This post originally appeared on Future 500 blog.
By Future 500 staff
Future 500 has identified the Top 10 issues that activists and corporations will likely contend with this year. A growing number of consumer and activist groups is working on each issue demanding more sustainable solutions. Corporations need to understand the activist landscape and they need to identify key stakeholders.
1. Corporate climate silence
Our number one issue for 2011 (following the failure to pass the Waxman-Markey bill), climate, was off the agenda in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. But now the issue is being elevated again among groups who wish to “out” companies regarding their position on climate as part of the discussion on the fiscal cliff and economic reform. Bill McKibben’s Do the Math tour is the most notable related campaign, but this movement is broad and comprehensive in its critique of so-called “extreme” energy, and is long-term in nature.
2. Fracking: Energy vs. water
At the local level, battles continue to rage between grassroots activists concerned about water contamination and health impacts, and the oil and gas industry, eager to market an abundant source of domestic energy. While many groups are trying to settle the science underpinning these fears, the conflict is spilling over into more states with climate concerns caught in the crossfire. Matt Damon’s Promised Land film will elevate this issue in early 2013 with the left and the right leveraging the film to advance their interests.
3. EPA regulations
With the lack of a comprehensive energy policy, especially one that addresses carbon emissions, activists will be aggressive in defending and expanding the EPA’s ability to regulate emissions, to expand renewables, increase energy efficiency and decrease pollution. This path is the “easy, short-term win” for the environmental movement to force the internalization of externalities.
4. Infrastructure disruption
With last year’s unanticipated success in delaying the Keystone XL project, activists are more readily trying to find ways to block energy transport and development. In the absence of a national energy policy that regulates carbon, interrupting the movement of energy through pipelines, ports and railways will be a core tactic to increase risk and costs to develop “dirty energy.”
5. GMO no go
The elections in 2012 brought the GMO issue to the fore, as many in the food movement rallied behind California’s Prop 37, which would have required companies to label their products containing GMOs. A large, industry-funded anti-prop 37 campaign derailed passage of the proposition, so expect the movement to turn their attention to individual companies, as they recently did in targeting General Mills’ Cheerios brand via social media. This is a long-standing, mature global movement where activists are confident that public opinion is on their side.
6. Digital freedom
This is THE campaign of the emerging generation. Any attempt by a company or government to limit a free and open Internet will be met with steep and mounting resistance. This issue fuels online grassroots activism like no other as it transcends all global geographies and appeals across ideological boundaries. Led by opinion leaders such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Access Now, the community is vigilant in defending a human right to a free and open Internet.
7. Procurement power
From toxics to human rights, corporate campaigns to set procurement standards on social and environmental issues are increasing in frequency. Leveraging consumer power to influence large brands has helped aid activists to push for accountability in the corporate supply chain.
8. Obesity and sugar
With Michael Bloomberg’s proposed tax on large sodas and sugary drinks making huge headlines in 2012 alongside Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiatives, health and nutrition advocates are increasingly emboldened to challenge what they perceive as corporate control of a food system that reinforces unhealthy lifestyles. Advocates are increasingly placing the food system in the context of escalating health costs at the societal level. Combined with a slew of high profile brands marketing to kids and a base of well-known, passionate advocates, this issue is ripe for activism in 2013.
9. Money in politics
Political campaign spending hit a new record this election cycle, and this new post-Citizen’s United world has advocates from the left and right decrying the effects of “crony capitalism.” Expect increasing pressure on corporations to be more transparent regarding their political giving, including both direct and indirect (e.g. associations). Fueling distrust of the corporate sector are several 2012 reports that exposed corporate political giving, showing the relationship of political giving to political outcomes.
10. Economic power
Last year, economic power was our number one issue with the advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement. While the issue has simmered somewhat, it can ignite quickly. With what seems like a settlement each week for malfeasance, most recently with HSBC for money laundering, individual companies could quickly become a target. Factor in the dialogue on tax reform and focus on increasing taxes on the wealthy, the Robin Hood narrative provides ample opportunity to propel the issue back to the top.
Future 500 is an international non-profit organization that builds alliances between adversarial stakeholders. Our staff continually analyzes and synthesizes trends we are seeing while working with the stakeholder community around the issues Energy & Climate, Water & Agriculture, Materials Stewardship, and Technological Empowerment. If you wish to learn more, visit our website.