As someone who has developed sustainability targets, adopted ESG (environmental, social and governance) best practices and evaluates various corporate responsibility programs day to day, week to week, I have seen a lot of positive change over the past year – and am aware of the numerous challenges all of us in this function face. With that said, based on what I’ve observed over the past year, here are five key sustainability developments I have seen as defining 2018.
It will be further testament to a “sea change” if the same thing happens when it comes to other clean air and water regulations that are being rolled back, recognizing that clean air and water are things that make communities healthy places where people will want to live and therefore add more value than the cost of enforcing these regulations. And in any event, plenty of data suggests the economic costs of pollution justify clean air and water.
I am seeing particular emphasis where it belongs: on key drivers. For example, worldwide we are seeing more focus on affordable, reliable and sustainable energy, which the United Nations points out is integral to many of the other goals. One example includes the efforts to reduce or eliminate hunger and solving food waste (which is also a major source of GHG emissions) by repurposing foods that might not be as visually appealing but contain the same nutritional value as their most aesthetic counterparts. And the challenge of equal opportunity is finally gaining traction, with more businesses and countries addressing the issue of equal pay for equal work. After all, if people “are our most valuable asset” – why are some of the most productive and talented valued less? After all, I have never heard of anyone being offered to pay less for something based on the gender of the person that created, prepared or built it.
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John Friedman is an award-winning communications professional and recognized sustainability expert with more than 20 years of experience as both an external and internal sustainability leader, helping companies live their values and engage in authentic conversations by integrating their environmental, social, and economic aspirations into their cultures and business practices. He's the author of Managing Sustainability: First Steps to First Class.
John Friedman is Managing Director, ESG & Sustainability Services for Grant Thornton, LLP.
On digital media, Friedman is recognized as a thought leader; on TriplePundit’s List of the Top 30 Sustainability Bloggers on Twitter, #3 on GreenBiz list of most influential 'Twitterati', #14 on Guardian Business’ 30 most influential sustainability voices in America, was voted #4 of the "100 leading voices in CSR" by Global CEO Magazine readers, and has regularly been included among the top voices in CSR by Forbes.