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  • What was your reaction when hearing that Ford and Toyota will co-develop a hybrid powertrain system for pickup trucks and SUVs, in addition to collaborating on each other’s in-vehicle telematics systems? If you had a knee-jerk response of “Really…._them?,” you were in good company. The automakers’ fierce rivalry makes them some of the strangest of bedfellows, but while the partnership was unexpected, its motives are unsurprising. Given the new, much more stringent EPA fuel standards announced last month, both companies recognized that they would be more successful coming together in this instance, than going at it alone.

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  • Last week we heard Clive Bloom – Emeritus Professor of English and American Studies at Middlesex University and author of Violent London: 2000 Years of Riots, Rebels and Revolts – _commenting on BBC Radio 4 about the systemic issues that underpinned the devastating riots in London this month. With many now searching for an explanation of the sudden and surprising violence that spread across London and other parts of the UK, Bloom argues that sociological factors – chiefly endemic poverty and the alienation of consumer culture – are the real culprits, and further, that failing to address the fundamental issues and resentments of the communities that spawned the riots will only guarantee their repetition. The point is essential as we face the likelihood of wider and more frequent social disruption in response to economic, social and environmental stresses in the decades ahead.

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  • I am in the United Kingdom presently, spending time with colleagues at SustainAbility’s Holborn office in central London. I spent the two weeks immediately prior to this trip on a blissfully quiet vacation with family and friends. Plugging back in, I find myself somewhat reeling trying to comprehend the various forms of volatility which erupted while I was away: in the markets, on the streets of this city and in other urban centers around Britain, and in Libya, where the opposition’s final advance into Tripoli proved so rapid as to stun most observers, leaving online media scrambling to post headlines like Qaddafi’s Final Hours while such hours still existed…

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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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  • On the heels of the launch of Appetite for Change, our team has spotted a number of developments and received interest in working together to transform our food system. And the overall theme of access to good food remains in the limelight, most recently with…

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  • Image: AFP via sacbee.com

    The past week has been, in many ways, a watershed in post-independent India, with millions of Indians – young and old – taking to the streets in a public demonstration against corruption. The crowds have been unprecedented – I certainly do not remember anything like this since the late 1970s – and has cut across geographies and classes. And the man who has galvanized this is a 74-year old Gandhian called Anna Hazare (pronounced Ha-zaa-ray), a retired army soldier whose public contributions started in his small village in western India but who gradually became a relentless crusader against corruption in public life. Will this be a defining moment in India’s democracy? Are there lessons to be learnt, including for corporations in democracies? But I am getting a bit ahead of myself…

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  • In early July, after nearly a year of drafting and several rounds of consultations with business and civil society, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India announced the adoption of the National Voluntary Guidelines for Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business

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  • Energy efficiency is not a sexy topic, so when the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ad Council teamed up in July for a national consumer education campaign that includes messaging like “Save Money, Save Date Night” and viral-bound videos of a couple throwing all their worldly possessions down a cliff to cement the point that wasting energy is like wasting (in spectacular fashion) money, it was at least a refreshing take on an historically dull issue.

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  • Although the concept of social entrepreneurship to many is much more appealing and sexy than mainstream commercial business, we need the power of both to push the field of socially responsible and socially innovative companies forward…

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  • In the first in a series of blogs on economic growth, Kyra Choucroun set out the problems of an economy predicated on infinite economic growth. Here, guest author Ramon Arratia, Sustainability Director at InterfaceFLOR, sets out his vision for how we can begin to challenge established assumptions by decoupling economic growth from environmental impact. (Note: A version of this piece first appeared on InterfaceFLOR’s Cut the Fluff blog in June 2011.)

    Recently I participated in a very interesting Guardian Sustainable Business debate on decoupling economic growth from environmental impact…

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  • This spring, China’s south suffered the worst drought in 50 years, exacerbating the country’s status as one of the most water-scarce in the world. While the severity of the drought has resulted in unprecedented shocks to the energy and agriculture sectors (to name just a couple), China’s not alone in facing a paradigm shift in how it must manage its water. In fact, it’s joining a club of countries that are rethinking and recasting water governance and management.

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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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  • Photo: Sierra Club

    There was a conflict of sorts in my inbox last week.

    Wednesday heralded the arrival of the latest Ethical Corporation newsletter, the subject line for which read “Effective environmental activism all but abandoned in the US”, and which pointed recipients to an early July post from Peter Knight of Context America suggesting “Environmental groups have all but abandoned a push for better policies in preference for encouraging their supporters to pursue futile personal green efforts, aided and abetted by marketers flogging supposedly green goods.”

    Surrounding Ethical Corporation’s missive? Multiple emails pronouncing the biggest investment in grassroots activism in, well, forever: Michael Bloomberg’s $50 million contribution to in the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

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  • With the backing of First Lady Michelle Obama and her campaign to end childhood obesity, Walmart announced a plan to open up to 300 new stores over the next five years in U.S. “food deserts”, wisely aligning its company’s growth plans with the high-profile, publicly-backed initiative. The company, which has reported falling same store sales in each of the past eight quarters, sees urban markets as a critical growth opportunity, and its push into food deserts is an important arrow in its quiver against recalcitrant community members that see only negatives in Walmart’s entry.

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