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.
They obliged by telling us about their accomplishments, frustrations, lessons learned, their thoughts about the biggest issues of 2012 and what they think will drive sustainability in 2013.
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 was your company's greatest accomplishment this year?
Leisha John, Americas Director of Environmental Sustainability, Ernst & Young:
This year, we issued the first sustainability report, Patterns of progress: How our people are shaping our sustainability journey, for our Americas area, which is composed of approximately 180 offices. While we’ve been tracking much of the data previously and reporting our stories through various other channels, this is the first time we gathered it all together into a sustainability report for our Americas area specifically. A report is a powerful tool to raise awareness inside and outside of the firm with the work that’s being done and with our progress along our sustainability journey.
Terry Yosie, President and CEO, World Environment Center:
Developing the relationship between innovation and sustainable development through in-depth examination of innovative strategies for water management, sustainable infrastructure innovations, sustainable logistics and traceability of materials across the value chain. Business solutions are a key driver in advancing sustainability, and direct value creation through business process innovations is a critical factor for success.
Beth Shiroishi, Vice President, Sustainability & Philanthropy, AT&T
The launch of our Eco Ratings system, which allows our customers to gain an understanding of a device’s sustainable attributes. There is much talk of sustainability indexes and ratings, and I am proud that our company was able to roll these out to consumers in the marketplace this past year. We know that this is something consumers want: According to an AT&T Wireless survey, more than 6 in 10 Americans said they would consider an eco-rating in their purchasing decision.
Mark Lee, Executive Director, SustainAbility
High impact work with clients in the financial, food & agriculture, and energy industries (bolder than what we saw in the last couple of years). Breakthrough new research in several areas; for example, Rate the Raters on sustainability ratings and Citystates on urbanization, demographics and sustainable development.
Amy Hargroves, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sprint Nextel Corporation
Making significant progress on all of our sustainability priorities, including completion of baseline measurements and clear improvement plans, and expanding our focus into social issues such as services for the visually impaired and the aging.
Aron Cramer, President & CEO, BSR
Advancing new human rights policies and practices with multiple companies.
Peter Madden, Chief Executive, Forum for the Future
Running the Sustainable Shipping Initiative bringing together some of the biggest names in the maritime sector to plan for a sustainable future.
Neil Hawkins, Vice President, Global sustainability and EH&S, Dow Chemical Co.
Some major value chain collaborations and NGO collaborations that advanced the cause of sustainability.
Image of ladder emerging from grass courtesy of megainarmy via Shutterstock.