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  • Flickr image by nachof

    This piece was originally published in the autumn issue of Radar Magazine – Issue 05: Unusual Activists.

    A series of scandals have shaken food companies sourcing and selling in China, bringing into the spotlight persistent safety concerns and forcing corporations to review traceability tools and consider working more closely with suppliers to address the problems. …

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  • Mask wearing has become a common sight in downtown Beijing. Taken April 2014 © Chris Wash.

    An abbreviated version of this piece was originally published in the summer issue of Radar Magazine – Issue 04: Better, Connected.

    The Chinese government’s declarations of environmental concerns as first-order priorities have a spotty history in heralding imminent change, due largely to uneven enforcement on a state and local level. So one could be forgiven if the flurry of actions announced in the first half of 2014, which include statements by a government advisor that the country will set an absolute cap on carbon dioxide emissions for the first time and adopt a revised Environmental Protection Law (the first in 25 years) imposing harsher financial and criminal punishments to polluters, is viewed with scepticism. But stakeholder activity to hold the government accountable for their environmental stewardship, whether by protest or product offering, has risen too. We have seen more signs of environmentally-sparked protests, like one fought over the construction of an industrial plant in Guangdong province or another that incited a riot in Hangzhou over plans to build Asia’s largest waste incinerator project, take place this year….

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  • Mineral rich frontier economies like Myanmar are attracting a surge in investment but some are advising caution when looking to move into regions with a track record of human rights issues. Image credit: CC license by rhaddon/Flickr

    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.

    Social Investment Gathers Momentum

    In the UK, a number of developments in the social impact space are creating momentum around the departure of business as usual. Last year saw the establishment of Big Society Capital, a social investment institution that has been set up by the UK government to provide access to finance for social enterprises. In early June this year, the Social Stock Exchange (SSE), an investment of Big Society Capital, was launched as an online platform where listed companies are connected to investors who are looking for measurement of social and environmental credentials. To be listed on the SSE, companies have to produce social impact reports that are assessed by a panel of experts in the field. The SSE is supporting the shift to a broader definition of shareholder value by enabling companies to make their social and environmental impacts more transparent and ultimately, more quantifiable to investors. …

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  • Copyright (c) Heather Mak

    Recently returning from a trip to Guangzhou to visit my grandmother, I found it remarkable how quickly the city had changed from when I was a little girl visiting for the first time, almost 25 years ago. I recall farmer’s fields with bumpy dirt roads that now, have magically transformed into eight lane highways. Small alleyways of hutong houses have been replaced by shiny new office bulidings and condominiums. Rickety bicycles carrying 10 times their weight? They’ve turned into luxury SUVs. Each time I go back, it is not …

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  • SustainAbility Council member Gary Kendall shares this report following a recent visit to China – in particular a portion of his journey featuring a cruise down the Yangtze River and through the locks at the infamous Three Gorges Dam.

    “That’s my new house” – my Chinese tour guide gestured toward a row of featureless apartment blocks beneath our vantage point overlooking the river – “and that’s where I used to live.” She showed me a photograph of a modest two-storey structure within the walls of the ancient city of Fengjie. It presumably remains intact, albeit more than 150 metres underwater.

    This stretch of the Yangtze – roughly 660km from Chongqing to Sandouping – is much less a river than a lake these days…

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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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  • 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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  • 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 post was co-authored by Mark Lee (SustainAbility) and Chris Coulter, (GlobeScan) and originally appeared on Guardian Sustainable Business on 15 September 2011.

    It’s tough now to be optimistic about policy, the economy or their combination. The eurozone is reeling in the face of defaults and potential defaults as well as lack of shared vision about managing and paying for future challenges. US stock markets entered August downbeat after the bitterly partisan deficit showdown. They then suffered major declines by the month’s end, while the job-creation numbers released at the start of September suggest American economic malaise will linger. Emerging economies remain vibrant, even boisterous, but questions about inflation in Brazil and elsewhere are amplifying, debate over corruption has taken centre stage in India and pundits wonder how China can maintain torrid growth while its western export markets remain in the doldrums.

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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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  • 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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  • Get Well Soon

    13 Jul 2011Caren Holzman

    The Lancet recently published a major international study revealing that 347 million adults worldwide suffered from diabetes in 2008 – a number that has doubled since 1980 and exceeds that shown in previous studies. As it was a scientific study, it doesn’t address the staggering economic implications of this number in terms of lost productivity and exorbitant healthcare costs for treatment and support. However, a study also published in June in Value in Health contends that nearly one in five people with diabetes are regularly unable to attend a full day at work due to disruption caused by episodes of dangerously low blood sugar. And one in every ten healthcare dollars in the US is spent on diabetes and its complications.

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  • A compilation of SustainAbility's current and past thinking on the future of energy.

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  • For more than two decades companies have valued our ability to serve as their early warning system, to interpret what is happening in the world today and how it may impact their business tomorrow.

    Our “Radar” services range from the general – monthly cross-industry trending digests – to the bespoke – tailored analysis of the most critical emerging issues to your business, and recommendations on how to tackle them.

    This is the third in a series of blogs giving a glimpse of what’s on our radar…

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  • It's time for a rethink on the future of nuclear power, but the answers are far from clear.

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  • New Year, New Life

    19 Jan 2011Mark Lee

    Population numbers are staggering, but the answer, in terms of how many is too many, is more complicated.

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  • Will the US find the energy, optimism and courage necessary to invest in a better future right now?

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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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  • For over two decades SustainAbility has been working on the evolving relationships between business and civil society – and in particular between business and NGOs. In 2003 we published The 21st Century NGO: In the Market for Change which explored questions around the relationships between NGOs AND businesses as well as questions around the operation of NGOs AS businesses. The report acknowledged that the organizations covered in the research were predominantly northern-based. In part this is because we believed that such models help describe how other parts of the world may develop. At the same time we realized that NGOs operating in emerging markets face very different opportunities and constraints….

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