Blog
What’s Next

Get RSS feed

  • 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. …

    Read more - Comments

  • 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. …

    Read more - Comments

  • Elon Musk's Hyperloop. Image: P.S.Lu via 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.

    Traceability in Food and Apparel Sectors

    Two sectors recently tainted by supply chain scandals–apparel and food–are also witnessing a surge in traceability and transparency in an effort to communicate more openly and transparently with stakeholders.

    The emergence of companies that are promoting traceability and transparency in the apparel supply chain through digital platforms, including Everlane, Honest-By, and SumAll, has been complemented by the newly launched Zady, an online shopping portal that uses icons to convey to consumers if a garment is locally sourced, made from high-quality raw materials, or environmentally conscious. While the co-founders research the practices of every brand included on the site and have visited some factories, in many cases they rely on the brands to disclose the information, requiring owners to sign contracts verifying the authenticity of their claims about sourcing and production. …

    Read more - Comments

  • “The current economic system, built on the idea of perpetual growth, sits uneasily within an ecological system that is bound by biophysical limits.” So states the fifth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5), published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2012.

    Renowned economist Kenneth Boulding reflected the same sentiment more pointedly many years ago when he said: “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”

    Infinite growth is the operating principle, reinforced by our current economic and political systems, on which many of the world’s business leaders, policy-makers and investors make decisions every day. As a result, the gap between our current burn rate and what the planet’s environmental systems can support on a sustained basis continues to grow. This gap represents a significant risk – and an opportunity – for the business community.

    This is the context of the most recent collaboration between UNEP and SustainAbility, along with Green Light Group: a just-released report titled GEO-5 for Business. Using GEO-5 (a 500+ page compilation of environmental data, policy options and scenarios) as its foundation, GEO-5 for Business serves as a translation and primer written specifically for business leaders. While much analysis has been conducted on the impacts of business on the environment, this report looks in the other direction – at the impacts of environmental trends on business….

    Read more - Comments

  • I mentioned in an end 2011 article for GreenBiz, on Simon Mainwaring’s view of Contributory Consumption, that I’d had the opportunity to visit the LIVESTRONG Foundation HQ in Austin, TX as part of a series of Sustainable Life Media meetings last month hosted by Dell.

    I was in Texas while COP 17 was playing out in Durban, so it may be the coincidence of timing leading me to make a connection, but I have been pondering similarities between society’s struggles to defeat cancer to the battle against global warming. Is there a lesson here?

    Read more - Comments

  • On the heels of the launch of Appetite for Change, our team has spotted a number of developments and received interest in working together to transform our food system. And the overall theme of access to good food remains in the limelight, most recently with…

    Read more - Comments

  • With the backing of First Lady Michelle Obama and her campaign to end childhood obesity, Walmart announced a plan to open up to 300 new stores over the next five years in U.S. “food deserts”, wisely aligning its company’s growth plans with the high-profile, publicly-backed initiative. The company, which has reported falling same store sales in each of the past eight quarters, sees urban markets as a critical growth opportunity, and its push into food deserts is an important arrow in its quiver against recalcitrant community members that see only negatives in Walmart’s entry.

    Read more - Comments

  • 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.

    Read more - Comments

  • 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…

    Read more - Comments

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

    Read more - Comments

  • 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.

    Read more - Comments

  • We all know broccoli is better for us than burgers (right?) and that smoking kills.

    Read more - Comments

  • The question is not whether a reduction in salt is necessary (it is) but whether it’s feasible.

    Read more - Comments

  • There are some days it feels like we are tinkering around the edges of a world that has gone mad.

    Read more - Comments

  • China now faces a disorienting triple crunch, and its responses will powerfully shape our world 15 years hence.

    Read more - Comments

  • Once upon a time, they used to say that when General Motors sneezed America caught a cold. These days...

    Read more - Comments

OR JOIN

You must have an account with us to gain unlimited access to our ever-growing library of research reports, issue briefings and members-only presentations on the latest sustainability challenges and opportunities for business.

Join now