As 2012 comes to a close, GreenBiz asked executives from a range of companies and organizations to reflect on the past year and look at what lies ahead.
A few big themes emerged: the failure to make significant progress at major global conclaves -- Rio+20 and the Doha Climate Change conference in particular -- the lack of urgency and action from policymakers on climate change, and the need for stronger, more transparent standards and ratings systems to meet increased consumer, investor, and corporate demand.
Here's what they said when we asked:
What were your top lessons learned in 2012?
Amy Hargroves, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sprint Nextel Corporation:
• Our practical and results-oriented approach to CR is of interest to many other organizations.
• The projects with the greatest impact are often those with the least incremental cost, but require a substantial time commitment.
• You can be extremely successful in improving the sustainability engagement of your suppliers with a very focused assessment tool and meaningful follow-up. You don't have to embed your requirements into contracts or use a big stick. Get top officers engaged to share why sustainability should be important to your suppliers and offer them guidance to meet your criteria.
Neil Hawkins, Vice President, Global sustainability and EH&S, Dow Chemical Co.:
We need the right public policy environment to make fast progress.
Chris Coulter, President, GlobeScan:
• Putting a price on carbon may be closer than we thought possible.
• 'Softer' things like trust and collaboration are more important sometimes than performance.
Angela Nahikian, Director of Global Environmental Sustainability, Steelcase:
• Lasting change takes time. Framing progress over the long view is critical to successful embedding.
• Customers care a lot more about sustainability in their decision-making than we even imagined.
• The cultural and customer hooks for sustainability are not what we imagined them to be -- they are more core to our purpose.
Mark Lee, Executive Director, SustainAbility:
The depth and pervasiveness of the gap between public satisfaction with corporate and political results in terms of sustainable development leadership and the enduring expectation that it is exactly those institutions people most expect to lead in the future. The emerging and deepening hope that multi-sector collaboration will play a critical role in delivering positive sustainable development outcomes. The potential identification and emergence of a consumer segment (we label them 'Aspirationals') as interested in consumption/status/lifestyle/brands as they are social and environmental impact/progress. Hope for sustainable consumption?
Peter Madden, Chief Executive, Forum for the Future:
Don't wait for governments The green movement should do more inspiring and less scaring.
Next page: Is there still too much greenwashing going on?