The Shores of Sustainability

October 7, 2014

It was a windy walk last week along the Charles River from my hotel to the MIT campus. I arrived at the Student Center, in search of a t-shirt or hat to take home with me. It was my first time ever on campus, and I was excited to bring back a souvenir from my dad's alma mater.

I noticed an interesting shirt that had a bunch of periodic table elements and other math-related symbols, like the  imaginary number "i". I asked the student next to me, "hey, what does this shirt mean?". He responded immediately and quickly: "Science"!

I felt like a dunce. Of course -- science.  Scandium + Imaginary Number + Nitrogen + Carbon + Euler's number (log-based e).

Science. I felt like this t-shirt was for me. I was on campus to present a Workshop with Mark McElroy on the importance of setting ethics and science-based sustainability goals.

Mark presented on his Multi-Capital Scorecard approach to setting context-based goals, which are inherently science or ethics-based goals that take the additional step of determining each company's relative (e.g. percentage of GDP) share or responsibility.

I presented on PivotGoals.com, a project of Winston Eco-Strategies, which is the world's first compilation of the Fortune Global 500's sustainability goals. The site allows the user to do searches (e.g. by company, industry, goal, focus area, goal type, value chain stage and others) and download the query results. It is also the first compilation of Fortune Global 500's reports (e.g. CSR, sustainability, citizenship and others) in one place.

Here is a quick recap of the findings that I presented:

* Companies with Goals: 150 of the Fortune 200 (75%) have sustainability goals
* Number of Goals: About 2,000 goals for those 150 companies (nearly 4,000 in full database)
* Goals tracked are specific and:
    - Dated (i.e. have a due date): 79%
    - Undated: 14%
    - Achieved: 7%
* Goals by Value chain focus:
     - Supply chain: 15% (54% of companies)
    - Operations: 69% (98% of companies)
    - Use phase: 15% (50% of companies)
    - End-of-life: 3% (23% of companies)
* Goals by Focus Area:
    - Climate/GHG: 75% of the 150 companies
    - Energy: 64%
    - Compliance/Standards: 59%
    - Community (Catch-all): 54%
    - Waste: 52%

* Science-equivalent Goals:
    - Only 10% of the goals are Science-equivalent, meaning that they align with the best science for their relative Focus Area, e.g.
    carbon reductions based on the most recent IPCC report
    - and only 1% of the goals are explicitly science-based, meaning that the goals reference the science in the actual goal phrasing

So, only three-fourths of the 200 largest companies in the world have any sustainability goals, and of those goals, only 1% are explicitly science-based. In summary, in terms of sustainability goal setting, we are adrift at sea and have a long way to go. Science is our guide, our map, and our telescope that can help us to see how to get from where we are, unsustainability, to where we need to go -- the shores of sustainability. Without science, we will simply continue to float and end up where the winds push us.

 

COMMENTS

 

No Comments Yet, Add Yours!

 

Recent Blog Posts

Hawaii's Recent Leap of Faith

  At the southernmost point of the United States, a 20 something named Alex stands atop a 30 foot cliff of hardened lava. The Pacific Ocean slaps below against the black rock, as the young...

[+] More

 

SustyBiz15 and the Progression of Sustainability

  GreenBiz and other sustainability voices assert that corporate sustainability is moving into its second decade as a movement. Since the launch of other highly publicized,...

[+] More

 

There's More Than One Zero

In the ever-evolving nomenclature of sustainability, the concept of “zero waste” is an especially tricky subject, one whose definition varies significantly depending on what company you...

[+] More

 

The ABCs (and Fs) of Sustainability Reporting

Sustainability Reporting has gone through several waves of evolution over the past decade.  As I presented at the 2012 MAPI conference and the 2013 Sustainable Brands New Metrics conference,...

[+] More

 

Trash as Treasure: From Setting to Surpassing the Bar on Waste Reduction

Whether a sustainability expert or newcomer, those who work in this industry likely will tell you that ‘sustainability’ can be an elusive, rarely agreed-upon and often poorly defined...

[+] More

 

March Madness: The Champions of Corporate Sustainability

March is here, and that means one thing to me -- March Madness!  For all its warts and shortcomings, the NCAA knows how to host a basketball championship. This tournament is so good that...

[+] More

 

The Top Ten Top 10s

As the "old year" drew to a close and the new year approached, my inbox was deluged by dozens of sustainability "Top 10" lists. Some were of the year past and some were focused on the year ahead. But...

[+] More

 
J Gowdy Consulting - Profitable Sustainable Solutions - © 2010      P.O. Box 128334 Nashville, TN 37212      info@jgowdyconsulting.com      Site design by: iDesign, Inc.