Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2012

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Hurricane Sandy, innovation at Unilever and Nike, and the rise of green arithmetic.

knowledgEnabler‘s insight:

[Corporate & Public Sustainability]: Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2012! Some intentions for 2013! #ecoViVaCity #ecoNable

 

The mega forces driving sustainability deep into business — such as climate change, resource constraints, and transparency — are getting stronger.

Corporate sustainability lost some of its sexiness from previous years, as it grew more entrenched in day-to-day business. Some parts of the agenda — eco-efficiency and resource conservation for example — are widely accepted now, and it’s rare to find a big-company CEO who doesn’t have sustainability on his or her radar.

 

We may not be keeping pace with these pressures, but leading companies continue to evolve more sustainable strategies and tactics. Let’s look at some top macro- and company-level stories.

 

Macro Trends:

1. Historic drought and Hurricane Sandy sweep away (some) climate denial
2. The math and physics of a planetary constraints get clearer
3. The clean economy continues to explode

Company Stories:

This year, there were countless eco-efficiency stories about companies saving millions of dollars and developing new tools to make buildings, fleets (Staples and UPS, for example), and manufacturing much leaner. Aside from that overall theme, the following stories grabbed me because of their connection to larger trends.

4. The green supply chain gets some teeth: Walmart changes incentives for buyers

5. Transparency and tragedy raise awareness about worker conditions

6. Data gets bigger and faster: PepsiCo and Columbia speed up lifecycle assessments

7. Sustainability innovation opens up: Unilever, Heineken, and EMC ask the world for help

8. The economy gets a bit more circular: M&S, H&M, and Puma experiment with closing loops

9. Dematerialization gets sexier: Nike’s knitted shoe shows off sustainable style

10. Zero becomes more the norm: DuPont, GM, and John Elkington show the way

Five Questions For 2013

Some other promising stories are in the "too early to tell" stage, but bring up some key questions:

1. Can we standardize sustainability, which some smart folks began to do around rankings (GISR) and accounting (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board)?

2. Will we find a way to value externalities like ecosystem services and internalized, intangible benefits? (A focus of some of my work as an advisor to PwC US). For example, Microsoft launched an internal carbon tax and some major companies (Coca-Cola, Nike, Kimberly-Clark, etc.) pledged to value natural capital at Rio+20.

3. Will government get in the way or help, like when the U.S. Senate allowed the military to keep investing in biofuels?

4. Hertz and B&Q (Kingfisher) have delved into collaborative consumption (see WWF’s Green Game-Changers report), but will the sharing economy make a dent on sustainability issues?

5. Finally, how much will we challenge the nature of capitalism, and what will that mean for how companies operate? (This is the focus of my next project.)

 

 

Together with ecoNVERGE® we wish for an energizing 2013 and a progressive future for all!
Inspire ● Harmony ● Balance
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Realizing Sustainable Balance in Our Social and Economic Circle of Life!
– WE are Unlimited!

 

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@ ecoNVERGE – Econological SUSTAINABLE ValueChain SOLUTIONS (LI Group)

 

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Realizing Sustainable Balance in Our Social and Economic Circle of Life!
– WE are Unlimited!

 

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Assimilate sustainable growth! Join our CoPs / Think-Tanks.
Be part of the CHANGE – PARTICIPATE your change!

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