As 2012 came to a close, GreenBiz asked executives from a range of companies
and organizations to reflect on the past year and look at what lies ahead. They obliged by telling us about their accomplishments,
lessons learned, their thoughts about the biggest issues of 2012 and what they
think will drive sustainability in 2013. A few big themes emerged: the failure to make significant progress at major
global conclaves — Rio+20 and the Doha Climate Change conference in particular
— the lack of urgency and action from policymakers on climate change, and the
need for stronger, more transparent standards and ratings systems to meet
increased consumer, investor, and corporate demand.
Here’s what they said when we asked:
What were the most significant sustainability trends in
Beth Shiroishi, Vice President, Sustainability & Philanthropy,
The emergence of water as a business risk. As the cost of water increases,
and it becomes a sometimes contentious commodity in many regions like the
drought-stricken Southwest, managing thirsty commercial buildings is going to
become an increasingly important challenge for building owners. This is the
driving force behind why we are working with the Environmental Defense Fund
(EDF) to develop operational improvements and best practices that can cut water,
chemical and energy use in facility cooling systems and improve overall building
Angela Nahikian, Director of Global Environmental
Material chemistry making a move to the mainstream. Increased expectations in
the supply chain. The scale of investment in sustainability by large
corporations/brands is increasing significantly.
Amy Hargroves, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sprint
• The significant uptick in the role of supply chain management in
sustainability and recognition ot its importance and impact.
• The growing awareness of the potential of the ICT (information and
communications technology) and the telecommunications sector to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions through communications and enablement solutions.
• The growing importance of metrics with meaning and context.
Neil Hawkins, Vice President, Sustainability and EH&S, Dow
Lack of government money due to debt crises is going to be a significant
barrier to progressive action.
Leisha John, Americas Director of Environmental Sustainability, Ernst
• We’re seeing an increase in interest from the financial side about
sustainability efforts. In a recent Ernst & Young/GreenBiz study, 65 percent
of respondents said their
CFO has become involved in sustainability. Also, this year has been another
year of extreme weather.
• With some of the hottest months on record, one of the worst wildfire season
in years, and droughts combined with flooding, weather has been unpredictable to
say the least — and costly. Costs for Superstorm Sandy, for example, are
estimated in the $50 billion range just for the clean-up in the New York region.
Businesses need to have the conversation about what weather risks means for
• Finally, there’s more general attention being paid to environmental and
social issues. Shareholder resolutions related to these topics dominated the
2012 proxy season, making up 40 percent of all submitted. Additionally, this
year the SEC issued a final rule to implement the conflict minerals disclosure
requirements in Dodd-Frank.
Bridgett Luther, President, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation
Proctor and Gamble stepped up with their 100% renewable pledge — and I think
they are really trying to make good on that pledge. The California EPA finally
got their cap-and-trade program up and going. Walmart announces the
Sustainability Index in China.
Terry Yosie, President and CEO, World Environment
The beginning of successful efforts to scale sustainability to a global
level. Efforts by Unilever and Nestle in engaging farmers and consumers,
Coca-Cola in developing a global stakeholder strategy for water management and
IBM’s Smarter Planet initiatives are hardwiring sustainability into their core
business strategies at global scale. There is much to be learned, but these
companies are taking sustainability to a new level.
Mark Lee, Executive Director, SustainAbility:
Rio+20, warts and all. Doha’s invisibility. Unilever/the ubiquitous Paul
Peter Madden, Chief Executive, Forum for the Future:
The rate of Artic summer ice melt. Lack of action at the big summits: Rio and
Doha. Not having climate deniers in the White House.
Corporate Sustainability Report: Transitioning from 2012 to 2013
The Growth of Corporate Sustainability in 2013
The Green Market Oracle’s Top 20 Stories of 2012: Sustainability, Science and Weather
Top 10 Sustainability Reports of 2012
Renewable Energy World: 10 Most Commented on Articles of 2012
Harvard Business Review Blog: Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2012
SkyTruth’s Top 10 Posts on Environmental Impacts of Large-Footprint Industrial Activities in 2012
2012 Summary of Best Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 1)
2012 Summary of Best Practices in Responsible Management Education (Part 2)
Sustainability is an Economic Imperative: Meet 2012 CK Prahalad Award Winners (Video)
10 Sustainability Initiatives for Small Businesses
Small Businesses Need to Embrace Sustainability Too
Message to the Federation of Small Businesses: Every Business Can Go Green (Video)
Communications Disconnect Revealed by the Sustainability Leadership Report
The Business Community is Moving Forward with Sustainability
CFOs are Embracing Sustainability and Seeing Benefits
The 8 C’s of Sustainability Branding by Marc Stoiber
The Green Economy is the Right Solution for our Troubled Times
Corporate Sustainability is Driving Green the Green Economy
Launching of the New Global Green Economy
The False Choice Between the Economy and the Environment
A Private Sector Approach to Clean Technology from the CTTA
Data Shows that Sustainability Pays
The Growth of Sustainability as Revealed by 3 MIT Reports
Sustainability Offers a Competitive Advantage & Better ROI
CDP Report Shows a Growing Number of Companies See the Risks Posed by Climate Change
Top Ten Companies in the 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project Report
Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point
MIT Survey Shows More Businesses are Embracing Sustainability and Turning a Profit
Top 10 Global Sustainability Leaders (Report)
Global Survey on Sustainability
The GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework
The New Sustainability Advantage