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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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