How to Try Context-Based Sustainability in 3 Easy Steps

At the closing of the New Metrics ‘17 conference in Philadelphia last month, attendees were asked: “What ‘New Metric’ will you go back and implement in 2017/2018?” The overriding response tabulated in real time and displayed on the big screen in a word cloud (above) was “context based,” meaning Context-Based Sustainability (CBS) and its corresponding context-based metrics. For anyone seriously interested in experimenting

The SDGs Should Be Like a Chocolate Advent Calendar

If I was given a dollar for every time I saw the Sustainable Development Goals’ multi-colored icon grid in a sustainability presentation, I would be a rich man. But the SDGs are a great example of how ubiquity doesn’t necessarily equal a successful communications/engagement strategy. Undoubtedly, the SDGs are a groundbreaking framework that has united businesses and world leaders behind a shared vision of what a sustainable world looks like

Research Shows Corporate Action on SDGs Already Stalling Out Just Two Years Into 2030 Agenda

Despite mounting evidence for the business case for integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into brand strategy, a new report released by Corporate Citizenship shares some alarming trends in how corporate action on the SDGs is evolving. In the two years since the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, the number of companies reporting against the SDGs is on the rise, but research indicates that there is a clear gap emerging between thinking and action, with tangible plans and active involvement in collaborations on the SDGs stalling over

The Rise of Corporate Sustainability Goals: Some Hard Data

For the last 5 years, my firm has tracked the sustainability goals of the world’s largest companies. These thousands of targets commit multinationals to do many important things, such as slashing carbon emissions in half (or to zero) or bringing the percentage of women in management up dramatically. The project, managed in part by my colleague Jeff Gowdy, keeps the

Focusing on What 90% of Businesses Do Now Is a Big Mistake

I was driving through rural Pennsylvania recently and saw a fascinating billboard. Sponsored by an organization that promotes coal and natural gas, the sign declared, “The truth is that 90 percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels.” Technically, that’s true (ish), but it’s also meaningless. On the surface, the facts are a bit exaggerated — fossil fuels provided more like 80 percent of our energy in

4 Steps to Creating Social Impact Programs That Benefit Communities *and* Business

Not so long ago, there was a large disconnect between doing good and good business. While the idea of corporate social responsibility has been around since the 1960s, businesses have historically approached CSR and sustainability as a “feel good” silo or regulatory requirement — a means to improve public image reputation and mitigate risk, but not much else. It wasn’t until recent years that companies discovered that social impact programs could benefit a company in more remunerative ways — increasing revenue, creating new markets, driving innovation

The Current State and Evolution of Corporate Sustainability Assessment Organizations

CDP, RobecoSAM, EcoVadis — they are all organizations that assess the sustainability performance of companies worldwide. They all have their own agenda and targets, and of course, their own methodology to assess a portfolio of companies. Globally, +/- 60 percent of companies that publicly communicate sustainability data are answering to sustainability assessing organizations(1)(2). It is not an easy task: A survey of sustainability managers internationally has identified that replying to sustainability questionnaires was the biggest

Bard: A Burgeoning Brand in Sustainable Business

Dr. Eban Goodstein is a contradiction of sorts. Trained in “the dismal science” — economics — Goodstein is an inveterate optimist about the prospects for business to lead the way to a sustainable future, and sooner rather than later. He is turning that optimism into reality as director and founder of the Bard MBA in Sustainability program in New York City. That Goodstein is at the forefront of the sustainable MBA world is not surprising when one considers his career path. “I was influenced by the work of Hunter and Amory Lovins, as well as

Practicing Purpose: How to Turn Social Purpose Into Growth

Launched during SB’17 Detroit, the Practice of Purpose Project seeks to drive the widespread adoption of social purpose by identifying the differences between traditional marketing and marketing based on purpose-drive brand strategies. In a partnership between Sustainable Brands and The Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, Omar Rodriguez-Vila, PHD and Ricardo Caceres have led a study across almost 50 companies to explore the marketing practices necessary for successful social purpose programs. Their study identifies crucial changes that need to occur across all levels of the marketing management processes — from research to planning, execution and measurement. Omar Rodriguez-Vila and Ricardo Cacereswill discussTurning Social PurposeInto Growthat New Metrics ’17.

Scope 3: The Serious Path Towards Sustainability

More and more companies are making public commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions outside of their own operations. Why? Because compared to scope 1 and 2 emissions (from direct activities), avoiding scope 3 emissions can have the greatest impact on a corporate footprint. The numbers are clear: The majority of GHG emissions come from indirect activities, both upstream and downstream, in the supply chain. In fact, for most of consumer goods products manufacturing, scope 3 emissions account for over 70 percent of overall GHG emissions. Included is everything from purchasing raw materials to end of life treatment. But their very nature — being present throughout all stages of production — also

Commons or Uncommons? A Dialogue on Allocating Responsibility for Meeting Thresholds

Sustainability requires contextualization within thresholds. That’s what sustainability is all about. Allen White, co-founder, Global Reporting Initiative The part can never be well unless the whole is well. Plato, Charmides, 380 BCE How to Slice a Pie Thresholds define the dividing line between sustainability and unsustainability (as GRI co-founder Allen White reminds us above). Implementing sustainability at the organizational level requires allocations — in other words, setting fair-share “slices of the pie” for the shared burden of meeting these thresholds (as Plato reminds us above). So, achieving sustainability in aggregate, at the societal

Radley Yeldar Tackles 10 Myths in Its ‘Reality Check’ on Purpose

‘Purpose’ is not a buzzword, a strapline, a communications campaign, or repackaged CSR – nor is it a recruitment tool for millennials or only suited for worthy businesses, asserts independent marketing and communications agency Radley Yeldar (RY), which has released qualitative research on how purpose has transformed some of the world’s largest brands, from the people who work there and make it happen. In Fit for Purpose: A Reality Check, RY dispels these

Making the Impossible Possible: Learning Authenticity for Conscious Leadership

Today’s companies are being tasked with the impossible: How can we make money for our shareholders, pay our employees well, and positively impact the environment and society as a whole? The purpose of a business used to be specifically to increase value for the shareholders. While this still clearly holds importance today, there is a growing pressure to expand this value to all stakeholders, and the perception of value is changing. Consumers and investors are demanding that value be created by more than just profit, that it be created by authenticity, transparency and trust. Companies are being challenged to

Study: More ‘Human’ Companies Outperform Business-As-Usual Competitors

More evidence has emerged linking business performance with a company’s purpose beyond profit. Global customer agency C Space has released a new study, Unlocking Customer Inspired Growth, detailing how companies can generate consumer inspired growth and describes the behaviors that consumers actively seek from companies, translating them into five distinct customer imperatives matched against company

Mapping Maturation Pathways & Building Bridges to an Integral Economy

Part Ten in a 10-Part Series by Reporting 3.0. See previous parts below. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there,” U.S. baseball icon (and meister of understated irony) Yogi Berra famously stated. This quip accurately describes CSR / ESG incrementalism, which heads in a direction without a clear destination. By contrast, context-based multicapitalism (as advocated by Reporting 3.0) provides not only a clear destination, but also a timeline for tracking the rate of progress needed – across multiple, interrelated dimensions. But even with strong navigational tools such as this, sometimes the journey seems like one of those movies where the camera pans back to reveal a painted

UL Revs Up Efforts to Reduce Environmental, Social Impacts Across Global Supply Chain

UL, a US-based safety consulting and certification company, has unveiled two new initiatives aimed at driving environmental and social responsibility throughout the global supply chain. The company’s Environment division has announced it will begin collecting data to identify products made by manufacturers with policies and procedures in place to protect against human rights abuses throughout their supply chain. The information will be displayed as search criteria in the company’s product sustainability database, SPOT. Developed in response to growing demand for supply chain and product transparency, SPOT provides public and private procurement officials, architects, designers and other users an outlet to find credible information on the health and environmental impacts of a

Be a Purpose-Driven Business by Being a Purpose-Driven Workplace

This is an excerpt from Rise Up: How to Build a Socially Conscious Business, released this week from Elevate Publishing. Purpose-driven companies regard employees as their most critical resource, one to be nurtured and sustained rather than exhausted and played out like a mine with a short-term life expectancy. Perhaps what’s most important here is to change your view

Scalability: Upshifting from Micro- to Macro-Level Sustainability

Part Eight in a 10-Part Series by Reporting 3.0. See previous parts below. In a textbook demonstration of unfortunate asymmetry, sustainability problems typically develop incrementally, accreting undetected in the background. Sustainability solutions, on the other hand, generally afford us such luxury: When sustainability thresholds loom near, solutions require an exponential pace and scale totally out of sync with the standard, creeping rate of development. The mindset shift from incremental to transformative solutions is daunting for humans and our institutions, but it’s non-optional as we navigate the Great Acceleration into the

How Brands Are Embedding Eco-Design at Scale

Eco-design is now synonymous with new product development (NPD). Sustainable businesses and brands have understood that to remain resilient and competitive, product eco-design must be at the heart of their corporate strategies. This requires a considerable amount of buy-in and commitment across every level of an organization and requires a disruptive approach to business-as-usual practices and procedures. Quantis is helping to lead this seismic shift, working with industry leaders to integrate sustainability at every level, driving systemic change with action informed by solid

Review: The Indispensible How-to (and How-Not-to) Guide to Making, Marketing ‘Greener Products’

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a book that summarized the successful sustainability strategies typically showcased at Sustainable Brands conferences? The second edition of Greener Products: The Making and Marketing of Sustainable Brands (CRC Press, 2017) [Ed. note – Not affiliated with Sustainable Brands®] is that book. It is a practical and highly accessible book for anyone interested in making money, designing and selling better products, or saving the world. Written by a market-savvy eco-business professional, it explains everything from

Closing the Context Gap: How Companies Can Transform Degeneration to Regeneration

Part Seven in a 10-Part Series by Reporting 3.0. See previous parts below. 0.3 percent — a mere 31 of 9,000. This stunning statistic, to be published in next month’s edition of the Journal of Cleaner Production, represents the profound paucity of companies disclosing their environmental impacts in the context of ecological limits — including strategies for meeting these limits. The comprehensive Danish study examines a decade-and-a-half’s worth of (so-called) sustainability reports (40,000+ released since 2000), and finds only 5 percent citing ecological limits at all — with no rise in the referencing rate (despite the advent of the “planetary boundaries” concept 2/3 of the way through the period under study, when one would expect a

Report: North America Lags Behind Europe, Asia in Sustainability Reporting

The Centre for Sustainability Excellence (CSE) has released its second annual Sustainability Reporting Trends in North America report, highlighting trends from 551 companies in Canada and the United States during the 2015-2016 period. The report reviews reporting practices, external assurance practices, the presence of carbon footprint metrics and financial performance. This year’s research also includes a comparative analysis of companies that publish sustainability reports with the highest

New Wayfinder Tool Helps Brands Find Powerful Purpose — Not Just ‘Nice’ Ones

Brand purpose consultancy Given London is making it easier than ever for businesses to identify and act upon a purpose beyond profit — and thereby stay competitive in an ever-changing economic landscape — with its new Wayfinder tool. According to Given London, brands such as M&S, Innocent and Dove have saved millions and captured the hearts and minds of consumers by adopting an integrated, ‘make a difference’ approach to sustainability, but the strategy may not necessarily be effective or even appropriate for every kind of business. Businesses don’t have to rely on a one-dimensional approach or having purpose being embedded in their