Lessons from Ceres: How to expand corporate leadership

Great work from just a few companies isn't enough to combat climate change and build a thriving, sustainable global economy. That was the message from Ceres leader Mindy Lubber when she announced a new report, The Road to 2020, at the nonprofit's annual conference last week.

From the boardroom to the copy room and through the supply chain, Lubber called for more innovation and the ability to scale sustainability at a faster rate. In other words, instead of having pockets of leadership from companies, we need whole bags.

Of course, Ceres isn't all about corporations. The same conference also included plenty of mentions of “kids,” “family” and “community.” Occasionally, at the end of a session where future generations were invoked, there were one too many kumbayas for my taste.

But to focus on that would be to miss the important work being done by what Ceres vice president of corporate programs Andrea Moffat regards as “the social experiment called Ceres.”

Getting from here to there

The sobering analysis presented by Lubber and her colleagues in The Road to 2020 report finds that sustainability leadership is the exception and that below average performance with limited pockets of action is still the norm. The new report is an important reminder of the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, a practical framework for embedding environmental and social concerns into a business. 

Sustainalytics CEO Michael Jantzi, who also worked on the report, suggests that companies consider the road map as something like a Rand McNally atlas: “It helps define what the destination looks like, but there are many ways to get there -- it’s not just turn right in fifty meters.”