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Reports 15 Nov 2017

Then, Now & What’s Next

SustainAbility at 30

By Denise Delaney, Kate Newbury-Helps, Jonathan Sim and Franki Wiley

Sustainability is 30. To mark this milestone we are charting how in that time the developed world has changed and is changing. We look at how people have affected everything from our landscapes and physical world to the economy and broader society.

And we explore the opportunities and possibilities of a regenerative and equal future where we meet, and possibly exceed, our 2030 Global Goal obligations and harness these developments for the better of all life on the planet.

About SustainAbility & the sustainability movement

SustainAbility was founded by activists John Elkington and Julia Hailes in 1987, the same year that the Brundtland Commission (the UN World Commission on Environment and Development) published Our Common Future and its foundational definition of sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” SustainAbility has helped define and evolve the sustainable development agenda and the role of business within it since.

We pioneered in areas now common to business, including engaging with stakeholders and reporting on impacts (positive or negative), and continued to build our think tank of independent, agenda-shaping research and advocacy.

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In 1988 John and Julia wrote the Green Consumer Guide which sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Business was just waking up to social and environmental issues, usually through controversy.

Later, John introduced the concept and coined the term “triple bottom line” (otherwise noted as TBL or 3BL), at its core an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial.

We pioneered in areas now common to business, including engaging with stakeholders and reporting on impacts (positive or negative), and continued to build our think tank of independent, agenda-shaping research and advocacy that enables companies to transform how they think and do business.

With greater connectivity, and awareness – and even the mainstreaming of the term “sustainability” – we have been helping our clients to identify and prioritize issues across their value chains, to develop and roll out strategies to address them, and to partner with stakeholders, supporting them to set and achieve ever-more ambitious goals.

Throughout our history, we have worked with business and its stakeholders to foster trust – a fundamental enabler of a more just and sustainable economy, leadership – the courage and ability to go first and farthest, to rally others to do what’s required; and innovation – new ideas, new tools, and whole new ways of creating and delivering value.

About the infographic

At the milestone of 30, we set out to create a fun interactive infographic charting how the developed world has changed in that time and is changing. We look at how people have changed the world – from our landscapes and physical world to the economy and broader society. We consider changes in our climate, lifestyles, where and how we work, how we access and use energy, how we are connected and communicate, what we eat, and global migration. And we explore the opportunities and possibilities of a regenerative and equal future where we meet, and possibly exceed, our 2030 Global Goal obligations and harness these developments for the better.

We invite you to scroll through our interactive infographic. Reflect on 1987 (the year of our founding), today and a possible 2047. What do you remember from 1987? What surprises you? What do you hope for 2047?

Click on the pulsating dots to read and view the data that helped build up our pictures of these eras. And share your thoughts using the social media links provided.

Find out more

Radar Magazine

Then, Now & What's Next: SustainAbility at 30

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