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  • This interview was originally published in the summer issue of Radar Magazine – Issue 04: Better, Connected.

    At the end of 2013, SustainAbility was pleased to welcome The Partnering Initiative (TPI) to share its London office space. TPI is one of the leading organisations driving the theory and practice of collaboration between business, NGOs, governments and others.

    Rob Cameron recently spent a morning in conversation with TPI’s Executive Director, Darian Stibbe, discussing the challenges and opportunities that cross-sector partnership and collaboration can bring to business, NGOs and governments.

    Rob Cameron: Partnering is necessary for making progress in sustainability given the scale of the challenges we face. But it is surprisingly difficult to find great examples of partnerships that really deliver. How do you make partnerships successful?

    Darian Stibbe: Firstly, there has to be an alignment of interest. We sometimes talk about ‘Davos syndrome’ in which, for example, a CEO of a company and the head of a UN agency agree to launch a partnership, but when it comes down to making it happen on the ground, there is the realisation that there is insufficient overlap of interest between the two organisations. You have to start off with a clear and necessary overlap of interest and that can be a challenge in itself. …

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  • We are pleased to publish the results of The 2013 Ratings Survey: Polling the Experts, the latest expert survey on sustainability ratings and rankings from the GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey series. As with the surveys preceding it, we took the pulse of experts from around the world (see report below for details) on topics including rating credibility, drivers of such credibility and the importance of ratings in driving improved corporate performance. The survey comes at a good time, as we’ve recently seen a burst of activity around existing ratings (e.g. the Global 100, CDP’s Supply Chain Report) and new ones (e.g. Natural Capital Leaders Index)….

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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 Zermatt Summit's location acts as a timely reminder of the scale of the challenges ahead. Image credit: CC license by

    Professor Guido Palazzo of Lausanne University, when opening a panel session at the Zermatt Summitt, paused and surveyed his audience, every member of which was, in some way or other, committed to the cause of sustainability. “You know who is responsible for an unsustainable economy” he began. “We are… all of us in this room” Taking a smart phone from his pocket he presented a litany of unsustainable attributes to be found in a simple object that we all take for granted. While there was nothing specifically new in his assertions, it was a timely reminder of realities that we all find it all-too-easy to forget.

    Palazzo was not the only speaker to call for a fresh view of the commonplace. Pressed on the potential need for new ways of “impact investing”, the thoughtful Martin Rohner of Alternative Bank Switzerland cut to the heart of the matter: all investments have an “impact”. The real way forward is to understand the true nature of this impact, in all its forms, and upon whom, in order that investors can take a more considered view than at present….

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  • Two decades ago, business and NGOs sat poles apart, wary of each other’s intent and aims. Twenty years on — and with the realization of the need for collective action on environmental and social issues that play out across geographical, political, market and ecosystem boundaries — we see a shifting landscape. But has this move towards a focus on partnerships and collaboration overshadowed …

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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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  • In business, sometimes simplicity is praised and sometimes it is scorned. It can be hard to predict which reaction will win out.

    Each year, GlobeScan and SustainAbility survey sustainability experts across corporate, government, NGO, academic, research, and service organizations in 75-plus countries to determine which businesses are perceived to be sustainability leaders, and why. This year’s results remind us that simplicity is a more complex phenomenon than it might appear.

    The 2012 Sustainability Leaders Survey was released this month. …

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  • There was a time when it was good enough just to listen. When corporate execs got credit for sitting at the table with an NGO and benefited from a “different perspective.” Their obligation was to “thoughtfully consider” the input in the development of their business plans, strategies and actions. But as the business environment and the sustainability agenda has evolved, so too has best practice in stakeholder engagement.

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  • 1. Transitions

    In a year that saw an Arab Spring take hold and unseat entrenched autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (TBD on Yemen and Syria), the withdrawal of the last American troops from Iraq, a European Union on the brink of transformative change (and potential collapse), a titan of technological (and economic) innovation pass away, and the growing acknowledgement (in the form of the Occupy protests), that the entanglement of the American political and financial system is a Faustian bargain that must be actively fought and protested against, the theme of transition feels all too apt.

    So too in the sustainability field, where in a world of seven billion inhabitants and growing, the five most urgent issues on the sustainability agenda are all perceived less urgently than they were in 2009.

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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 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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  • This is fifth in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, two, three, four, six, and seven.

    One of the joys of COPs is that strange things happen which make you realize that these grand UN events are as vulnerable to human foibles as a local school fete. I stayed on (and on) at the conference centre to join a business briefing by Jonathan Pershing, the US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change. He is a very approachable man of huge integrity whom I first met in Bali at COP 13 when he was still at WRI. When he was later sworn in to his new position as US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change under the Obama administration, I was delighted.

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  • Oh to be YOUNGO

    06 Dec 2011Geoff Lye

    This is third in a series of posts about and from COP 17. Others in the series can be found here: one, two, four, five, six, and seven.

    Given SustainAbility’s growing interest in bringing voices of the future into the board room and in mobilising Gen Y as a source of inspiration and innovation to corporate sustainability thinking, I’ve been looking out for how visible and vocal youth organisations have been here in Durban.

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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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  • Earlier this month, the Obama administration decided to delay the decision on approval of the XL pipeline until 2013, ostensibly to further study the pipeline’s potential environmental impacts.

    The fight over the pipeline, which would transport tar sands crude from Canada to US refineries in the Gulf of Mexico region, has become a symbol of a broader argument.

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  • SustainAbility and GlobeScan sat down to breakfast in New York recently in the fourth in a series of discussions on “Leadership, Trust and Value.” Over the last few months we’ve held several gatherings about sustainability aspirations with our clients and collaborators in London, DC and San Francisco. At this iteration, colleagues from Cisco, Context America, Goldman Sachs, IFF, Mission Markets, and the Overbrook Foundation joined us. The diversity of our group made our discussion—which volleyed from the evolution of the sustainability movement to “NGO lethargy” and the off-gassing of Styrofoam—all the more interesting.

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  • While in London in late September, I attended the release of Coca-Cola Enterprises’ (CCE) Sustainability Plan. Titled Deliver for Today: Inspire for Tomorrow, the plan represents a major step forward for the company. The launch was silky smooth – an in-studio event filmed at The Hospital Club in London’s Covent Garden, kicked off by CCE’s CEO John Brock, featuring a panel of accomplished business and NGO leaders assembled to assess the plan that was moderated by Catherine Cameron of the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, and all unfolding in front of an expert audience containing the likes of Marks & Spencer Chairman Robert Swannell and Two Tomorrows Executive Chairman Mark Line.

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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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  • Water surrounds me, both literally and figuratively.

    I am in Stockholm – a city of islands – this week to attend World Water Week, an annual conference sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute. I am here at the invitation of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and yesterday facilitated a fascinating workshop WBCSD sponsored on water risk and some of the tools being developed to assess and manage it…

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  • Photo: Sierra Club

    There was a conflict of sorts in my inbox last week.

    Wednesday heralded the arrival of the latest Ethical Corporation newsletter, the subject line for which read “Effective environmental activism all but abandoned in the US”, and which pointed recipients to an early July post from Peter Knight of Context America suggesting “Environmental groups have all but abandoned a push for better policies in preference for encouraging their supporters to pursue futile personal green efforts, aided and abetted by marketers flogging supposedly green goods.”

    Surrounding Ethical Corporation’s missive? Multiple emails pronouncing the biggest investment in grassroots activism in, well, forever: Michael Bloomberg’s $50 million contribution to in the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

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