4 Reasons Why the WBCSD’s Vision 2050 is Significant

At the World CEO Forum in New Delhi, India, in February 2010, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released its Vision 2050: The new agenda for business report. Pulling this together was not a trivial task. It was compiled over an 18-month period by 29 leading global companies who represent 14 industries. It reflects the combined efforts of CEOs and experts, and benefits from dialogues with over 200 companies and external stakeholders in some 20 countries. The effort was significant. So is its content, for four reasons.
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3 Recent Guides for Sustainability Champions

In my bibliography at the end of The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook, I list “20 Good Books on Transforming to a Sustainable Enterprise.” Happily, that list of resources for agents of transformation keeps growing. Here are three more excellent, free, downloadable resources that came out in the last year which I would welcome to my previous list of 20:

  1. Planning for Sustainability, from The Natural Step
  2. Making Your Impact at Work, from Net Impact
  3. Greening your Business, from the RBC Royal Bank

1. The Natural Step’s Planning for Sustainability: A Starter Guide
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Another Elephant in the Sustainability Room: Over-Consumption

In myAugust 24, 2010, blog, we explored a dilemma for sustainable companies: growth. This week we will discuss its Siamese twin: over-consumption. It’s the second undiscussable elephant in the board rooms of companies aspiring to be sustainable enterprises. Consumption is the root cause of growth, since companies grow when the demand for their products grows.
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An Elephant in the Sustainability Room: Growth

In today’s business model, growth is a given—an imperative. “Grow or die” is the undisputed maxim of business leaders. The stock market punishes companies that do not meet growth expectations. Growth is good. However, continuous growth appears to be at odds with sustainability principles. Growth is the ‘un-discussable’ elephant in the board rooms of companies aspiring to a sustainable business model.

So let’s make it discussable. Since growth is synonymous with progress and with winning in the game of business, we need to show how sustainability strategies are relevant and support companies’ growth goals. Yet we know that continuous growth is inherently unsustainable, given the finite carrying capacity of the planet. In nature, continuous growth is called cancer. In fact, passionate, principled champions of sustainability find it repugnant to suggest they should help companies grow since it is against their core values to do so. That’s why some shy away from the “sustainable development” label—development implies growth, and growth is unsustainable. Ergo, “sustainable development” is an oxymoron.
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Sustainability – The 4-Step Transformation from Stage 3 to Stage 4

Is it really possible for a company to become a sustainable enterprise? Yes, it is. But, it requires a significant transformation. No company will undertake such a significant metamorphosis unless it increases its value. In fact, each step must benefit the company or it will be difficult to convince shareholders and other important stakeholders that it should go further on the sustainability journey. The four stepping-stones from an unsustainable company to a sustainable business model are designed to ensure that each step produces real business benefits.

In my July 27, 2010, blog, I described the five-stage journey that a business follows—as it moves from an unsustainable enterprise in Stages 1, 2, and 3 to a sustainable enterprise in Stages 4 or 5. In my August 3 blog, we looked at four reasons the current take-make-waste model of business used in Stages 1-3 is not sustainable. In my August 10 blog, we contrasted the take-make-waste model with a sustainable, cyclical, borrow-use-return model of commerce. This week, we will drill down to examine four critical stepping-stones between Stages 3 and 4.
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5 Criteria for a Sustainable Business Model

It’s one thing to critically assess how today’s dominant business model is not sustainable; it’s another thing to design one that is. As sustainability champions, we need to have a positive vision of the pot of gold at end of the sustainability rainbow. We need to be able to respond to a “put up or shut up” challenge with a description of a sustainable business model that is better for the environment, society, and the company.

In my August 3, 2010 blog, I described four critical attributes of today’s way of doing business that make it unsustainable. We are facing serious constraints as we experience a rising demand from an exploding world population for increasingly scarce resources. Today’s linear take-make-waste business model is not designed to handle this reality. In fact, it is culpable for contributing to its unsustainability. Read more

4 Reasons our Current Business Model is Unsustainable

Sooner or later, there is a tough message that sustainability champions need to deliver to harried business leaders—the business game they are playing can’t continue. It’s been fun, but if they keep playing the game the way they are, everyone will lose. The rules need to be updated— quickly. That contention is probably not the best conversation-opener with a senior business leader. But, at some point along the line, sustainability champions should be ready to gently help them see that their current model of doing business is not sustainable.
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The 5-Stage Sustainability Journey

As companies progress toward being sustainable enterprises, we can position them on a five-stage sustainability continuum. They evolve from an unsustainable model of business in Stages 1, 2 and 3, to a sustainable business framework in Stages 4 or 5. Executive mindsets also evolve from thinking of “green,” “environmental,” and “sustainable” initiatives as expensive and bureaucratic threats in the early stages, to recognizing them as catalysts for strategic growth in the later stages.
We will use the 3-nested-dependencies model of a sustainable society, described in my July 20, 2010 blog, to describe the characteristics of companies in the five key stages on their sustainability journeys. Read more

3 Sustainability Models

As sustainability champions, we are sometimes confronted by frustrated people who ask what we mean by “sustainability.” What they really want to know is sustainability’s relevance to them, their organization, or their community. Is it a threatening concept, or a friendly one? Or maybe it’s just a fancy, multiple-syllable word for something to which they are already paying attention, at least partially?

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5 Strategies to Finding a Sustainability Job

We all seek the holy grail of a position that matches our convictions, needs, and competencies. People who want to make a difference sometimes ask me for advice on how to find a job in the “sustainability sector.” The bad news is that there is no such sector, any more than there is a “quality sector.” The good news is that there are roles in organizations that include varying degrees of responsibility for sustainability: in the organization, with its suppliers, and/or helping its clients become more sustainable enterprises.  Here are five strategies to help find one of those great jobs.
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