Category Archives: Sustainable Business

2013: a year to fight for scale in advancing sustainability

Scale is the ‘unreasonable challenge’ we must meet to drive forward sustainability. Simon Zadek explains how to achieve this (Source: The Guardian)

Willy De Backer‘s insight:

Sustainability "gurus"Simon Zadek and John Elkington highlighting the need for "breakthrough" capitalism and scaling up of sustainability at the end of a year which saw the freakiest weather ever, the expected failure or Rio and Doha,  political elites’ obsession with the financial debt crises and new class wars in Southern Europe.

PwC: Supply Chains Threatened by Six-Degree Global Warming

Some 85 percent of companies have more complex supply chains as a result of globalization, and adjusted climate forecasts mean businesses should expect climate change to have an even more destructive effect than previously assumed on supply chains, assets and infrastructure, according to two reports from PricewaterhouseCoopers” (Source: Environmental Leader)

Two new remarkable reports by PricewaterhouseCoopers paint a scary 6-degrees climate future and economic turmoil for global business. High time one of the big consultancies goes beyond the usual "let’s keep it positive" approach and starts talking reality.

See also The Guardian: Business warned to prepare for catastrophic impacts .

The two PwC reports are: “Risk Ready: New approaches to environmental and social change” (Nov 2012) and “Low Carbon Economy Index 2012: too late for two degrees?” (Nov 2012).

Businesses seeking success should look to nature for inspiration

"Today’s rapidly changing business environment calls for businesses that thrive in such environments: businesses more akin to living systems. These firms of the future learn and adapt; they aren’t structured and siloed, which stifles learning and agility. They are bottom-up, decentralised, interdependent, multifunctional, self-organising units – unlike the centralised, top-down, hierarchically-managed monoliths of the 20th century. Organisations need to transform into units that are inter-connected, value-led and inspired by nature." (Source: The Guardian)

Good article at the Guardian’s Sustainable Business blog making the case for a change of thinking in business models: away from competitiveness and proft-maximising and focussing on cooperation, networking and resilience

The Frozen Frontier: Is Shell Ready For The Risks Of Arctic Drilling?

A new report by Ceres shows that oil and gas companies are not doing enough to manage offshore drilling risks and disclose their efforts to investors.” (Source: Forbes)

Forbes is one of the few media paying attention to this interesting new report on offshore and Arctic drilling for oil and gas.

Extract from this must-read article:

A new report by Ceres shows that oil and gas companies—Shell included—are not doing enough to manage offshore drilling risks and disclose their efforts to investors. The report, Sustainable Extraction?, examines risk disclosure in SEC filings submitted in the first quarter of 2011 by 10 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. It finds that out of 50 deepwater risk disclosure scores on key metrics including spill response procedures and drilling risk management, only four scores were good, and 29 (nearly 60 percent) were poor or no disclosure.

This striking lack of disclosure makes it nearly impossible for investors to understand how companies are managing the range of potential drilling risks.  And investors are already wary.

Lloyd’s, the world’s largest insurance market, cautions that “the Arctic is a frontier unlike any other” that will “remain a complex risk environment.” In its Arctic Opening report, Lloyd’s highlights geographic remoteness, ongoing changes to the environment as a result of climate change and extreme weather as key risk factors of offshore drilling in the Arctic.”

Should Banks be Ethical, Sustainable and Boring?

“Ensuring that banks are boring may prove to be a key element of a new business model for the banking sector, enabling the sector to re-establish its ethical framework and focus financing on sustainability.” (Source: Forbes)

Good article on the future of banking and the financial sector in Forbes. Title is misleading in my view: what is boring about working for real value and the real economy?

The Future /Who/ Wants (or needs)?

"Whether capitalism can be compatible with a beyond-growth wellbeing economy is as yet unclear. What is called for is a shift away from the commodification of everything and to a market system not based on profit maximisation but the ecological efficiency of the equitable satisfaction of wellbeing-needs. Whether the entities we call ‘companies’ will morph to be compatible with such a paradigm or new enterprises, more like co-operatives, family, employee and community owned enterprise will be the norm in this new paradigm is also not yet clear. But what is clear is that we can’t go on in the same blind fashion we are currently pursuing." (Source: Energy Bulletin)

Jules Peck of the New Economics Foundation asks some interesting questions in this article republished on the Energy Bulletin.

Does the future of the planet rest on business after failed Rio+20?

“With a disappointing political outcome at Rio+20, the president of the WBCSD says the only option is for business to spring into action and implement change at scale…” (Source: Guardian Sustainable Business blog)

Yes, business could be not only part of the solution but the key to the solution if it can positively answer the following questions:

Can big business embrace limits to growth, admit that sustainability is not only about more opportunities but also about putting in place constraints and sufficiency, develop a business model beyond short-term profit, work for society instead of shareholders, empower leaders who advocate social and wage equality, adopt a no-lobby code, convince the fossil-fuel sector that the age of oil and gas has to end asap, order the financial sector to downsize and serve the real economy, help SMEs to go sustainable?

How realistic is it that we will see business have the courage to re-invent itself?

Rio+20: Jeffrey Sachs on how business destroyed democracy and virtuous life

The world famous economist on corporate control, the search for happiness and why a multi-disciplinary approach is the only way to find solutions to sustainability challenges…” (Source: Guardian Sustainable Business blog)

Excellent article from the Guardian’s Sustainable Business blog.

Here are a few remarkable extracts from the interview with economist Jeffrey Sachs:

The other face of businesses is that they are too powerful in our societies. They write the rules, they pay the politicians, sometimes illegally and sometimes, via what is called legal, which is financing their campaigns or massive lobbying.

"Billions of dollars are spent and this is horrendous because if business writes the rules, it is not true their shareholder value is their value to society. It can reflect highly destructive practices which the politicians turn their eyes away from because of the political power companies hold. This has got completely out of control and is leading to the breakdown of modern democracy."

While social networking has the power to break the existing power structures, Sachs also recognises its power to enslave us further to consumerism.”

Realizing Private Capital’s Public Benefits

"Financial-market reform has fallen far short of securing the sector’s resilience, let alone driving investment in the technology, energy systems, infrastructure, and business models needed to develop a sustainable world economy." (Source: Project Syndicate)

Good article in Project Syndicate by sustainability expert Simon Zadek on the need to tackle the financial sector.

Sustainability should not be consigned to history by Shared Value

If Shared Value is to offer real, long term transformation it must address the flaws of capitalism, look beyond incrementalism and not just align commercial and societal goals, says John Elkington…” (Source Guardian Sustainable Business blog)

Good critique by sustainable business expert Elkington of the Shared Value approach developed by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. But Elkington’s own "triple bottom line" is as flawed as Porter’s. Both of them do not put "ecological limits" at the heart of the transformational agenda.


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