Despite the doom and gloom of the mainstream media narrative around sustainability, there is more positive activity — and business opportunity — than is typically reported. If you’re curious what an oasis of practical solutions in a desert of dreary projections might look like, you can find one in the just-released Sustainia100 guide.
In anticipation of Sustainia100's 2013 edition (download), published yesterday, I spoke with Christopher Sveen, Director of Business Development for Sustainia, the Denmark-based nonprofit behind the publication. Sustainia's mission is to work across sectors to promote a tangible approach to sustainability.
Here are the basics: The guide features 10 sustainability solutions for each of 10 sectors, deployed in 128 countries and chosen from more than 500 submissions. The Sustainia website tells a compelling story of the organization’s broader mission to reframe the narrative of sustainability and drive faster adoption of scalable solutions across markets. (Sveen will discuss this further when he speaks at our upcoming Convergence Paris event later this month.)
The guide features a broad spectrum of ready-to-implement tools, technologies and trends relevant to a diverse range of audiences and spanning the gamut from cities, buildings and transportation to food, energy and IT. Each sector has an accompanying icon, stamped next to the individual solutions proportionately in size with the impact it has on each sector. Many tote several icons, reflecting their cross-sector influence, and each has a brief description of how they benefit at least two of the three triple-bottom-line components.
The solutions are as immediate as water and energy management software that can be used today in a home or office, and as large-scale as urban designs for climate-resilient neighborhoods and bioreactors on building roofs that can be modeled and adapted by region. It’s not just the clean design and stunning images accompanying each solution that make the guide a truly visceral read.
For Sveen, it’s all an injection of some much-needed positive energy around sustainability. “People see these pictures of exhausted climate negotiators or frustrated activists, melting icebergs and people on the run from flooding — images that have become symbols of climate change,” he explained. “We see how so many have started to give up or grow frustrated, losing faith in the ability to actually change our collective future.”
The first Sustainia100 guide launched during last year’s Rio+20 sustainability summit, itself a prime example of the political gridlock global leaders face in advancing a needle-moving agenda. “That’s the place from which Sustainia is developing a new approach to sustainability,” said Sveen. “We’re reversing the narrative of doom and gloom by looking instead at the tangible solutions readily available in the marketplace — telling a different story of what we can actually do.” Among the criteria for choosing the 100 solutions are being readily adoptable, financially viable, scalable, making positive environmental impact and improving quality of life.
Next page: What we’re working for, not just against