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  • Flickr image by Bill Gracey

    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. Our Ten Trends for 2015 series distills SustainAbility’s thinking over the past year and forecasts the issues that will shape the sustainable development agenda in 2015. This is the third in our series of blogs expanding upon these trends.

    Earlier this year SustainAbility identified global water stress, water demands that exceed water availability, as one of ten key sustainability trends for 2015—both as a supply chain risk for companies as well as an issue of political and economic significance to countries. In the trends summary, we highlighted the World Economic Forum’s identification of “water crises” as one of the top ten issues of greatest concern to the global economy in 2015. Just a few months into 2015 and with World Water Day approaching this Sunday, March 22, it’s evident that the global water crisis is indeed a critical issue with extreme water stress in Sao Paulo, Brazil and across California as just two examples.

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  • Rida translates for the London office

    Every fortnight, the SustainAbility London office invites practitioners from within our network to speak to our team over lunch and share insights from both their own work and on what’s next on the sustainability landscape.

    SustainAbility was pleased to host Mumtaz Shaikh, alum of the Quest Fellowship Programme in our office last week to discuss the impactful work she has been doing for over a decade on empowering women in marginalised communities in Mumbai, India. She was recently awarded the Daughter of Maharashtra award in recognition of her services to the cause of gender equality.

    Mumtaz’s journey into activism and advocacy began when she joined a Committee of Resource Organisations (CORO) meeting over a decade ago, lending her voice to issues affecting women in her community. She is a strong believer in grass-roots level mobilisation for finding solutions to local problems. Having had personal experience with issues such as gender-based discrimination and domestic violence, she understood that right to dignity and easy access to public services for women were absolutely critical for women’s empowerment in her community.

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  • Flickr image by Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia

    Rice paddies and colorful tractors are common sights in remote parts of south India. So, too, are small shanties, brightly painted shops and coconut palms. But nowadays, in some villages, solar panels have also become part of the landscape, covering shingled roofs and competing with the palms for sunlight.

    The panels are helping to catapult energy-poor villagers – who previously had no, or only very limited, electricity – into a more sustainable future. This leap to renewable energy is the result of an innovative business model that’s being rolled out to low-income communities in the state of Karnataka.

    The company behind this new model is Simpa Networks, a technology company that aims to make sustainable energy affordable to all – even those who make less than $2 a day. In particular, Simpa targets customers who have limited access to electricity and use kerosene lanterns, which can pose health and safety risks, to illuminate their small homes. It also targets customers with little, if any, disposable income, who can’t afford to buy its solar products for $200 to $400 each – even though Simpa claims its system could yield significant savings over its 10-year lifespan. …

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  • The promise of business-model innovation has long captivated the sustainability field, generating plenty of hype. But all the talk has yet to yield many real business-model changes.

    You might not know it to hear companies talk. Any business change can end up being classified as “business model innovation”. In a BCG and MIT survey of executives and managers earlier this year, nearly half of the respondents said their companies had changed their business models as a result of sustainability opportunities. However, the majority of innovations we see involve changes in companies’ processes and/or products, not underlying business models….

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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 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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  • Image: AFP via sacbee.com

    The past week has been, in many ways, a watershed in post-independent India, with millions of Indians – young and old – taking to the streets in a public demonstration against corruption. The crowds have been unprecedented – I certainly do not remember anything like this since the late 1970s – and has cut across geographies and classes. And the man who has galvanized this is a 74-year old Gandhian called Anna Hazare (pronounced Ha-zaa-ray), a retired army soldier whose public contributions started in his small village in western India but who gradually became a relentless crusader against corruption in public life. Will this be a defining moment in India’s democracy? Are there lessons to be learnt, including for corporations in democracies? But I am getting a bit ahead of myself…

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  • In early July, after nearly a year of drafting and several rounds of consultations with business and civil society, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India announced the adoption of the National Voluntary Guidelines for Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business

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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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  • Photo: Flickr user Meena Kadri

    A week ago, as I waited at a traffic light in Mumbai, I witnessed an incident of grand theft auto—well, perhaps it was not grand, but something was stolen, and it involved an automobile. Here’s what happened: A barefoot woman in a grubby green sari scurried into the street, carrying a big empty water jug under her arm. Without shame, she went straight to the back of a brightly painted water tanker truck which was waiting for the red light to change. On the back of the water tanker was a large faucet, and when the woman turned the valve, water spurted everywhere, soaking her sari and filling her jug within seconds. The woman’s children and husband watched by the side of the road as she stole the water

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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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  • Despite the hope microfinance has not made poverty history - once again we are in need of new inclusive business models.

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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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  • New microfinance rules in India have reopened a range of basic questions about microfinance wherever it is practiced.

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  • Forbes' latest list of billionaires leads us to wonder: what will the future of philanthropy look like?

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  • Gary Kendall on the hangover from COP 15, and the prognosis for COP 16 later this year.

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  • In India and elsewhere, "license to operate" means more than just following the rules.

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  • It was at midnight of August 14, 1947 that India became free from almost 350 years of foreign rule.

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  • A bunch of us were sitting last week in the swanky office of a leading Indian multinational group in central Delhi...

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