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Sustainability trends from 2012 award entries

If reading 260 five hundred word plus entries for Ethical Corporation’s 2012 awards can provide some representative slices of current progress, then here’s a flavour of them, as I saw them, mixed in with a few general and random thoughts as usual.

A) Supplier engagement is starting to move beyond mere audits and very basic data collection in a handful of progressive companies.

B) Energy efficiency is heading to stages two three and four for some companies. By that I mean beyond the initial quick wins and into subsidiaries, retrofits and other areas beyond HQ.

C) Water is the ‘new’ (ish!) carbon: measurement and usage efforts are improving, firms are grasping that collaboration is vital for scale, yet perhaps more complex to manage than they might have thought.

D) Partnerships are much more impact and commercially / market entry focused than they were a few years ago.

E) Carbon offsetting, except where firmly linked to development benefits, or as a last resort, is not discussed like it used to be. Thankfully. Reducing operational and supply chain GHG impact is rightfully much higher up the agenda.

F) Sustainability reporting is stuck in a bit of a time warp and is not moving on much beyond websites and PDFs.

G) Consumer communications efforts are very campaign focused. Perhaps because:

H) Those focusing on products are struggling with complexity of the communications challenge and holistic meaningful data and impact studies.

I) Most companies misunderstand what integrated reporting means in practice.

J) Big brand CEOs now understand just how much work is involved in integrating sustainability into business practice. They react in four ways: 1) Minimally. 2) Incrementally. 3) Ambitiously. 4) By understanding that sustainability means business transformation in the long term.

K) Micro finance and Bottom of the Pyramid schemes are maturing and appearing at scale in emerging markets. Models are also spreading back into mainstream institutions in some developed markets, for example Australia.

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