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  • Flickr image by Kaptain Kobold

    Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, SustainAbility convened its annual Engaging Stakeholders workshop at member company PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco. The venue, a public education resource that promotes and supports energy efficiency, provided an ideal setting for wider discussions about the sustainability agenda….

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  • Image courtesy of .craig on Flickr

    In late October, Net Impact’s 2013 conference gathered nearly 3,000 students and professionals interested in advancing corporate sustainability in San Jose, CA under the theme “Change Starts Here.”

    The personal dedication to making a difference implied by the conference refrain was on display in the experiences shared during the “Driving Sustainability into Core Business Strategy” panel I moderated on October 25th with Jonathan Atwood, VP Sustainable Living & Corporate Communications, Unilever; Lynelle Cameron, Senior Director Sustainability & Philanthropy, Autodesk; and Vincent Stanley, VP Marketing, Patagonia. With some eight decades of experience among them, they’ve had long turns at the wheel on the journey to make sustainability core to the private sector. …

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  • Interdependence Day

    09 Jul 2013Mark Lee

    Increasingly it is initiatives which apply systems thinking and have business at their center (such as The Launch Partnership, pictured) that are providing the hope of meeting sustainability challenges.

    Last month saw the publication of Changing Tack, a report that is the final output of The Regeneration Roadmap, a project undertaken during the last 18 months by GlobeScan and SustainAbility to assess progress on sustainable development over the last 25 years.

    In a column providing an overview of the report, my colleague Chris Guenther suggested that “extended leadership” will be required to accelerate and scale sustainable development progress and ensure that present and future societies and ecosystems have equal opportunity to thrive. He spelled out the report’s point of view that the private sector has the opportunity to demonstrate “extended” leadership in order to accelerate progress. Six attributes of extended leadership were deemed most important: vision, goals, offer, brand, transparency and advocacy….

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  • Sustainable Brands 2013

    I had occasion this week to be in San Diego for Sustainable Brands 2013, where I offered opening remarks on the first full day of the conference, June 04. Conclusions from Changing Tack, the final output of The Regeneration Roadmap, were top of mind as I did so.

    Sustainable Brands’ theme this year was “From Revolution to Renaissance.” I love the implications behind the words. To me, it suggests that we have broken through into a creative, hyper-productive phase of sustainable development progress and the role brands will play. But, as in the title above, I put the theme to the conference audience as a question – not to query where we are going, but to allow us to step back and look at where we are on the journey, and to consider how we can chart a path forward. And, based on Changing Tack’s conclusions, I suggested that we need to incite still far more people toward revolution at the same time as we push forward the renaissance….

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  • In a blog posted in the fall of 2012 entitled, What’s the Big Idea, Chris Guenther and I explored the degree to which vision (a Big Idea) enables sustainability performance and leadership and vice versa. We concluded that it does to a very substantial degree, and that the current era is one suffering for lack of the kind of rhetoric that, when backed by appropriate strategy and operational excellence, paints a picture of the change required and provides inspiration that it can be realized….

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  • As I look ahead to joining VERGE at Greenbuild in San Francisco November 12-13, and begin to get my head around a brief One Great Idea presentation patterned on the ways my colleagues and I believe cities are vital to the future of sustainability, I have something to admit: Blade Runner is …

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  • Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. Marks & Spencer’s Plan A. GE’s ecomagination. Nike Better World.

    Feel like you can’t turn around without bumping into a big, brassy, branded, corporate sustainability program these days? Or at least a product campaign (think Nissan Leaf) that seeks to cast a green and otherwise sustainable hue over an organization? It seems we have entered the age of the Big (Sustainable) Idea, an epoch in which performance as well as leadership and influence are limited without membership in this club….

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  • Before the massive Rio+20 conference in Brazil earlier this month, Chris Coulter of GlobeScan, Dan Hendrix of Interface and I published Icebergs Near Rio? The article explored sustainable development progress since the original 1992 Earth Summit asked whether policymakers would seize the opportunity of the anniversary event to chart a future course capable of accelerating and scaling sustainability in the manner we believe necessary, or, like that fabled and fated ship, risk a Titanic …

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  • I’ve been in Rio de Janeiro for six days now for the Rio+20 Earth Summit, and something struck me this morning as I entered the last official day of business-focused meetings: We have not asked enough of governments.

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  • I have been in Brazil since last Wednesday, participating in the madness that is Rio+20. The insanity is part logistics (the main event sites are scattered far apart and moving from one to the other can take literally hours), and the apparent lack of progress at government level on any meaningful negotiated agreement is certainly maddening, but it is also that the sheer number of people (50,000?) and events (hundreds daily) create a kind of ‘opportunity overload.’

    Midst everything, one of the guidewires I’ve followed has been the activity associated with the release of UNEP’s “Business Case for a Green Economy …

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  • Written with Dan Hendrix, president & chief executive, Interface, and Chris Coulter, president, GlobeScan.

    One hundred years since the sinking of the Titanic, it is still debated why that fabled and fated ship hit an iceberg and went under. But surely the root cause was the widespread belief that she was unsinkable.

    Twenty years since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro — which did so much to elevate environment and development on the global policy agenda — we fear a similar fate for our planetary ship. …

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  • In the past few months, certain media articles have left me wondering what impact the mixed economic fortunes of various leading nations will have on sustainability leadership emanating from them.

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  • In (Leadership) Change of Heart, posted on Sustainable Brands in January, I explored some of the reasons Warren Buffett has become progressively more activist and outspoken on issues of responsibility and equity (See article here). In parallel, I suggested that that the transition from accepting sustainability issues to addressing them is a tremendously difficult thing for business leaders – as even once new information and worldviews are embraced, leaders’ ability to evolve their organizations is limited by context e.g. available skillsets, historic mindsets, consumer preference, investor expectations and the regulatory environment.

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  • @brainstormgreen

    23 Apr 2012Mark Lee

    For five years, Fortune has sought “to gather “the smartest people we know” in sustainability from business, government, and NGOs” for what has become one of the leading events in this space – Fortune Brainstorm Green I attended each of the last three years, just returning from the latest version 48 hours ago. Having read Marc Gunther’s They Said it at Brainstorm Green this morning, I wanted to add my own honorable mentions for good content – and touch too what was not said.

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  • I did not think about it before sitting down this evening (January 16, 2012), but to write about leadership on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is to feel one’s own limitations.

    I am Canadian, and as such I am obliged to reflexively protest how different I am from the American cousins among whom I have chosen to live (and marry). But with King there is no protest. He is a sterling example of the inspiration the USA has periodically offered the world …

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  • “Fair” is in the current ether.

    There is the Occupy Movement, raising questions about the fundamental fiduciary responsibility of corporations and government, whether they are acting (or capable of acting) in the best interests of the public, and how to hold them accountable in any event.

    There is the ongoing Arab Spring, where another form of citizen power (itself a key inspiration for Occupy)…

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  • I mentioned in an end 2011 article for GreenBiz, on Simon Mainwaring’s view of Contributory Consumption, that I’d had the opportunity to visit the LIVESTRONG Foundation HQ in Austin, TX as part of a series of Sustainable Life Media meetings last month hosted by Dell.

    I was in Texas while COP 17 was playing out in Durban, so it may be the coincidence of timing leading me to make a connection, but I have been pondering similarities between society’s struggles to defeat cancer to the battle against global warming. Is there a lesson here?

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  • I was in Austin last week for a Sustainable Life Media (SLM) double-header. First a meeting of the Sustainable Brands Advisory Board, then the SLM Corporate Members meeting.

    Hosted with aplomb by Dell, sessions included a tour of the Dell Social Media Command Center (a fascinating, real-time window into what everyone, everywhere is saying about their Dell experience), and an inspiring visit to the new LEED Gold certified offices of Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG Foundation, with both proving there is more going on in Austin than music, football and great Tex-Mex like Guero’s (though those are fine too, with Guero’s servings proving again that everything is bigger in Texas).

    For everything packed into the two days, I left thinking about a presentation by Simon Mainwaring, the best-selling author of We First

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  • SustainAbility is thrilled to be on the cusp of launching our latest research report, Signed, Sealed…Delivered? In addition to the global public release online and in print November 16th, we will host in-person launch events in Washington, DC and London on November 16th and 18th, respectively, where our findings will be debated and dissected in workshop format with representatives from certification and labeling initiatives, engaged businesses and other stakeholders.

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  • While in London in late September, I attended the release of Coca-Cola Enterprises’ (CCE) Sustainability Plan. Titled Deliver for Today: Inspire for Tomorrow, the plan represents a major step forward for the company. The launch was silky smooth – an in-studio event filmed at The Hospital Club in London’s Covent Garden, kicked off by CCE’s CEO John Brock, featuring a panel of accomplished business and NGO leaders assembled to assess the plan that was moderated by Catherine Cameron of the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, and all unfolding in front of an expert audience containing the likes of Marks & Spencer Chairman Robert Swannell and Two Tomorrows Executive Chairman Mark Line.

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