to use; applying a sustainability lens to products and services; tapping into culture; and leveraging transparency. In the third of a five-part series, which was originally published on GreenBiz, we focus on applying a sustainability lens to products and services.

    Many companies have identified ways to modify existing products or services — or to develop new ones — with sustainability factors top of mind such as Ford and the F-150 pick-up truck, Nike and Flyknit shoes, and Nest Labs and the learning thermostat. When companies such as these apply a lens of sustainability to their products, they signal to customers and other external stakeholders that they are prioritizing environmental and social issues. At the same time, they signal to internal stakeholders that sustainability is a priority and an opportunity for innovation and growth. This type of internal employee messaging and prioritization is a significant opportunity and pathway towards integrating sustainability more deeply across the business and ultimately creating more value.

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  • Tech Companies and the ‘War for Talent’

    21 Mar 2016 – Rebecca O'Neill

    Image by iStockphoto

    This article was originally published in Radar 09: Inside the Machine.

    Competition for high performers in the tech sector can drive sustainability practices in companies, but may lead to negative societal impacts elsewhere.

    The digital transformation that is underway across all industries, from automakers to journalism to agriculture, is leading to mind boggling growth in the technology sector. New products and services are in high demand, as companies realise that shifting their business models to incorporate more sophisticated technology can often lead to more efficient supply chains, better customer services and, ultimately, higher profits.

    The growth of the tech sector in our economy has complex sustainability ramifications, from data privacy, cyber insecurity, e-waste and obsolescence to human rights and labour issues in the supply chain. But on the whole, tech companies have played active roles in the ongoing corporate sustainability movement, often leading in key issues such as shifting to 100% renewable energy.

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  • Image by Rochelle March

    In the Michelin starred restaurant, Enoteca, nestled amongst palm trees with a view of the Mediterranean, an acclaimed chef, Paco Perez, places a plate inside a strange-looking machine. He pushes a few buttons and removes it, now adorned with an intricate, coral-like design. He adds ingredients onto the edible design—caviar, sea-urchins, hollandaise, an egg and carrot “foam”—and pronounces the meal “Sea Coral.” The centerpiece of the dish is made from a seafood puree shaped into a complex design that would be near impossible to create by hand; instead, it has been assembled on to the plate by a 3D printer.

    3D printing is “at a tipping point, about to go mainstream in a big way,” forecasted Harvard Business Review last year. Despite a small slump in growth during 2015, the industry is now expanding into more and more channels. Mattel just released a 3D printer for kids named the ThingMaker. Scientists at Princeton University have 3D printed a bionic ear that can hear radio frequencies beyond the range of normal human capability. 3D printed casts are known to heal bones 40-80% faster than traditional ones. You can take a picture of you foot and send it to SOLS, a start-up specializing in custom orthotics, to get stylish orthopedic insoles 3D printed and sent to your door.

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  • Image by iStockphoto

    This article was originally published in Radar 09: Inside the Machine.

    In our Fall 2015 Quarterly Trends we noted that rapidly developing technological breakthroughs are reshaping society, business, supply chains and the workplace. We are also seeing a greater articulation of the discomfort that is arising from the rate at which technological progress is taking place and the inability to manage some of the risks and challenges associated with it.

    One of those challenges is the widening of inequality. As Jo Confino, Executive Editor, Impact & Innovation, notes in The Huffington Post: “Experts say that rapid advances in technology are pulling the world in opposite directions and that the way that policy makers, businesses and civil society handle the extraordinary pace of change will determine the direction of human society.” These concerns are particularly salient in the face of forecasted trends for 2016, which include the rapid development of the Internet of Things, cybersecurity becoming more of a concern for both business and households and artificial intelligence and robotics increasingly holding the potential to replace human tasks.

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  • Meet Our Network: Sean Ansett

    09 Mar 2016 – Zoë Arden

    Image by Yoxi

    This article was originally published in Radar 09: Inside the Machine.

    Having held senior corporate responsibility positions at Burberry and Gap Inc., Sean Ansett now provides strategic advice on ethical trade, human rights and environmental sustainability. Zoë Arden spoke with him about his work with LaborVoices, a social enterprise that polls workers through their mobile phones to provide real-time visibility inside supply chains.

    Zoë Arden: Can you tell me about LaborVoices?

    Sean Ansett: It is a way for workers to voice concerns, share feedback and measure impact at the factory, field or mine level. Workers generally are more comfortable sharing thoughts outside the work environment – at home, on their commute, in their communities. But it is important to remember it is another tool in the kit, not a silver bullet.

    We are experiencing strong response rates, over 50% in some cases. There is more willingness to share than in traditional social auditing processes where, increasingly, workers are being coached to respond to the auditors. You generally don’t see traditional corporate responsibility reporting cover what was actually learned or what has changed in the factories through social auditing or training programmes, so LaborVoices can be deployed for assessing the impact of learning and knowledge post training and then reported.

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  • Adam Huawei, Director of Sustainability Programs, Huawei

    This article was originally published in Radar 09: Inside the Machine.

    Huawei is a global information and communications technology solutions provider headquartered in China. In November 2015 it published a research paper – Digital Enablement – aimed at accelerating progress in giving people access to digital information and resources. Adam Lane, Director of Sustainability Programs at Huawei, spoke to Alicia Ayars about the report.

    Alicia Ayars: What are the main findings of the report?

    Adam Lane: The core finding was that while more people are gaining access to the Internet those who are offline (upwards of four billion people) are getting further and further behind. While the digital divide is narrowing, it’s closing less quickly than it has in the past.

    Looking at those in extreme poverty, there is going to be real difficulty in connecting the last two to three billion to broadband internet — even though they are the ones who could benefit the most. It is clear that the problem is complicated and varied, but at the heart is the issue of business models that enable the provision of connectivity and the life-changing services the internet facilitates.

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. It highlights five pathways to more deeply integrate sustainability into business: employing business model thinking; putting materiality to use; applying a sustainability lens to products and services; tapping into culture; and leveraging transparency. In the second of a five-part series, which was originally published on GreenBiz, we focus on putting materiality to use.

    Most large companies have identified their most critical sustainability issues, including human rights, water, customer privacy, climate change and beyond. Identifying and prioritizing those social and environmental issues, such as a materiality assessment, helps companies allocate resources, set goals and focus their strategy.

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