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What will sustainability look like in 2013?

<p>Sustainability leaders discuss the highlights of 2012 and what they expect for 2013.</p>

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 were the most significant sustainability trends in 2012?

Mark Lee, Executive Director, SustainAbility:

My three young children! And worrying about their future on a hotter planet. It looks bleak on climate change/arresting global warming. What are we leaving them?


Peter Madden, Chief Executive, Forum for the Future:

The fact that the financial sector institutions still have their heads in the sand. They urgently need to start valuing things appropriately and investing for sustainability. But at the moment, they seem to be going backwards, not forwards.


Angela Nahikian, Director of Global Environmental Sustainability, Steelcase:

The scale of change still needed The challenges of globalization: both in implementing sustainability and in the core business challenges it creates.


Aron Cramer, President & CEO, BSR

Climate change is moving much faster than thought, and much faster than action that's needed to transition to low-carbon prosperity.


Amy Hargroves, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sprint Nextel Corporation:

The lack of standards in reporting, in supplier requirements, in products, is creating unnecessary complexity and work load. Will the new GRI report be better or worse than G3.1?


Neil Hawkins, Vice President, Global Sustainability and EH&S, Dow Chemical Co.:

The specter of a global recession if the Euro crises does not end favorably.



Leisha John, Americas Director of Environmental Sustainability, Ernst & Young:

How we balance our client demand for face-to-face collaboration with our efforts to minimize our emissions related to business travel. Since 2008 we have been able to reduce our carbon footprint by 11 percent in the Americas by focusing on energy efficiency and by promoting business travel alternatives such as videoconferencing. However, as the economy improves and clients demand more face-to-face collaboration, we anticipate a potential increase in emissions related to business travel. As such, to help mitigate the expected increase in travel activity, we are investing in more robust technologies like telepresence.

Beth Shiroishi, Vice President, Sustainability & Philanthropy, AT&T:

2012 was a year of incredible momentum at our company for our sustainability efforts; so my night brain ponders how we continue to keep this momentum going next year. As our company’s sustainability initiatives continue to develop and mature, how do we continue to raise the bar and tackle the toughest issues facing us? The more we do, the more we uncover there is to do, the more we learn, the more we realize we have to learn.

Bridgett Luther, President, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute:

All the sustainability efforts still feel very incremental. Big problems with small steps. Let's pray that Obama makes some big moves this year.


Terry Yosie, President and CEO, World Environment Center:

The cascading impacts of climate change. We've already baked significant climate change potential into the atmosphere with no real basis of optimism that current emission trends can be reversed. It's not only the developing world that is at risk. Disruption is becoming the new normal.


Image of street signs courtesy of chokniti and GreenBiz via Shutterstock.

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