John Elkington

John Elkington is cofounder and chief entrepreneur at SustainAbility and blogs at johnelkington.com.

Biz magazines spotlight the sustainability revolution

If the business press is any indication, sustainability issues have risen up the corporate ladder and are now seen as a central challenge for companies in the coming decades. In its first-ever green issue, Fortune commends “10 Green Giants” — corporations that are making impressive environmental gains. The editors decided to bypass GE and Wal-Mart, whose eco-endeavors have been heavily publicized, and instead highlight companies whose sustainability efforts have been less high-profile recently — among them, Hewlett-Packard, Continental Airlines, S.C. Johnson, Suncor, and Alcan. While its list focused on big, mainline corporations, its cover went to an idealistic maverick who …

Business leaders honed in on climate, carbon, and concrete at Davos

The snow at Davos didn’t melt away worries about climate change. Photo: Benjamin Zurbriggen/World Economic Forum There was something different in the air at this year’s Davos gathering of global movers and shakers — and not just an increase in CO2 concentration. Instead of the irrational exuberance of the 1990s or the celebrity-studded glitz of recent years, we found upbeat but serious discussion of big issues — climate change in particular. A few days before the World Economic Forum opened its doors on Jan. 24, people were fretting that for the first time in living memory the snows might not …

Social and environmental entrepreneurs have a lot to teach big business

Solutions to sustainability challenges come in various forms, colors, and strengths. Some are compliance-driven and done grudgingly. Some are citizenship-led and done at a slight distance from an organization’s core business. And some are truly innovative and entrepreneurial. Now this third category is on the verge of taking off like a rocket, involving new breeds of social and environmental entrepreneurs — but also driven and encouraged by innovative, entrepreneurial folk in the business and government mainstreams. Much of the work that we do at SustainAbility aims to help corporations that aspire to behave — and be recognized — as good …

Will the latest corporate sustainability reporting guidelines herald a brave new world?

What a swell party it was. The first week of October saw a crowd of 1,150 people from 65 countries rubbing shoulders in the Netherlands, including royalty (in the form of HRH the Prince of Orange), politicians (including former Vice President Al Gore and Margot Wallström, VP of the European Commission), titans of industry (like Gerard Kleisterlee, CEO of Royal Philips Electronics, and Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chair of Anglo American), and the heads of multilateral agencies (among them Achim Steiner, the new United Nations Environment Program executive director). What brought this motley crew together? The launch of “G3,” the latest …

Sustainability visionaries see room for hope in our worry-filled world

Who’s afraid of the big, bad future? Al Gore, clearly — and pretty much anyone who has seen An Inconvenient Truth. While Gore’s dissenters may argue that he cries wolf too often, no one who knows and understands the statistics used in the film can doubt that the Big Bad Wolf of climate change is at the door. The question is whether our economies are best built of straw, sticks, or bricks. He’s getting closer … Photo: iStockphoto These days there can be few Grist-folk who haven’t seen — or at least heard of — the YouTube short Al Gore’s …

Advice from sustainability leaders for today’s aspiring entrepreneurs

In perhaps the most memorable career-counseling session ever served up on celluloid, the poolside conversation ran like this: Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.Benjamin: Yes, sir.Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?Benjamin: Yes, I am.Mr. McGuire: Plastics. This exchange came to mind when we were developing our latest survey of SustainAbility’s 60-person faculty, as part of a project on the future of globalization. For fun, we tacked on a final question: “If — as in that memorable scene in the film of The Graduate — you were giving career advice to a bright student on …

Are the world’s green-biz supermen losing their powers?

It’s early yet to begin writing the business obituary of long-standing BP CEO Lord John Browne, slated to retire in 2008. But the man once billed as the closest thing to a green Superman has had his cape singed recently. Have we been duped? Could anyone reading BP’s annual sustainability reports the last few years have detected early warning signs of the sort of problems that have shaken this superhero of oil and gas — events like the Texas City disaster, the Alaskan pipeline mess, or the allegations that some BP employees crossed legal lines attempting to control pieces of …

What if the world cared about sustainability as much as soccer?

Over the last few weeks, much of the world has clustered around TVs, watching World Cup rivals fight for the right to hoist what may be the ugliest trophy in sport. Inevitable arguments have broken out over who ought to win, and who invented “the beautiful game.” As we head toward the final match this weekend, it’s all made us wonder: could humankind ever apply that same energy and enthusiasm to the distinctly less exciting pursuit of sustainability? At some point along the way, whether you peg soccer’s origins to soldiers in China’s Han Dynasty, the Greeks and Romans, or …

What Peter Rabbit can teach businesses about going global

What goes around, they say, comes around — or, in this case, hops about in a blue waistcoat, munching stolen radishes. Our subject today is no visionary CEO, but Peter Rabbit, probably the best-known creation of children’s author Beatrix Potter. Peter, ever the rebel. The World of Beatrix Potter™ © Frederick Warne & Co., 1902; 2002. By turning the spotlight in Peter’s direction, we hope to illuminate some lessons in the game of responsible global branding. You see, SustainAbility has been called in to advise Frederick Warne & Co. — a division of Penguin Books, which owns the Peter Rabbit …

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