Guest Post: Boldness: The Key Lesson From the Pioneers of Sustainability

Guest Post: Boldness: The Key Lesson From the Pioneers of Sustainability

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Friday, September 27, 2013 - 4:15pm




Whether you refer to the field as sustainability, corporate social responsibility, or shared value, today social and environmental issues are more a part of everyday business than ever before.  We are now at a point where we can look back and celebrate the history of the field. And it’s in that spirit that I collaborated with Ellen Weinreb of the Weinreb Group to publish a report today where we identified six pioneers in two different categories of Chief Executive Officers and Thought Leaders.

The report “Pioneers of Sustainability: Lessons from Trailblazers” is the result of a survey of prominent leaders in the field of sustainability conducted by the Weinreb Group. Among the Chief Executive Officer Pioneers, survey respondents selected Lee Scott of Walmart, Paul Polman of Unilever, and the late Ray Anderson of Interface. In category of “Thought Leaders,” sustainability professionals chose Paul Hawken, Peter Senge, and Michael Porter for his work in corporate strategy and in Shared Value.

We had the opportunity and honor to interview all five pioneers plus Jim Hartzfeld who was a colleague and friend of the late Ray Anderson.  The pioneers shared their perspective on their work, the direction of sustainability, and some of the lessons they have learned along the way.

Through our interviews with them, I was struck by the notion that each of these leaders champions a trait that is often missing in sustainability: boldness. Too often sustainability professionals get bogged down in activities that, while often important, lack a power to make iconic shifts in the marketplace. Be they metric dashboards, wrestling with the company’s legal team over specific words in public statements, or spending all day in meeting after meeting after meeting.

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James Epstein-Reeves is a Chicago-based expert on corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, and cause-marketing. As president of Do Well Do Good, LLC, he and his company guide leaders in for-profit and non-profit organizations to focus their initiatives in social responsibility,  management, fundraising, communication, and social media. He is also a writer for the Corporate Social Responsibility blog and a video commentator for CSR Unscripted through 3BL Media.


This post originally appeared on the Citizen Polity blog. Distributed with permission of the author.

CATEGORY: Environment