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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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  • The battle for a sustainable future will be won or lost in our cities. Image credit: CC license by art-dara/Flickr

    Although occupying only 2% of the Earth’s land surface, cities account for more than 60% of global energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. Over 3.5bn people are city dwellers today, and by 2050 that number is projected to almost double. With figures like these, it’s not a stretch to say that our battle for a sustainable future will be won or lost in our cities.

    So how do we win that battle? Early in 2012 we started exploring this very question in Citystates: How Cities are Vital to the Future of Sustainability, and last week I had the opportunity to chair a panel on the subject at Convergence Paris. Joining me were two people with a lot of experience in this area: Peter Madden from Catapult Future Cities, and Sterling Hughes from Silver Spring Networks.

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  • The World Health Organisation estimates that 30% of prescriptive drugs in circulation in emerging economies are counterfeit. Imagine you live in the developing world, and you depend upon regular medicine to keep you healthy enough to feed your family. There is roughly a one in three chance that each pill you take is at best ineffective, and at worst dangerous. Other than swallow and hope for the best, what can you do? …

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  • It’s hard to think about brand leadership without thinking about Apple, now neck-and-neck with ExxonMobil as the world’s biggest company by market cap.

    Last week, Apple was top of mind for many of us, with two major pieces of reporting: the UK release of Adam Lashinsky’s book, Inside Apple, which describes in part-admiring, part-unmerciful detail Apple’s tough organizational culture, and the New York Times’s excellent investigation into conditions in Apple’s supplier factories in China.

    This last piece spurred CEO Tim Cook …

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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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  • “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” Steve Jobs

    Steve Jobs has passed away at the age of 56, having transformed the way we use and think about technology. Those of us working toward a more sustainable world would be wise to pay attention to how he did it.

    I was working in the mobile phone industry in January 2007, when Jobs stood up on stage and revealed the iPhone to the world. Many of my colleagues looked on unimpressed – sure it looked good, but it was too expensive, too big, too slow for internet browsing, too hard to type on… in fact too just-about-everything. The consensus seemed to be that Jobs, as an ‘outsider,’ just couldn’t understand the complexities of the mobile landscape we all inhabited. What my colleagues missed was that Jobs wasn’t looking to find his own place in that landscape; he was planning to terraform it. And terraform it he did. Five short years ago very few people outside the industry had ever heard the term “smartphone,” but now it seems that every other handset you see is either an iPhone or an imitation of it.

    What does all this mean for the business of sustainability? Well, Apple may not be known as a leader on environmental or social issues, but its winning formula serves as a great model for those who aspire to be. Jobs built an organisation that actively sought to shatter the status quo in every market it entered. The iPhone is just one of a number of successess – Macintosh, iTunes, iPad, and so on – that prove how a single company can really change the game if it thinks differently.

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  • I’ve blogged recently on roundtable discussions that SustainAbility hosted in Washington, DC and London. We organized these sessions in order to connect some of our corporate and civil society partners in more intimate conversation than fits the conference circuit – smaller, more focused, more relaxed; all discourse, no presentation – and yet capable of creating more diversity and dynamism than possible when we only meet bi-laterally. A simple added benefit has been the experience of talking to people who are all of one place, in cities where we have offices ourselves. Our work so often takes us far afield, or into meeting environments built around destinations convenient to all but endemic to few, that it is easy to forget how both content and tone change when everyone has a common geography.

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  • 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…

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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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  • Nokia's fall from market dominance provides important lessons for today's leaders.

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  • What does a web-savvy Belgian tree tell us about the evolution of corporate engagement on the web?

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  • Why corporate sustainability strategists must usher in a new era of collaborative reporting and open data.

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  • John Elkington and Alex Hammer on how social media technology is leveling the playing field in stakeholder engagement.

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  • Climate and IT cross all borders and cultures...

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  • John Elkington and Alex Hammer explore the implications and likely future of social media in driving new forms of corpor

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  • John Elkington, SustainAbility founder and Chief Entrepreneur, blogs from the World Economic Forum.

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  • Having written for the Encyclopaedia Britannica many moons ago, and having been paid in a set of volumes...

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

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