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  • What I Have Learnt: Inge Wallage

    14 Jun 2016 – Zoë Arden

    Inge Wallage

    This article was originally published in Radar 10: Being Human.

    Part of being human is the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes or, better still, wear them. Inge Wallage, currently communications director at the International Water Association (IWA), is one of an increasing number of professionals who are blurring the lines between business, civil society, public sector and campaigning groups. Her career has spanned roles at Motorola, Statoil, Philips Electronics, Greenpeace and in communications consulting. This is what she has learnt.

    What I’ve learned after seven years in civil society and a career in business is that solutions for the future will come about by unusual suspects coming together and sector boundaries blurring – we bring water professionals together across disciplines, across sectors and across the world.

    Humans tend to believe in technocratic solutions but the reality is we need to come up with new ideas that might come through different roots such as philosophy. Even though IWA is a registered charity, it is starting to behave like an incubator and/or a social enterprise – you need to be agile to come up with water management solutions. We’re becoming more business process focused for good, not to make money.

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  • GlobeScan and SustainAbility have tracked expert opinions on sustainable development leadership for more than 20 years. Over these two decades, we have seen the sustainability agenda evolve and broaden, watched companies climb to the top of the corporate leadership list and then completely disappear from it, and witnessed many waves of optimism and pessimism as well as shifting expectations.

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. The report highlights five pathways that sustainability practitioners can leverage to more deeply integrate sustainability into their business: employing business model thinking; putting materiality to use; applying a sustainability lens to products and services; tapping into culture; and leveraging transparency. In the fifth of a five-part series, which was originally published on GreenBiz, we focus on leveraging transparency.

    Forming a culture that enables an employee to understand what sustainability means for both the organization and his or her role within it is necessary in order to embed sustainability deeply. Yet culture is difficult to define and often described simply as “how we do things around here.” To fully integrate sustainability issues into the company’s decision-making, employees need a clear set of values and shared understanding. And the company’s leadership will be critical too when it comes to enhancing or diminishing a shared understanding of sustainability.

    As many of us have experienced, culture can be resistant to change, even with the best strategy and leadership in place. As oft attributed to Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for lunch”. But whilst culture can be deep-rooted and slow to evolve, our research indicates that it is possible for corporate cultures to adapt. Moreover, given the
right conditions, progress can be made even within corporate cultures that do not have a deeply shared understanding of sustainability.

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  • Image via iStockPhoto

    This article was originally published in Radar 10: Being Human.

    Company approaches to supply chain well-being are increasingly centered on technologies and research that enable workers to express their concerns and give honest and open feedback of factory conditions.

    Globalisation, one of the most preeminent trends of the past several decades, has profoundly influenced how people communicate, travel and consume and how companies do business. It has brought new jobs and plentiful economic opportunities to developing nations in Asia, Latin America and Africa and has enabled multinational companies to cut costs and offer lower prices. Outsourcing has also brought challenges and companies have struggled to gain full transparency of increasingly complex and geographically dispersed supply chains and to maintain fair working conditions in factories. As advancements in technologies open new opportunities, a growing number of companies are turning to direct employee engagement to gain better visibility and improve worker well-being in supply chains.

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. The report highlights five pathways that sustainability practitioners can leverage to more deeply integrate sustainability into their business: employing business model thinking; putting materiality to use; applying a sustainability lens to products and services; tapping into culture; and leveraging transparency. In the fourth of a five-part series, which was originally published on GreenBiz, we focus on leveraging transparency.

    SustainAbility has long recognized that corporate transparency is integral to sustainability. We have been active contributors to the evolution of sustainability reporting, from publishing our Global Reporters series (1994-2008) to fundamentally questioning reporting’s present day value in “See Change: How Transparency Drives Performance.” Ultimately, we recognize that reporting is just one tactic in a much broader, more strategic transparency evolution. With this in mind we explore how an emergent aspect of transparency – integrated reporting – can both drive and reflect larger efforts to integrate sustainability into business.

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  • Flickr image by Bailey Cheng

    Guest contributor Seb Beloe is Head of Sustainability Research at WHEB Asset Management and a SustainAbility Council member. This article was originally published on the WHEB blog.

    In November WHEB Asset Management published a blog highlighting deep flaws in ESG research that focuses exclusively on how companies operate, while ignoring the impact of products and services. In this article, we take aim at another part of the ESG industry that has become popular in recent years – ESG ratings.

    ESG issues are clearly material to company performance – the question is which ones

    It is important at the outset to underline that our investment process at WHEB utilises environmental, social and governance (ESG) information as a core part of our investment analysis. To quote from our Responsible Investment Policy, “We have strong conviction in the impact of ESG issues on company performance either in their own right or as a wider proxy for the quality of a business franchise, especially over a multi-year investment horizon.”

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  • Tech Companies and the ‘War for Talent’

    21 Mar 2016 – Rebecca O'Neill

    Image by iStockphoto

    This article was originally published in Radar 09: Inside the Machine.

    Competition for high performers in the tech sector can drive sustainability practices in companies, but may lead to negative societal impacts elsewhere.

    The digital transformation that is underway across all industries, from automakers to journalism to agriculture, is leading to mind boggling growth in the technology sector. New products and services are in high demand, as companies realise that shifting their business models to incorporate more sophisticated technology can often lead to more efficient supply chains, better customer services and, ultimately, higher profits.

    The growth of the tech sector in our economy has complex sustainability ramifications, from data privacy, cyber insecurity, e-waste and obsolescence to human rights and labour issues in the supply chain. But on the whole, tech companies have played active roles in the ongoing corporate sustainability movement, often leading in key issues such as shifting to 100% renewable energy.

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. It highlights five pathways to more deeply integrate sustainability into business: employing business model thinking; putting materiality to use; applying a sustainability lens to products and services; tapping into culture; and leveraging transparency. In the second of a five-part series, which was originally published on GreenBiz, we focus on putting materiality to use.

    Most large companies have identified their most critical sustainability issues, including human rights, water, customer privacy, climate change and beyond. Identifying and prioritizing those social and environmental issues, such as a materiality assessment, helps companies allocate resources, set goals and focus their strategy.

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  • Image by Geoff Lye

    As the dust settles after the negotiation of an ambitious global agreement in Paris, Geoff Lye offers his assessment of its significance.



    23 years ago, I left Rio full of optimism – confident that a range of Earth Summit agreements, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, would set us on a sustainable path well before I would have any grandchildren. When I got back to the UK, I made a video to persuade clients of the company I was then building to take environmental issues more seriously. In practice, not only were many of my forecasts simply wrong, but my spirit of optimism was misguided. In 1992 I had four young children. Returning for the Rio+20 conference, I had four young grandchildren – and I was struck by how little progress we had made; worse, on most measures, we had tracked significantly in the wrong direction.

    So, on a train to London as COP 21 finally closed with a truly ambitious agreement, I was – in contrast to the first blog of this series – once again seeing the climate glass as half full. In fact, I see it as much more than half full. This agreement – voted on behalf of over six billion global citizens – fires the starting gun on a quest to deliver a carbon neutral economy within the lifetimes of our grandchildren. It would be easy to highlight the many potential loopholes and future roadblocks in the agreement, but the agreement does, I believe, change the nature of the debate and shifts the framing of decarbonising our economies irreversibly.

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  • This article was first published in GreenBiz and was co-written by Aiste Brackley, Trends and Research Manager at SustainAbility and Alex Lewis, Senior Research Analyst at GlobeScan.

    In some respects the Volkswagen emissions scandal could not have come at a worse time. Unfolding two months before the historic COP21 climate summit in Paris, the revelations that the car giant cheated emissions tests reinforced long-held suspicions among some skeptics that the private sector’s buy-in over climate change was superficial. The 2015 Climate Change Survey, GlobeScan and SustainAbility’s most recent survey, reveals that international sustainability experts continue to view the contribution of business as modest. However, if we are to see meaningful long-term progress, national governments as well as the private sector will have to step up, as the two institutions will be critically important for the implementation of the post-COP21 framework.

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  • Will Geoff Lye's latest grandchild, Leo, wonder why it took us so long to avert the huge impacts of climate change?

    This is the second in a series of blogs Geoff Lye will produce in the run up to COP 21 and through the conference itself. His blogs from most COPs since the Bali conference in 2007 can be found here .

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  • Flickr image by digitalpimp

    This is the first in a series of blogs I will produce in the fortnight running up to COP 21 and through the conference itself. As a regular attendee and reporter from most COPs since the Bali conference in 2007, I must admit to a feeling of déjà vu. The world’s leaders will be coming together in yet another of the UN’s last chance climate saloons to try to deliver a global agreement to avoid breaching the 2°C threshold.

    After COP 17 in Durban I decided, in frustration at the lack of progress, not to attend future events. Yet here I am – travel and hotels booked – excited once again in anticipation of joining the biggest ever assembly1 of climate professionals, activists, politicians, technologists, scientists and economists. For the first time, however, I have failed to get accreditation to the UN’s Blue Zone – and I know that my blogs will be weaker for that. But at this COP, most of the most interesting events and networking venues are outside the formal conference. This will create a far more open environment for most attendees and I can guarantee that there will be no shortage of surprising, inspiring and, in equal measure, depressing stories over the coming weeks.

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  • Is CSR Dead?

    16 Oct 2015John Elkington

    John Elkington at the SustainAbility London office

    John Elkington, SustainAbility co-founder and honorary chairman, launches an occasional series on the business agenda.

    ‘Turkeys vote down Christmas.’ That’s one way of reporting the result of a Barclays debate on 8 October, in which I was pitched head-to-head against Mark Kramer of the Shared Value Initiative. The key question: ‘Is CSR Dead?’

    There was a crackle in the air as the debate began. #TeamMark was ably supported by Janet Voûte, Global Head of Public Affairs at Nestlé, while my #TeamJohn partner was Covestro CEO Patrick Thomas. Long story short, Patrick and I won with 75% of the vote. But short stories can mislead.

    When Barclays first suggested the theme, both Mark and I protested. The question felt tired. But the intense social media buzz soon proved us wrong. People clearly wanted to discuss whether CSR was dead or alive. (And that was even before the wheels came off VW.)

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  • This piece was originally published in the autumn issue of Radar Magazine – Issue 08: Beyond the Company, The Future of Sustainability Goals.

    Redefining success in business is a pretty ambitious goal, and is one that the B Corp movement has been working towards since 2006. SustainAbility, for over 25 years, has been working to make business and markets more sustainable, and is proud to be one of the first certified B Corps in the UK and to be part of this global movement.

    We spoke with the key figures behind the launch of B Corp in the UK, as well as some companies in the B Corp community, to discuss their ambitions and how they see the movement developing.

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  • Flickr image by WorldFish

    This article was co-written by Lindsay Clinton and Rochelle March.

    As São Paulo, Brazil, suffers from the worst drought in its history, multinational pulp company Fibria, which is headquartered in the city, is one of many that has felt the pinch. At times, water has been shut off to 40% of the city and even now, after the rainy season, only 6-13% of the city’s reservoir’s capacity has been filled. In response, the company is working to reduce the amount of water it uses for forest irrigation.

    This isn’t the first time that Fibria has had to adapt to a shifting environment. Over the last several years, the rising scarcity of several essential resources – including water, fertilizer, labor and land – has pushed the company to reconsider its business model. It has diversified into renewable energy, biofuel production and sustainable real estate development. Fibria’s goal is to make these portfolio additions 20% of total free cash flow by 2025, making the company less pulp-dependent and giving it alternative options for future business growth in light of looming sustainability challenges.

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  • Flickr image by Melanie Holtsman

    Our economies in their present forms are unsustainable. Our planet has been subjected to the Great Acceleration of humankind’s impact, which presents immense risks to the health of the biosphere and our civilization. Our impact is directly linked to global economic growth.

    At SustainAbility, as we argued in our report Changing Tack, business can be a great driver of change but the present rules of engagement in business, finance and markets are largely unchanged since the 19th century. Meanwhile, global growth has stalled and, eight years after the financial crash, many developed world economies continue to be moribund. A change in how we run our economies and business is urgently needed. And for that we need leadership.

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  • Flickr image by Mary Anne Enriquez

    This article was co-written by Lindsay Clinton and Rochelle March.

    Last year, the CEO of Fortune 250 energy provider NRG wrote a letter to shareholders about the lack of innovation in the energy industry. “There is no Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google in the American energy industry today,” David Crane wrote. “NRG is not that energy company either, but we are doing everything in our power to head in that direction – as fast as we can. But we need to pick up the pace further, and that is what we intend to do.”

    Although NRG’s portfolio still includes 30% coal-generated power, it is repositioning itself and its business model to guide energy users from a grid-based power system to a distributed generation system. It’s also developing products and services related to electric vehicles, rooftop solar and home energy efficiency.

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  • How can we transition to a sustainable economy?

    This article was co-authored by Rob Cameron and Lindsay Clinton.

    The UK election was fought largely on the issue of the economy. The Conservatives, with its surprise majority have promised to reduce the deficit by £30 billion. Fixing the economy and balancing the books is undoubtedly of great importance for the economy—as long as it is done sustainably.

    It’s a simple fact: the economy is a sub-system of our ecosystem. And yet, it has become commonplace to believe that the opposite is true – that the economy is the dominant system.

    The consequences of prioritising the economy and GDP above all else have become all-too visible: climate change, water scarcity, deforestation, soil depletion, resource shortages—but it is not only the environment that is paying a heavy price. The current economic model can be tied to rising workplace stress and illness, obesity, malnutrition, increasing inequality, and more.

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  • It has been more than two decades since policymakers, scientists, NGOs and other changemakers gathered in Rio de Janeiro for a historic summit that would set the direction of sustainable development for years to come. Since the 1992 Earth Summit, progress on climate change and sustainability has been uneven, and, many will argue, disappointing. As the date of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris approaches, the global community is facing another seminal year, building hopes that the December 2015 summit will mark the beginning of a new chapter with ambitious goals and more decisive action.

    For SustainAbility and GlobeScan’s annual Sustainability Leaders survey, we asked expert stakeholders representing business, government, NGOs and academia across 82 countries to evaluate the progress that institutions have made since the 1992 Earth Summit and reflect on their expectations for the next 20 years.

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  • John Elkington at the SustainAbility London office

    The SustainAbility London office regularly invites practitioners from within our network to speak to the team over lunch to share insights from their own work as well as their perspective on the sustainability landscape at large.

    SustainAbility was pleased to host John Elkington, Co-Founder and Honorary Chairman of SustainAbility, and the Volans team to discuss their latest publication The Stretch Agenda, a report intended as a playful provocation to big business to redefine the future of leadership in the Breakthrough Decade from 2016 to 2025.

    The Stretch Agenda is a dramatised portrayal of conversations that are already taking place in boardrooms across the Global C-suite. The piece in written as a “playper,” as opposed to a traditional report format, to provide fresh voices and perspectives on the sustainability agenda from the point of view of top decision-makers and strategists within a fictitious global company, ‘MN-Co’. The reader is given insight via a discussion between the Chair, CEO, CFO, CHRO, CMO and an incoming CXO (Chief Sustainability/Stretch Officer) and two young leaders as they ponder how to shift their company’s business model to address the economic, social and environmental challenges that lie ahead.

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