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  • Adam Huawei, Director of Sustainability Programs, Huawei

    This article was originally published in Radar 09: Inside the Machine.

    Huawei is a global information and communications technology solutions provider headquartered in China. In November 2015 it published a research paper – Digital Enablement – aimed at accelerating progress in giving people access to digital information and resources. Adam Lane, Director of Sustainability Programs at Huawei, spoke to Alicia Ayars about the report.

    Alicia Ayars: What are the main findings of the report?

    Adam Lane: The core finding was that while more people are gaining access to the Internet those who are offline (upwards of four billion people) are getting further and further behind. While the digital divide is narrowing, it’s closing less quickly than it has in the past.

    Looking at those in extreme poverty, there is going to be real difficulty in connecting the last two to three billion to broadband internet — even though they are the ones who could benefit the most. It is clear that the problem is complicated and varied, but at the heart is the issue of business models that enable the provision of connectivity and the life-changing services the internet facilitates.

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. It highlights five pathways to more deeply integrate sustainability into business: employing business model thinking; putting materiality to use; applying a sustainability lens to products and services; tapping into culture; and leveraging transparency. In the second of a five-part series, which was originally published on GreenBiz, we focus on putting materiality to use.

    Most large companies have identified their most critical sustainability issues, including human rights, water, customer privacy, climate change and beyond. Identifying and prioritizing those social and environmental issues, such as a materiality assessment, helps companies allocate resources, set goals and focus their strategy.

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  • SustainAbility’s latest report, Orchestrating Change: Catalyzing the Next Generation of Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration for Sustainability, was published in January. Syngenta, the global agribusiness company, which has made collaboration a key focus of its Good Growth Plan, was a sponsor of the report. We talked to Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Head of Public Policy and Sustainability for Syngenta, about how collaboration continues to grow in importance for the company, and for sustainable development generally.

    Chris Guenther: What are some of the key collaborative initiatives that Syngenta is part of, and how do you think about the role that collaboration plays in the Good Growth Plan?

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  • Our recently released research, Sustainability Incorporated: Integrating Sustainability into Business, calls out the need for business to further embed sustainability into its core strategies. It highlights five pathways to more deeply integrate sustainability into business: employing business model thinking, putting materiality to use, applying a sustainability lens to products and services, tapping into culture, and leveraging transparency. In the first of a five-part series to explore these pathways, we focus on the first one, employing business model thinking.

    While many companies claim that sustainability is embedded in their DNA, very few have truly integrated environmental and social considerations into their decision-making processes and core strategies. Many strategies are still centered on creating financial value while sustainability initiatives remain in a programmatic silo, separate from core business strategies.

    To address today’s pressing global challenges, sustainability must be embedded into the core business. One way that companies such as AstraZeneca, Fibria (PDF) and Novelis are working to break sustainability out of its silo is by exploring how the business creates value; in other words, employing business model thinking. These three companies have all created business model diagrams and shared them externally in their reporting.

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  • With the arrival of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the COP21 agreement (or ‘Paris Agreement’) on climate change at the end of 2015, there has been a rush of new and renewed calls for cross-sector collaboration to implement them. The last of the 17 SDGs – “Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development” – underscores this and lays out a broad collaborative agenda in the realms of finance, technology, capacity building, trade and systemic factors. And it’s working. At COP21 and again at the World Economic Forum in Davos, new and ambitious collaborations were announced left and right. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, The New Deal on Energy for Africa, The Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development and Champions 12.3 are just a few of the high-profile initiatives launched recently.

    Of course, this represents just the latest chapter in many years of increasing interest and activity (and also some hype) concerning such collaboration. At conferences, in articles and books, on social media and elsewhere, we remind each other repeatedly of the need for more and better collaboration, especially among business, government and civil society, to drive progress on sustainability, and we tout the variety of initiatives that our organizations have joined or helped create. At SustainAbility, we’ve long been advocates for this kind of enhanced engagement between and among companies and society, and we’ve been proud to play supporting roles in efforts ranging from Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value convenings to the recently launched Sustainable Coffee Challenge.

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  • Image by Rochelle March

    3D printing remains the cool kid in class, still fresh, and maintaining an attractive level of intrigue. And its future looks promising. According to Harvard Business Review from May 2015, industrial 3D printing is “at a tipping point, about to go mainstream in a big way.”

    3D printing is a technology that can build three dimensional items by adding material, whether plastic, metal, concrete or human skin, layer upon layer, until the object is created. What began in a couple laboratories and garages of makers as a way to build customized components has become a lucrative industrial technology, enabling more efficient and customized manufacturing.

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  • Image by Geoff Lye

    As the dust settles after the negotiation of an ambitious global agreement in Paris, Geoff Lye offers his assessment of its significance.

    23 years ago, I left Rio full of optimism – confident that a range of Earth Summit agreements, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, would set us on a sustainable path well before I would have any grandchildren. When I got back to the UK, I made a video to persuade clients of the company I was then building to take environmental issues more seriously. In practice, not only were many of my forecasts simply wrong, but my spirit of optimism was misguided. In 1992 I had four young children. Returning for the Rio+20 conference, I had four young grandchildren – and I was struck by how little progress we had made; worse, on most measures, we had tracked significantly in the wrong direction.

    So, on a train to London as COP 21 finally closed with a truly ambitious agreement, I was – in contrast to the first blog of this series – once again seeing the climate glass as half full. In fact, I see it as much more than half full. This agreement – voted on behalf of over six billion global citizens – fires the starting gun on a quest to deliver a carbon neutral economy within the lifetimes of our grandchildren. It would be easy to highlight the many potential loopholes and future roadblocks in the agreement, but the agreement does, I believe, change the nature of the debate and shifts the framing of decarbonising our economies irreversibly.

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  • Flickr image by ConexiónCOP Agencia de noticias

    In the final hours of the Paris Conference, Geoff Lye offers his assessment of the latest draft text emerging in Paris.

    The penultimate conference text was released last night and reflects remarkable progress. The mood music is good. And there is widespread optimism that the ‘Paris Agreement’ will be voted through tomorrow. As I predicted, it was inevitable that extra time would be needed to work through the sticking points and the negotiators and ministers are guaranteed another sleepless night. I also predicted progressive dilution from the draft text brought to Paris and, inevitably, there has been some – but huge advances have been made. Even the way the agreement is worded gives a sense of compromise made in good faith and in the proper spirit; deficiencies are acknowledged and carried forward to be addressed in the years before the agreement comes into force by ‘1 January 2020 at the latest’.

    At the heart of the latest draft text are the statements of overall intent and purpose. The agreement sets its overarching goal as to ‘hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.’ It also sets an aim for countries ‘to reach the peaking of greenhouse house gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter towards reaching greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in the second half of the century’. These are not, of course, as forceful or as rapid as many would like to see, but they represent profound shifts from any global agreement we have ever seen in the past.

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  • Flickr image by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

    Until 2020, when the Paris agreement comes into force, businesses and sub-national governments will be key to bending the emissions curve and putting us on track to a sub-2 degree pathway. In this guest blog by The Climate Group, Ben Ferrari, Director of Partnerships, discusses why these ‘non-state actors’ are so important and what they want to see from these historic negotiations.

    World leaders join together at the COP21 talks in Paris this fortnight to agree upon a global climate deal. That deal will take effect in five years time so it is critical that we also focus on action we can take now and recognize what the low carbon leaders around the world are already doing.

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  • Image by Geoff Lye

    Having arrived in Paris last Friday for COP 21, Geoff Lye reports on highlights of a whirlwind of weekend events. This is the latest in his blog series on COP 21. For more, read his earlier posts.

    COPs can be very frustrating. Not simply in terms of the pace and direction of the UN negotiations, but also on account of the multiplicity of competing events at any time of any day – from breakfast through dinner . In practice, choosing which events to go to is a bit of a gamble; and I knew before I came that attending a COP is like panning for gold. You have to sit through and sift through a torrent of PowerPoints and panel sessions for the elusive sparkles. A few nuggets have emerged from the pan (as it were) and I have highlighted them in this blog.

    But first, my assessment of where the negotiations had gotten to by Monday evening. It is, of course, a fast changing picture, but there is a real spirit of optimism – in spite of some critical sticking points. The consensus seems to be that there is now agreement on where we don’t want to go (above 2 degrees), but not on how we won’t get there! [You may want to read that twice]. The text released on Saturday has reduced the overarching goal to a choice between 1.5°C and ‘well below 2°C’ as the warming threshold to be avoided. The tough part – still to be agreed – is setting the timelines for decarbonisation and agreeing how the burden of delivery is shared. Those issues will, no doubt, go to the wire on Friday (or, more likely into Saturday).

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  • Flickr photo by Alisdare Hickson

    As COP 21 gets underway, Geoff Lye considers the role of business to help deliver the decarbonisation needed to avoid breaching the 2°C threshold – the ultimate goal of the Paris climate talks.

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  • This article was first published in GreenBiz and was co-written by Aiste Brackley, Trends and Research Manager at SustainAbility and Alex Lewis, Senior Research Analyst at GlobeScan.

    In some respects the Volkswagen emissions scandal could not have come at a worse time. Unfolding two months before the historic COP21 climate summit in Paris, the revelations that the car giant cheated emissions tests reinforced long-held suspicions among some skeptics that the private sector’s buy-in over climate change was superficial. The 2015 Climate Change Survey, GlobeScan and SustainAbility’s most recent survey, reveals that international sustainability experts continue to view the contribution of business as modest. However, if we are to see meaningful long-term progress, national governments as well as the private sector will have to step up, as the two institutions will be critically important for the implementation of the post-COP21 framework.

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  • Will Geoff Lye's latest grandchild, Leo, wonder why it took us so long to avert the huge impacts of climate change?

    This is the second in a series of blogs Geoff Lye will produce in the run up to COP 21 and through the conference itself. His blogs from most COPs since the Bali conference in 2007 can be found here .

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  • Flickr image of Cemex concrete house in Mexico by Concrete Forms

    Latin America has been on a strong growth trajectory for the last decade, resulting in impressive improvements in social and environmental outcomes. Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and strong national action on deforestation and renewable energy investment by several countries has resulted in steady progress on climate change. The region’s continued growth is at risk though, due to China’s decelerating growth. That’s forcing Latin America governments and companies to focus on more immediate local concerns rather than providing a strong regional roadmap for long-term sustainability. But there is a silver lining. A new localized approach to corporate sustainability is resulting in a wave of innovative solutions to entrenched social problems.

    Sustainability under fire
    The Latin America region experienced strong growth throughout the 1990s and early 2000s on the back of voracious demand for raw materials and food crops from China. But the region was struck hard by the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and has been reeling ever since. Sluggish recovery in several countries has been exacerbated by the slowing down of the Chinese economy in 2014-2015, especially with reduced demand for Latin American exports. Regional GDP growth has dropped from 6% in 2010, to an estimated 0.8% in 2014, according to the World Bank.

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  • Flickr image by digitalpimp

    This is the first in a series of blogs I will produce in the fortnight running up to COP 21 and through the conference itself. As a regular attendee and reporter from most COPs since the Bali conference in 2007, I must admit to a feeling of déjà vu. The world’s leaders will be coming together in yet another of the UN’s last chance climate saloons to try to deliver a global agreement to avoid breaching the 2°C threshold.

    After COP 17 in Durban I decided, in frustration at the lack of progress, not to attend future events. Yet here I am – travel and hotels booked – excited once again in anticipation of joining the biggest ever assembly1 of climate professionals, activists, politicians, technologists, scientists and economists. For the first time, however, I have failed to get accreditation to the UN’s Blue Zone – and I know that my blogs will be weaker for that. But at this COP, most of the most interesting events and networking venues are outside the formal conference. This will create a far more open environment for most attendees and I can guarantee that there will be no shortage of surprising, inspiring and, in equal measure, depressing stories over the coming weeks.

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  • Flickr image by sandeepachetan

    As Latin America’s largest economy and the host of the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil is a regular fixture in international news. Brazil is also widely recognized for its leadership on sustainable development issues, especially for reducing deforestation and pioneering clean energy. However, progress remains uneven as the country is struggling to come to terms with one of the worst droughts in history, a chain of corruption scandals and continuing dependence on fossil fuels.

    SustainAbility recently met with Álvaro Almeida and Rúbia Piancastelli of report:sustentabilidade, Brazil-based sustainability advisory firm and organizer of Sustainable Brands Rio, to talk about the country’s changing sustainability landscape.

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  • Is CSR Dead?

    16 Oct 2015John Elkington

    John Elkington at the SustainAbility London office

    John Elkington, SustainAbility co-founder and honorary chairman, launches an occasional series on the business agenda.

    ‘Turkeys vote down Christmas.’ That’s one way of reporting the result of a Barclays debate on 8 October, in which I was pitched head-to-head against Mark Kramer of the Shared Value Initiative. The key question: ‘Is CSR Dead?’

    There was a crackle in the air as the debate began. #TeamMark was ably supported by Janet Voûte, Global Head of Public Affairs at Nestlé, while my #TeamJohn partner was Covestro CEO Patrick Thomas. Long story short, Patrick and I won with 75% of the vote. But short stories can mislead.

    When Barclays first suggested the theme, both Mark and I protested. The question felt tired. But the intense social media buzz soon proved us wrong. People clearly wanted to discuss whether CSR was dead or alive. (And that was even before the wheels came off VW.)

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  • Flickr image by Jon Åslund

    This post was originally published as part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, “What’s Working: Sustainable Development Goals,” in conjunction with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This post addresses Goal 17.

    You might think the 17th Sustainable Development Goal is a bit lofty, and maybe better for another stakeholder to tackle. “Perhaps someone more UN-ish,” you might be inclined to note. Yet, as with all of the SDGs, Goal 17 is designed with the Future We Want in mind (not global multi-lateral institutions), and it will take the resources of the most influential forces we’ve got, which means — as often as not — the corporate sector to create this future.

    There are 19 targets nested within Goal 17 — clearly not all of them are the right fit for every company. But almost certainly, at least one of these targets is something each company can consider and align with current or planned efforts.

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  • Image by Mark Lee

    As I dropped my young kids off for their first days of school this year, I was reminded of my own unique back-to-school moment. In 1985, I detoured from the normal high school path to spend 12 months between my sophomore and junior years on student exchange in Brazil.

    For a teenager from the small working class city of Salmon Arm in Canada, the year was profound. The exposure to the social and environmental challenges of development in an emerging economy shaped the choices I made in university and led me to a career in the sustainable development field.

    The experience was made even deeper given that 1985 marked Brazil’s return to democracy after a lengthy military dictatorship. Witnessing that transition, and Brazilians’ reactions to it, pushed me to reconsider individual and societal freedoms as well as the ways countries shape themselves domestically and position themselves among other nations.

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  • This piece was originally published in the autumn issue of Radar Magazine – Issue 08: Beyond the Company, The Future of Sustainability Goals.

    Redefining success in business is a pretty ambitious goal, and is one that the B Corp movement has been working towards since 2006. SustainAbility, for over 25 years, has been working to make business and markets more sustainable, and is proud to be one of the first certified B Corps in the UK and to be part of this global movement.

    We spoke with the key figures behind the launch of B Corp in the UK, as well as some companies in the B Corp community, to discuss their ambitions and how they see the movement developing.

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