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The Top 15 TriplePundit Stories of 2021

By Leon Kaye

As that most difficult year, 2020, extended into 2021, our crew of writers tackled a wide range of challenges, from political polarization to the climate crisis. We crunched the numbers, and here’s one observation: Our readers have appreciated the fact that we have been all over the map on the sustainability front. Unlike previous years, there weren’t a handful stories that jumped out in a crazy way on the page views meter. In fact, more than a dozen stories were bunched up together. We can never quite trust that search engine optimization, can we? So, we arrived at what are the 15 most read TriplePundit stories over the past 12 months. Since the numbers were so close, we're listing them in chronological order.

The business community’s initial response to the January 6 insurrection

U.S. Businesses React to Trump Insurrection: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Tina Casey, January 2021). The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was a horrible event, one that sparked an impressive corporate response during those first few days in January. That attack appears to have largely been forgotten, but back then, 3p’s Tina Casey covered how companies first responded – and gave a primer as to how businesses can help ensure such an attack does not happen again.

Nom nom nom for plant-based foodies

20 Plant-Based Foods Coming to Market in 2021 (Mary Mazzoni, February 2021) The plant-based food boom is heating up. Growth in the segment outpaced all other food categories amid the coronavirus pandemic, with plant-based meat sales up 148 percent in 2020 compared to the year before. Having surpassed the $5 billion mark last year, the overall plant-based food market is set to top $74 billion by 2027. Our very own Mary Mazzoni summed up trends for this year – give it another read to see which ones became popular, or to get ideas on what to try out.

One company’s response to the “cancel culture” trope

IBM Gets It Right on Cancel Culture and Corporate Responsibility (Tina Casey, February 2021) Tossing out the term “cancel culture” had become a damage control strategy for lawmakers facing corporate boycotts or a decrease in donations due to their connection to the failed insurrection attempt. Casey showed how IBM broke free of that debate in the first place – by having a decades-long policy of no making political donations, whether directly or through a political action committee (PAC).

Diversity should be an immersive experience, David!

Ew, David! Schitt’s Creek Offers Companies A Cautionary Tale on Diversity (Leon Kaye, February 2021) Rehashing one of Schitt’s Creek’s more popular Alexis Rose memes shouldn’t distract from the fact that many organizations still struggle on the diversity, inclusion and equity (DEI) front. During its six seasons, the scrappy Canadian comedy series took its own stands on diversity while ditching common stereotypes. While it all did not go smoothly, how the series’ co-founder, Daniel Levy, handled criticism levied at the show actually could offer organizations some lessons on how to handle this problem.

ESG funds and sustainable investing are here to stay

If You Invested in ESG Funds, 2020 Was a Good Year (Leon Kaye, March 2021) 2020 was a year most of us are now happy to see in the rearview mirror, but last year was kind to one subset of the financial sector: ESG funds. During the pandemic, funds screened for environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors proved to be more resilient than conventional fund counterparts, according to a report from Morgan Stanley. The financial giant’s Institute for Sustainable Investing crunched the numbers and found that total returns for U.S. sustainability and ESG equity funds outpaced traditional funds by 4.3 percent in 2020.

Why Gen X women and their older peers rock

Choose to Challenge? Women Over 50 Invented It (Leon Kaye, March 2021) For this year’s International Women’s Day back in March, the theme was “Choose to Challenge.” Yet if we’re talking about choose to challenge in a wider context, face it: Women over 50 years old wrote the playbook. We reminded you about what many women over the age of 50 have lived through both in their personal lives and professional careers.

Bringing family forest owners into the carbon market

Small Landowners Are Untapped Heroes in the Fight Against Climate Change (Kate Zerrenner, May 2021) About 10.7 million ownerships from individuals, families, trusts, and estates account for 36 percent of U.S. forests (approximately 290 million acres). Despite their essential role in the management and sustainability of forested land, these family forest owners are often left out of the majority of carbon reduction schemes. Kate Zerrenner profiled how one CPG company is partnering with them.

Climate change’s ongoing threat to mental health

It’s Finally Time to Take the Mental Health Impacts of Climate Change Seriously (Kate Zerrenner, May 2021) The psychological harm of surviving a natural disaster has been documented for decades. But with climate change, such natural disasters are no longer purely “natural” – in fact, they are becoming more intense, frequent and destructive depending on the event. “Protecting people’s mental health and avoiding the costly effects of trauma is yet another reason we should invest in economy-wide climate change solutions,” wrote 3p’s Zerrenner.

One brand’s quest to become the world’s most sustainable and just company

HP Leads a Corporate Transition to Equity (Kate Zerrenner, June 2021) Zerrenner spoke with Ellen Jackowski, chief sustainability and social impact officer at HP, about the company’s mission to become "the world’s most sustainable and just technology company.” To that end, the multinational computer, 3D printing and printing company had announced some of the technology industry’s most comprehensive goals that seek to cement its leadership in this space, ones that are centered on climate action, human rights and digital equity.

Stop talking about racial equity; take steps and lead

4 Ways for Business to Show Authentic Leadership on Racial Equity (Mary Mazzoni, June 2021) A bevy of top companies had issued bold statements and significant financial commitments to advance racial equity in 2020. But the hard work still needs to begin. In an interview with Gary Cunningham, Prosperity Now’s president and CEO, he suggested four steps companies can take to turn allyship into action. “The key here is authentic leadership — in other words, walking the walk, not just talking the talk. It’s easy to say that you’re anti-racist without changing anything about how your organization operates,” Cunningham said during an interview with 3p’s Mazzoni.

Not a surprise: youth keep coming up with new solutions to further social justice

What Do Sustainable Agriculture and Healthcare Equity Have in Common? (Nayelli Gonzalez, June 2021) What do two seemingly unrelated issues, sustainable agriculture and healthcare equity, have in common? Youth-led solutions are the focus of Aqua-Pods and Medicine Encompassed, two organizations launched by young leaders who were recently named winners of the 2021 Changemaker Challenge, a nationwide contest sponsored by T-Mobile, the T-Mobile Foundation, and Ashoka. The competition aims to mobilizes youth who have trailblazing ideas on how to change the world for good with seed money and mentorship. 

Wut, a plant-based burger actually made of…plants?

Wendy’s Plant-Based Burger Is Actually Made from Veggies (Megan Amrich, July 2021). Plant-based foods have long been a popular topic here on 3p, for obvious reasons including the fact that the global meat sector has a largely negative environmental and social impact on the planet. One problem with the emerging plant-based foods industry, however, is that not everyone is fine eating processed or re-engineered soy or pea protein. Hence Wendy’s test marketing of a black bean-based burger scored lots of attention – and eyeballs – earlier this summer.

Finally, more retailers are selling affordable and fashionable adaptive clothing

What Is Adaptive Clothing, and Why Are More Retailers Offering It for Children? (Megan Amrich, July 2021) The timing came in July, which also happens to be Disability Pride Month. JCPenney became the latest American retailer to offer its own brand of adaptive children’s clothing, joining the likes of Target, Kohl’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Zappos and Lands’ End. “As the mother of a disabled child, I greatly appreciate the increased availability of adaptive fashion options,” wrote 3p’s Amrich. “Previously, adaptive children’s clothing was only available if you could sew or hire a tailor. There were some small vendors available online (like on Etsy), but there was no economy of scale, so prices were extremely high for many families.”

So why was Tesla snubbed at that summer White House event?

Why the White House Banned Tesla From Its Big EV Announcement (Tina Casey, August 2021) President Biden had called leading auto industry stakeholders to the White House last summer for a new announcement on vehicle emissions, and Tesla was conspicuous by its absence. The snub seemed to make no sense considering the Tesla’s lead position in the electric vehicle (EV) field. Some have suggested that Tesla was ghosted for its anti-union position, but other key factors could have been in play, wrote Casey, 3p’s senior writer.

The business community has become quiet about immigration reform

As the Battle Over U.S. Immigration Reform Heats Up, Business Stays Largely Silent (Mary Mazzoni, October 2021) In January, more than 180 top companies and other organizations released a statement in favor of bipartisan immigration reform. A month later, after a bipartisan pair of senators introduced the latest iteration of the Dream Act, another coalition of more than 100 companies and trade associations urged Congress to pass it. Even as congressional Democrats worked to pass the more robust U.S. Citizenship Act, many kept the door open for a piecemeal approach to reform, a sentiment that also seemed to resonate with big businesses. Since those bipartisan talks fizzled out, however, it has been largely crickets on the issue from the private-sector side. Mazzoni had a simple question: Why was that?

Image credit: Markus Winkler via Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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