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  • Will the vital pollination provided by bees, which is currently at risk due to Colony Collapse Disorder and other stresses, be the next big eco-system issue? Image © bob in swamp: Flickr

    On December 3, I moderated WBCSD’s US Midwest meeting, a one-day conference held in Columbus, Ohio whose theme was to “scale up and accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy, in the US and beyond.” The meeting was packed with excellent speakers, panels and working sessions on a diverse set of topics, including: ecosystem services, reporting, communicating with investors, inclusive business, innovation and business leadership.

    At the end of the day I was asked to wrap up the meeting with a “Top 10 List” of the issues that stood out most for me. I ended up with eleven key words and phrases. Much as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel’s amplifier that goes to 11 was “one louder” than most amps, my Top 10 List is “one longer” than most Top 10 lists.

    1. Responsibility. I didn’t expect this to be on my list, but it popped up several times during the day. Ohio State University President Joseph Alutto kicked off the conference by telling us that OSU has a responsibility to address sustainability in both its operations and its curriculum. One of our corporate speakers declared that it is time for the business community to step up and take responsibility for leading the transition to a sustainable economy. With most of the conversation these days focusing on the business case, it was significant to hear that responsibility remains an important motivator. …

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  • “The current economic system, built on the idea of perpetual growth, sits uneasily within an ecological system that is bound by biophysical limits.” So states the fifth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5), published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2012.

    Renowned economist Kenneth Boulding reflected the same sentiment more pointedly many years ago when he said: “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”

    Infinite growth is the operating principle, reinforced by our current economic and political systems, on which many of the world’s business leaders, policy-makers and investors make decisions every day. As a result, the gap between our current burn rate and what the planet’s environmental systems can support on a sustained basis continues to grow. This gap represents a significant risk – and an opportunity – for the business community.

    This is the context of the most recent collaboration between UNEP and SustainAbility, along with Green Light Group: a just-released report titled GEO-5 for Business. Using GEO-5 (a 500+ page compilation of environmental data, policy options and scenarios) as its foundation, GEO-5 for Business serves as a translation and primer written specifically for business leaders. While much analysis has been conducted on the impacts of business on the environment, this report looks in the other direction – at the impacts of environmental trends on business….

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  • I was at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference last week. This annual event, where Fortune magazine “gathers the smartest people [they] know in sustainability,” is a cauldron of ideas and actions focused on finding “Sustainable Solutions,” this year’s conference theme. There is no shortage here of big ideas.

    Hannah Jones, Nike’s Vice President of Sustainable Business and Innovation, speaking on a panel titled “Pushing the Boundaries of Green,” summed up neatly …

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  • Image: USFS Region 5 (Flickr)

    “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” Chinese proverb

    If planting a tree is a metaphor for taking action on climate change, the old Chinese proverb is wise advice for our present day dilemma. We are, of course, a couple of decades late in taking meaningful steps to transition to the low-carbon economy necessary to safeguard the quality of life and economic prosperity that businesses, governments and individuals strive to achieve and maintain. But just because we should have begun long ago does not mean we should not take action now. Indeed, urgency has been added to necessity, and adaptation has been added to mitigation, as the implications of a warmer world are becoming clearer with each passing year….

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  • Last week I was in Stockholm once again for World Water Week. This is the second year in a row that I have attended the mega-conference at the request of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to moderate a session covering various water management tools.

    The theme of this year’s conference was …

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  • Everywhere you look, it’s all about the Olympics!

    One of the earliest events, occurring the day after the opening ceremonies, was the men’s cycling road race – a 250 km route that finished through the streets of London.

    An avid cyclist myself (I am proud to say that I have completed three 100-mile races), I was happy to tune in to catch the end of the race.

    As I watched two competitors pull away from the main pack (otherwise known as the peloton) — and sprint toward the finish, I thought about what it takes to win a race like that and what parallels can be drawn for those of us in the sustainability field….

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  • In order for the world to transition to a low-carbon economy the economics of energy must change. It must become cheaper to both generate and consume energy with a lower greenhouse gas intensity. And while the private sector plays a critical role in facilitating this transition, public policy that encourages low-carbon forms of energy and discourages high-carbon energy is also required.

    Companies that understand the market opportunities that a low-carbon economy represents are making major investments in R&D in energy generation, developing products that use less …

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  • This article originally appeared on Ethical Corporation website.

    At the end of this year the first commitment period of the Kyoto protocol expires. Not because it has succeeded in tackling climate change. Far from it. While there were many positive effects resulting from the protocol, getting carbon reductions down to a safe level has not been one of them.

    The climate challenge looms larger than ever, and the governments of the world still don’t have a plan to address it. …

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  • How can an organisation that buys one-half trillion dollars worth of stuff every year create a sustainable supply chain? That was the question posed to me and about 80 other guests who were invited by the White House to a meeting on March 30.

    The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the General Services Administration (GSA) co-sponsored a group brainstorm on what a Community of Practice for a Sustainable Supply Chain should look like. Put simply, a Community of Practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better through regular interaction.

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  • Let me start by stating the obvious: The current trajectory of our society’s consumption of natural resources is not sustainable. I know it, you know it, NGOs know it, and policy makers and business leaders increasingly know it.

    Yet as the world prepares for the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June, two questions loom large:

    1. Why haven’t we made substantive progress towards sustainable development over the last 20 years?

    2. What do we need to do differently over the next 20 years to transition to a sustainable economy?

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  • There was a time when it was good enough just to listen. When corporate execs got credit for sitting at the table with an NGO and benefited from a “different perspective.” Their obligation was to “thoughtfully consider” the input in the development of their business plans, strategies and actions. But as the business environment and the sustainability agenda has evolved, so too has best practice in stakeholder engagement.

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  • Earlier this month, the Obama administration decided to delay the decision on approval of the XL pipeline until 2013, ostensibly to further study the pipeline’s potential environmental impacts.

    The fight over the pipeline, which would transport tar sands crude from Canada to US refineries in the Gulf of Mexico region, has become a symbol of a broader argument.

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  • Water surrounds me, both literally and figuratively.

    I am in Stockholm – a city of islands – this week to attend World Water Week, an annual conference sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute. I am here at the invitation of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and yesterday facilitated a fascinating workshop WBCSD sponsored on water risk and some of the tools being developed to assess and manage it…

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  • Here in Washington, the battle in Congress over the raising the debt ceiling dominated headlines, airwaves and the blogosphere for several weeks. Obviously, the debate became about more than just how much the US should borrow to pay its bills. Instead, it was an ideological fight over the appropriate size and role of government in business and in society.

    The flip side of the question of what the role of government in business should be is what the role of business in government should be – i.e. what should or shouldn’t the corporate sector do to shape policies which affect not only the business community but all of society? Or said another way: what does responsible lobbying look like?

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  • Image: Oceana.org

    Oceana, the NGO which, according to its website, is the largest organization focused soley on ocean conservation, has been running a new ad campaign in Washington, DC since about the first anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon accident (mid-April). I see the posters frequently on my ride to and from work on the DC Metro. The campaign is titled What If It Happened Here?, and depicts a DH-like drilling platform fire and the consequences – oil slicks, deployed booms, oiled birds – adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument…

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  • Three Gorges Dam, Photo: Flickr user hughrocks

    The choices government and business leaders make to resolve the tightening choke point between rising energy demand and declining freshwater reserves will form the central strategic focus of the next era of China’s unfolding development.

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  • BP's 2010 sustainability report tries to take the spill head-on, but stakeholders have even bigger questions in mind.

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  • It's time for a rethink on the future of nuclear power, but the answers are far from clear.

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  • A new energy joint venture gives a glimpse of a world beyond fossil fuels.

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  • Energy and water are difficult issues in their own right, but they're on a collision course in places like China.

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