2014 was the year that ...

Two Steps Forward

2014 was the year that ...

ShutterstockRearview mirror image by Fabio Alcini

Another year of sustainable business activity is rumbling to a close. As always, progress seems slow and incremental — less than what’s called for by Mother Nature.

But, as always, there were also plenty of noteworthy developments, exemplars on multiple fronts.

It’s all good news, but is it good enough given the gargantuan challenges we face? That’s the question for the ages.

Here, in no particular order, are a dozen stories that inspired us during 2014. What would you add to the list?

NRG plans to slash CO2 emissions 90 percent by 2050 — It was one of several bold moves by the energy company, whose CEO challenged his industry colleagues to pursue the transformative change necessary to embrace an era of distributed, clean power.

3M, Adobe, eBay commit to renewable energy —These are just a few companies on a growing roster of those setting significant clean-energy goals, including, very notably, perennial sustainability laggard Amazon.

GM, HP, Walmart and others demand simpler buying of renewables — Despite the rash of clean energy commitments, the process of actually buying renewables is still a big challenge for most companies.

SC Johnson and Clorox up their commitment to fragrance disclosure — The industry push reflects a larger shift toward more chemical disclosure, from Apple to ZDHC.

A powerhouse corporate climate coalition says, ‘We Mean Business’ — Companies band together to advocate for climate action in statehouses and national capitals

APP, Cargill plant U.N. deforestation pledge for 2030 — A veritable forest full of businesses are acting to stop needless land clearing, including Procter & Gamble, which is targeting zero deforestation by 2020.

Rockefellers pledge to ditch fossil fuel assets — It's yet another example of investors steering clear(er) from bankrolling climate-intensive companies.

McDonald's sets its sights on sustainable beef — The fast food giant is at the center of a fascinating and endlessly complex puzzle that spans every continent and involves tens of thousands of growers and others that are part of the Big Mac supply chain.

New York Mayor de Blasio unfurls 80 by 50 climate plan — The Big Apple is the latest in a string of cities around the world linking climate change action to resilience, creating growing opportunities for the private sector.

Best Buy hits billion-pound recycling goal, doubles pledge — Raising e-waste recovery to new levels is helping to spur a new generation of companies seeking to profit off of our digital detritus.

CH2M Hill, Nature Conservancy aim to grow green infrastructure — This significant commitment was one of several  — including a TNC partnership with JPMorgan Chase — that assigned value to natural capital and helped grow green infrastructure.

Landmark report weighs 'Risky Business' of climate inaction — A major study by powerhouse players outlined a compelling business case for action on climate change.