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What’s Next

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  • Flickr image by thebittenword.com

    This article was co-written by Matt Loose and Aimee Watson.

    What if everyone could have access to food that meets their dietary needs without preventing future generations from meeting theirs? That’s the idea at the heart of sustainable nutrition. Increased attention to the environmental impacts of food types drives interest in sustainable nutrition, helping spur innovation and interest in those foods that can deliver nutritional value with a reduced environmental footprint.

    The agricultural footprint — the land required to grow the food sold — of the world’s largest global food companies, producers and traders is huge. As food demand increases in line with an increasing population, demand for land will grow. …

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  • The EU has placed a moratorium on neonicotinoids, pesticides linked to declines in bee populations around the world that put at risk bees’ roles in pollinating three quarters of the world’s crops. Flickr image by nicora.

    This is post 10 of 10. See previous.

    For over 25 years, companies have valued our ability to serve as their early warning system—to interpret emerging issues and trends in the sustainable development agenda and help them anticipate, understand and respond to shifts in the business landscape. In 2013, SustainAbility re-launched a dedicated function to regularly track and interpret “what’s next”—our Ten Trends of 2013 series is the distillation and public output of our thinking over the year.

    More than ten years after the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) study of hormone-disrupting chemicals—commonly found in agricultural pesticides and household items like plastics and cosmetics—turned up “weak” evidence on the connection to human health, much has changed. In 2013, when WHO and UNEP refreshed their study, a panel of 16 scientists from 10 countries found “emerging evidence for adverse reproductive outcomes’ and mounting evidence for effects on thyroids, brains and metabolism.” The report concludes that we are now facing a “global threat” that all national governments should address.

    Some governments have heeded the warning, albeit slowly and in part. In 2013, we’ve seen the EU place a moratorium on neonicotinoids&, pesticides linked to declines in bee populations around the world that put at risk bees’ roles in pollinating three quarters of the world’s crops. What’s more, the European Food Safety Authority warned that neonicotinoids may harm the development of unborn babies and called for cutting maximum exposure levels. Beyond “neonics,” the U.S. FDA has proposed a rule requiring manufacturers to prove antibacterial soaps are safe. …

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  • Overturning longstanding gender norms is an imperative for global food security given that female farmers “feed more and more of the world”. Image of Women Farmers Network in Chakwal. ©Anduze traveller, Flickr

    This is post 5 of 10. See next or previous.

    For over 25 years, companies have valued our ability to serve as their early warning system—to interpret emerging issues and trends in the sustainable development agenda and help them anticipate, understand and respond to shifts in the business landscape. In 2013, SustainAbility re-launched a dedicated function to regularly track and interpret “what’s next”—our Ten Trends of 2013 series is the distillation and public output of our thinking over the year.

    “One of the issues that has emerged most strongly…is the need to tackle inequalities and structural discrimination in the new [post-2015] development agenda, especially gender inequality and gender-based discrimination which was identified as underpinning and reinforcing all other forms of inequality.”UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, September 2013….

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  • Experts feel the urgency of issues like food safety is on the increase but corporate performance is still lagging behind. Image © David W Oliver, Flickr

    What issues are sustainability experts most concerned about? How well is the private sector addressing these challenges? Which sectors are most accountable for tackling these vexing problems? After analyzing responses from nearly 900 sustainability experts in 91 countries, the recently released 2013 Issues Survey, Challenges, Performance and Accountability, dives into these thorny issues, with mixed results.

    It’s been nearly two years since The GlobeScan / Sustainability Survey explored how our international pool of sustainability experts see issues—ranging from climate change to food safety—and the urgency and corporate performance surrounding them. In 2011 our survey (Key Challenges and Industry Performance) found urgency regarding several leading issues was in a slightly downward trend, and industries received mixed reviews about their ability to manage the transition to sustainable development—with no sectors receiving high marks for sustainability performance. …

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  • Lego's female scientist minifigure. Image courtesy of BrickTsar / YouTube

    Between traditional news channels, blogs, and social media, it can be hard to keep up with what’s making waves in the field of sustainable development. In this roundup we aim to cut through the noise with a handful of highlights that have caught our eye.

    Challenging Gender Norms Through Product Marketing

    In early September Toys ‘R’ Us pledged to drop gender labeling for its products in UK stores, and in the long term, it has indicated plans to remove explicit references to gender in its store signage. The move followed pressure from Let Toys Be Toys, a consumer group that campaigns for gender neutrality in toys. The campaign highlights the social cost of gendered marketing to children— from influencing personality development to shaping world views. Other UK retailers including Boots have agreed to remove “boy” and “girl” signs from their stores after receiving social media pressure from consumers….

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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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  • The True Cost of Traceability

    29 Nov 2011 – LIz Muller

    SustainAbility’s recent paper – Signed, Sealed…Delivered? – provides thoughtful insight and constructive recommendations on ways to make large scale shifts to new models of production, which will result in more sustainable and socially beneficial conditions.

    My work is centered on linking market demands with improved raw material production through complex commodity supply chains and business realities. I believe that we must account for the true cost of a sustainability or ethical system and maximize…

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  • I don’t know about you, but the closest I ever got to a Rubik’s Cube, shortly after it was first launched in 1974, was to handle one in a toy store. For me, it seemed insoluble – and many assumed it was, until persistent cubers discovered not just one way to crack the puzzle, but many. And the cube came to mind as I thought recently about the astonishingly complex global security challenge we now face…

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  • A World Without Labels

    29 Jun 2011 – Conor Woodman

    Imagine a company which always paid its workers a fair wage, only sourced materials from sustainable sources, created minimal environmental impact and operated a system of offsets so as to be 100% carbon neutral.

    How would this company convince you as an ethical shopper to buy its products?

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  • Appetite for Change discusses one of the most critical challenges of our time – Food Security. In other words, how do we feed a growing and prospering population without going beyond ecological limits and ensuring that farming communities thrive? This multi-faceted challenge is further complicated by the vagaries of nature, market speculation and agriculture’s interconnected to other inputs like energy.

    The solutions currently being developed tend to focus on the market and consumers. This can be seen by the thousands of different standards and certification being developed – all with good intention but now in an unhealthy competition and creating confusion for consumers…

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  • In just the last few weeks, one of the worst E. coli outbreaks in history has killed 37 people and made more than 2,600 ill, academics concluded that climate change will have more negative consequences for agriculture than expected, and the UN’s Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization released a guide warning “world farming needs a ‘major shift’ to more sustainable practices as intensive crop production since the 1960s has degraded soils, depleted ground water and caused pest outbreaks.”

    Industry and food system experts interviewed for SustainAbility’s latest report, Appetite for Change, read trends such as these and conclude that the food industry is failing…

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  • At the end of last year, my colleagues and I wrote, debated, and then re-wrote a blog on ten sustainability trends from 2010. Now that 2011 is underway, here are five trends we’re watching closely. We hope you’ll join the discussion and share your thoughts on the key issues appearing (and not appearing) on this list.

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  • 400 scientists from 34 countries worked for two years on the Global Food and Farming Futures report commissioned from the UK government’s think tank Foresight, and gathered an impressive amount of evidence on the state of our food system and the challenges that need to be tackled in the years ahead. Conclusion: to ensure food security in a sustainable way, nothing less than a redesign of the whole food system is required, and the change is needed now.

    Although I have a hard time calling this a bold statement in a world that is currently failing the nutritional needs of roughly one third of its population

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  • Despite its importance, agriculture is financially underserved and currently not prioritized in many emerging economies.

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  • Do Walmart's newest initiatives address the systemic change needed for a sustainable food system?

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  • Energy and water are difficult issues in their own right, but they're on a collision course in places like China.

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  • Jennifer Biringer recaps her panel at the SoCap Conference, and links to the broader state of biodiversity.

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  • What’s next for the restaurant industry? As someone who has worked in the hospitality industry for over 10 years...

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  • Reflecting on yesterday's CSV Forum 2010 in London, I confess that my expectations going into the event were low.

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  • McDonald's is opening its farms to the public as part of a PR campaign in the run up to the London 2010 Olympics.

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