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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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  • SustainAbility’s latest report, Orchestrating Change: Catalyzing the Next Generation of Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration for Sustainability, was published in January. Syngenta, the global agribusiness company, which has made collaboration a key focus of its Good Growth Plan, was a sponsor of the report. We talked to Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Head of Public Policy and Sustainability for Syngenta, about how collaboration continues to grow in importance for the company, and for sustainable development generally.

    Chris Guenther: What are some of the key collaborative initiatives that Syngenta is part of, and how do you think about the role that collaboration plays in the Good Growth Plan?

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  • With the arrival of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the COP21 agreement (or ‘Paris Agreement’) on climate change at the end of 2015, there has been a rush of new and renewed calls for cross-sector collaboration to implement them. The last of the 17 SDGs – “Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development” – underscores this and lays out a broad collaborative agenda in the realms of finance, technology, capacity building, trade and systemic factors. And it’s working. At COP21 and again at the World Economic Forum in Davos, new and ambitious collaborations were announced left and right. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, The New Deal on Energy for Africa, The Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development and Champions 12.3 are just a few of the high-profile initiatives launched recently.

    Of course, this represents just the latest chapter in many years of increasing interest and activity (and also some hype) concerning such collaboration. At conferences, in articles and books, on social media and elsewhere, we remind each other repeatedly of the need for more and better collaboration, especially among business, government and civil society, to drive progress on sustainability, and we tout the variety of initiatives that our organizations have joined or helped create. At SustainAbility, we’ve long been advocates for this kind of enhanced engagement between and among companies and society, and we’ve been proud to play supporting roles in efforts ranging from Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value convenings to the recently launched Sustainable Coffee Challenge.

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  • SustainAbility Research Director Chris Guenther recently caught up with John Elkington, Co-Founder of SustainAbility and Founding Partner and executive chairman of Volans, about the launch of John’s recently published book, The Breakthrough Challenge. In addition to the book, they discuss the dilution of the sustainability agenda, the shifting role of the Global C-Suite, and the upcoming Breakthrough Decade.

    Chris Guenther: SustainAbility has closely tracked–and frequently discussed with you–your work on Breakthrough Capitalism, which you framed at the first Breakthrough Capitalism Forum in May 2012, and subsequently in the Breakthrough and Investing in Breakthrough reports. How have these ideas evolved to what is now represented in The Breakthrough Challenge, and what specifically drove you and Jochen Zeitz to write the book?

    John Elkington: I had no plans to write another book, Chris, having only recently published my eighteenth, The Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier. But then I got an invitation from Sir Richard Branson’s foundation, Virgin Unite, to attend a small roundtable outside Geneva. On the second day, Jochen Zeitz walked in and, I have to say, there was electricity between us around our thinking and ideas. I didn’t give it much more thought, but a couple of months later he got in touch and suggested writing a book together.

    When Jochen and I spent some days together, the book evolved further. The Virgin Unite meeting we originally attended proved to have been the gestational event for what became The B Team, a not-for-profit initiative founded and co-chaired by Sir Richard Branson and Jochen, and where I am on the Advisory Board. The idea is to bring together a global group of leaders to create a future where “the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit.” …

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  • Nearly every global metric indicates we are heading in the wrong direction. Can business lead the turnaround and do so at the required speed?

    Each year, the Worldwatch Institute publishes its flagship State of the World report. The 2013 edition is organized around whether sustainability is still an attainable goal. In the opening chapter, Worldwatch President Robert Englemen asks starkly, “In the wake of failed international environmental and climate summits, when national governments take no actions commensurate with the risk of catastrophic environmental change, are there ways humanity might still alter current behaviors to make them sustainable? Is sustainability still possible?”

    This is similar to the starting point for a new report from SustainAbility and GlobeScan, Changing Tack: Extending Corporate Leadership on Sustainable Development. The report is the final, summative output of The Regeneration Roadmap, an 18-month project designed to assess progress on sustainable development during the last 25 years, and to consider how to more thoroughly accelerate and scale such progress in response to the growing urgency of economic, social and environmental challenges today….

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  • Image: OiMax (Flickr)

    We are reminded constantly that humanity faces unprecedented challenges: climate change, resource constraints, economic volatility, over and under nutrition, widening inequality, and political conflicts that are increasingly aggravated by these issues. Yet, even as awareness of the causes and potential solutions to these challenges has never been higher, overall progress remains frustratingly slow or non- existent. Understandably, many of us have looked to national and international leaders, multinational companies, universities and other large scale institutions to provide leadership but, while their efforts have been earnest and sometimes substantial, they have so far failed to make very much difference….

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  • Uncertainty and anxiety are ubiquitous nowadays. The global economy remains fragile, and even where it does show some life, the continued volatility (and upward trajectory) of energy and other commodity prices is there to beat back any real sense of momentum.

    Meanwhile, progress on grand challenges like climate change, food and water security, and sustainable consumption is either halting or nonexistent, and there is declining confidence that large institutions, including governments, multilateral organizations, companies and even large NGOs, will lead the way in addressing them.

    That’s the general feeling at the global level, and across many countries. But look through the prism of cities…

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  • I spent the week before last at the annual BSR conference, held in San Francisco, CA. It is among the year’s biggest confabs of corporate responsibility and sustainability experts, practitioners and aspirants. While I am not a serial or veteran attendee of the conference, I heard (and agree with) a consensus that it was better than others in recent memory. The crowd was generally upbeat and engaged, and that level of energy was both reflected and driven on by a series of lively keynotes, most notably the opening address by Al Gore, who took aim at the ‘insanity’ of short-term thinking, praised attendees for their efforts to advance sustainability, and…

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  • I’m on my way to the Sustainable Brands conference in Monterey this week where my colleague Mark Lee will be delivering the opening keynote. While I’m looking forward to tapping into (and trying to help shape) the latest thinking on a variety of topics in this space, I’m probably like a lot of participants who are dying to see how the current mini-debate over the state of green marketing itself – touched off a few weeks ago by Joel Makower’s great provocation that green marketing is over and it’s time to move on – will play out at the conference. We briefly framed the debate in another post earlier today, which I aim to complement here with a few further thoughts and opinions.

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  • How a new documentary on the Carteret Islands may give even climate 'experts' more clarity of purpose.

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