As we move forward in 2011, what can those of us working in the field of sustainability and corporate social responsibility expect this year? Some big things happened in 2010 that helped shape the field, both good and bad, as the economy started to catch its footing again. Expect to see even more this year.
For the first time, a variety of factors are actually leading to something of a "race to the top" among organizations of almost all types and sizes in efforts to have positive environmental and social impacts. The business world has undergone a huge evolution in recent years, as has the social sector. Some organizations have started treading where no one ever imagined they would just a few short years ago.
Pollyannaism? Perhaps, but I think infectious optimism will continue to produce effective solutions to our most pressing problems from the amazing leaders in our field. With the assumption that these trends will only continue, here are my top five predictions for sustainability and CSR (terms I use interchangeably) in 2011 and beyond.
1. Increasing momentum for the field of business sustainability.
Economists are predicting that we'll start to see more traction in the economy. Even as I write this, the Wall Street Journal reports that economists see greater risk from an economy that overheats in 2011 than from growth that's too slow. I've seen sustainability grow through the "great recession," with the underlying dynamics becoming only stronger. With an economy picking up steam, the sustainability momentum will not only continue, but will also increase.
2. Sustainability through leadership will become more important.
It will no longer be enough to simply respond -- stakeholders will become increasingly interested in seeing organizations identify and lead on areas where they are capable of doing so. Moreover, many sustainability leaders, having seen the benefits of their own proactivity, will continue to find more areas to be proactive and take leadership -- and will find it less necessary to react to what others around them are doing.
Examples of such leadership are Starbuck's search for a sustainable solution to disposal cups and its recent Beta Cup campaign, and Timberland's "Green Index" on its products and packaging and "Eco Index" efforts for industry standards.