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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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  • I’ve just returned from a visit to Philadelphia and New York last week where I had the opportunity for in-depth conversation with students and faculty at Wharton Graduate School of Business, as well as business and thought leaders from Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, SAP, Unilever, Interbrand, Ogilvy, GRI, Corporate Responsibility, SustainAbility, The Economist and many others. All of these conversations touched on how we are unfolding our thinking about, and finding ways to measure, new forms of value that business might deliver to its customers and other stakeholders in the future. Underpinning these rich and varied conversations was the growing drumbeat, launched in New York, of #occupywallstreet. This growing movement is yet another indicator of the pressure on business to demonstrate its ability to extend its focus beyond profit to other forms of value creation for broader swaths of society.

    The fact that the focus of #occupywallstreet seems to center on “corporate greed” as the target of its aggregated angst is just one sign of disconnect between business and the stakeholders to whom business is supposed to be delivering value.

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  • “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” Steve Jobs

    Steve Jobs has passed away at the age of 56, having transformed the way we use and think about technology. Those of us working toward a more sustainable world would be wise to pay attention to how he did it.

    I was working in the mobile phone industry in January 2007, when Jobs stood up on stage and revealed the iPhone to the world. Many of my colleagues looked on unimpressed – sure it looked good, but it was too expensive, too big, too slow for internet browsing, too hard to type on… in fact too just-about-everything. The consensus seemed to be that Jobs, as an ‘outsider,’ just couldn’t understand the complexities of the mobile landscape we all inhabited. What my colleagues missed was that Jobs wasn’t looking to find his own place in that landscape; he was planning to terraform it. And terraform it he did. Five short years ago very few people outside the industry had ever heard the term “smartphone,” but now it seems that every other handset you see is either an iPhone or an imitation of it.

    What does all this mean for the business of sustainability? Well, Apple may not be known as a leader on environmental or social issues, but its winning formula serves as a great model for those who aspire to be. Jobs built an organisation that actively sought to shatter the status quo in every market it entered. The iPhone is just one of a number of successess – Macintosh, iTunes, iPad, and so on – that prove how a single company can really change the game if it thinks differently.

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  • I’ve blogged recently on roundtable discussions that SustainAbility hosted in Washington, DC and London. We organized these sessions in order to connect some of our corporate and civil society partners in more intimate conversation than fits the conference circuit – smaller, more focused, more relaxed; all discourse, no presentation – and yet capable of creating more diversity and dynamism than possible when we only meet bi-laterally. A simple added benefit has been the experience of talking to people who are all of one place, in cities where we have offices ourselves. Our work so often takes us far afield, or into meeting environments built around destinations convenient to all but endemic to few, that it is easy to forget how both content and tone change when everyone has a common geography.

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