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  • 1. Transitions

    In a year that saw an Arab Spring take hold and unseat entrenched autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (TBD on Yemen and Syria), the withdrawal of the last American troops from Iraq, a European Union on the brink of transformative change (and potential collapse), a titan of technological (and economic) innovation pass away, and the growing acknowledgement (in the form of the Occupy protests), that the entanglement of the American political and financial system is a Faustian bargain that must be actively fought and protested against, the theme of transition feels all too apt.

    So too in the sustainability field, where in a world of seven billion inhabitants and growing, the five most urgent issues on the sustainability agenda are all perceived less urgently than they were in 2009.

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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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  • Fast-moving industries involved in the production of consumer goods, food, apparel and precious stones have all come under pressure about the provenance of materials, components and products in their supply chains. Many companies in these sectors have responded by developing mechanisms to assure customers and consumers that products can be traced and sourced with environmental and social considerations in mind. Such traceability has reshaped expectations of corporate accountability and transparency.

    Attention is now turning to oil and gas. The sector is already facing a reputational crisis following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the WikiLeaks disclosures and recent events around the Keystone XL oil pipeline and controversy in the UK over the European fuel quality regulation means that it is likely inevitable that there will be growing demand for greater transparency. As in other sectors, traceability will be a key feature of the rising tide…

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  • Sustainable consumption has been high on our agenda in recent months. Most recently, our latest report Signed, Sealed… Delivered? highlights the diminishing returns from sustainability labels and calls for sustainability to be ‘built-in’ rather than ‘bolt-on’ (or, in this case, labelled-on) to consumer brands.

    So with my antennae sensitised for unsustainable consumption, I was stunned to flick through the Financial Times‘ Weekend magazine Christmas Unwrapped and read endless exhortation of excessive consumption…

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  • Another year, another COP, another step closer to the brink. It must seem to the casual observer that the UN climate negotiations are an exercise designed explicitly to create gridlock and failure. Judging by many of the blogs, comments and tweets I’ve been reading since bleary-eyed delegates stumbled out of the Durban ICC on Sunday, the most recent episode has provoked some strong but mixed reactions: politicians claiming a triumph of multilateralism, NGOs decrying the lack of progress on issues of substance. Both views hold some merit. As someone who was present in Durban for the regulation fortnight – but missed the 36 hours of injury-time – I’d like to weigh in with my personal reflections.

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  • I recently had the pleasure of participating in the annual workshops of SustainAbility’s Engaging Stakeholders network. The theme for the workshops was “value.” That is, how companies can derive greater business value from their sustainability communications and engagement, and how they can deliver greater value to stakeholders and society via their efforts.

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  • This is the last in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, two, three, four, five, and six.

    Back in the UK now and reflecting on the news filtering out this (Sunday) morning. Given the threat yesterday of a chaotic collapse, with echoes of Copenhagen, I was relieved to hear of the final outcome. The very best was never going to be equal to the full climate challenge we face, but this COP has made some major strides in securing a long-term mitigation roadmap with ‘legal force’.

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  • This is sixth in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, two, three, four, five, and seven.

    As the high-level ministerial segment reaches its final day, there are many tired faces around the centre, including some needing a lunch time nap as in the picture below.

    A surprising exception is Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC and responsible for getting a good set of outcomes in the next 24 hours. I have attended two progress briefings she has given. The first – and by far the more interesting – was a meeting with the youth groups…

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  • This is fifth in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, two, three, four, six, and seven.

    One of the joys of COPs is that strange things happen which make you realize that these grand UN events are as vulnerable to human foibles as a local school fete. I stayed on (and on) at the conference centre to join a business briefing by Jonathan Pershing, the US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change. He is a very approachable man of huge integrity whom I first met in Bali at COP 13 when he was still at WRI. When he was later sworn in to his new position as US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change under the Obama administration, I was delighted.

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  • Fourth in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, two, four, five, six, and seven.

    People who know me also know that I am a great believer in serendipity. As I was driven this morning to the city’s Botanical Gardens for The Durban Dialogue organised by B4E, I spotted a Nando’s restaurant and immediately thought of Sir David King who, when he arrived in Oxford to direct the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, agreed to meet me at their temporary offices. These were, as he explained to me as I called for directions, ‘behind Nando’s’. Amazingly, and serendipitously, standing near the registration desk a few minutes later was David himself. With surprise and delight, I told him of the Nando’s connection. He looked underwhelmed.

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  • Oh to be YOUNGO

    06 Dec 2011Geoff Lye

    This is third in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, two, four, five, six, and seven.

    Given SustainAbility’s growing interest in bringing voices of the future into the board room and in mobilising Gen Y as a source of inspiration and innovation to corporate sustainability thinking, I’ve been looking out for how visible and vocal youth organisations have been here in Durban.

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  • The second in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, three, four, five, six, and seven.

    In the lift to my hotel room this morning, I was embarrassed to be sweating profusely after a run along Durban’s beach promenade under a blue sky in 25 degrees with high humidity (yes, hard work at these COPs!). As the lift doors closed, a delegate from a COP 17 side event leaped in. ‘It’s freezing in the conference,’ she said, ‘I’m heading for my room to get a jumper.’ The irony was not lost on others in the lift, but it did highlight for me the continuing disconnect between the rhetoric and action. And Durban does not look remotely well set to close the gap between the two.

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  • This is the first in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: two, three, four, five, six, and seven.

    Durban will briefly be in the climate spotlight just months before the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit. Few of us at Rio in 1992 would have believed that so little progress would be made in the intervening years. At the time, I had four children of school age. Frankly, the UN process has served neither them, nor my four grandchildren, well since. Climate procrastination has put future generations (with over two billion ‘climate innocents’ to be born by 2050) at severe risk of increasingly dangerous climate disruptions. We have seen how national and international governments and institutions responded to the 2008 financial crisis in just two crucial days, but also how, in two crucial decades, they have achieved very little on the much deeper climate crisis. Nature neither defers decisions nor haggles; nor, as widely observed after the financial crisis, does nature do bailouts.

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