Saturday, February 26, 2011

3 New Reports Signal We’re Making Progress With Sustainability

Three recent reports provide positive reinforcement that traction on sustainability is building in the private and public sector. This news reenergizes our efforts. We live on hope that our combined efforts as sustainability champions will accelerate the take-up of environmentally, socially, and economically responsible strategies. Usually, during economic recessions, we lose ground. Strangely, in the current recession, the opposite has happened: sustainability-related strategies have been embraced more strongly.
I attended the GreenBiz State of Green Business Forum 2011 in San Francisco, February 2-3. GreenBiz Group’s Chairman and Executive Director, Joel Makower, reviewed the highlights of GreenBiz’s fourth annual State of Green Business 2011 report, released that same week. Its findings reveal a “sea change in corporate sustainability efforts:” 89% of companies expect their investments in environmental affairs to be the same or larger in 2011 than in 2010; 56% of companies expect their investments in green product development will be greater in 2011, compared to 28% who expected it to be the same as in 2010. That’s encouraging news.

Then on February 10, the MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group (BSG) released their winter 2011 research report: “Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage.” Based on a survey of 3,000 corporate leaders, the report describes two kinds of companies: “embracers”— those who place sustainability high on their agenda — and “cautious adopters,” who have yet to focus on  more than energy cost savings, material efficiency, and risk mitigation. Many of us wondered whether the economic downturn and lack of progress toward international agreement on how to combat climate change would push sustainability off the corporate agenda.

The MIT-BSG survey results indicate that the opposite is true: 59% of companies in all industry sectors increased their investments in sustainability in 2010, versus 25% in 2009. Even more striking, almost 70% expect their organization to step up its investment in and management of sustainability in 2011. Impressive.
Similar momentum is happening in municipalities in Canada. On February 16, Joanne DeVries released her Fresh Outlook Foundation’s “Community Sustainability Snapshot: 2010 Survey Results from Local Governments.”
It found that:
  • 44% of respondents have  sustainability plans, compared with 23% in 2007
  • 59% have sustainability programs and projects, compared with 42% in 2007
  • 52% have sustainability policies and/or regulations, compared with 34% in 2007
  • 51% have staff devoted to sustainability, compared with 37% in 2007

If Canadian municipalities are upping their focus on environmental, social, and economic issues, it’s very likely that a similar dynamic is happening in other countries. Nice.
We are going in the right direction. Let’s take a minute to bask in the glow of these positive reports about how momentum is building around sustainability strategies in the private and public sectors. Then let’s redouble our efforts to contribute to it.

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