Reflections On 2012 Sustainability Milestones

2012 was a big year for sustainability with major world events such as Rio+20 and the Summer Olympics and natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy propelling the conversation forward on a global platform. While the debate surrounding both causes and solutions continues to swirl, what is definite is that sustainability is part of a global dialogue. 

Here are some of my favorite sustainability milestones of 2012:  

  • A Changing Belief in Climate Change: According to a recent study from Yale and George Mason University, more than 74% of Americans believe that global warming is affecting weather in the U.S. As Morra Aarons-Mele writes in a recent Harvard Business Review post, “At this level of acceptance, climate change is no longer "debatable." And companies get it too. As a recent report, “Power Forward: Why the World’s Largest Companies are Investing in Renewable Energy,” from Ceres, Calvert Investments and the WWF shows, the majority of Fortune 100 companies have set a renewable energy commitment, a greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitment or both. Post-Hurricane Sandy, there is an actual debate about the connection between climate change and extreme weather over the past few years. Emphasis on actual debate, because it’s no longer just the environmental extremists or fringe scientists screaming “climate change!” It’s mainstream politicians, UN scientists, and even disaster insurance companies

  • Rio+20: This past June, world leaders and thousands of participants from the private sector and NGOs gathered in Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) with the goal of creating a plan to ensure environmental protection, advance social equity and reduce poverty. One of the biggest results of the 10-day conference was the creation of the non-binding document, “the Future We Want”, essentially a renewal of political commitment to sustainable development by the heads of state of 192 governments in attendance. Rio+20 was not without controversy though, and there were numerous protests held outside the conference to shed light on issues such as the role of women in the sustainability movement.  

  • The Summer Olympics: Held in London, the 2012 Summer Olympics proved to be the most sustainable Olympic Games held to date. The organizers made sustainability a priority from the beginning, stating that they were focused on reducing the lasting impact of the venues that hold the event games. A notable example of this success is that the 2012 Olympic Stadium was built using one-third of the steel that was used to build the stadium in Beijing. London 2012 was the first Olympic Games to measure its carbon footprint and the organizers took deliberate steps to green their supply chain. They set a bar for sustainability at one of the largest and most public events on the planet that will hopefully be met and exceeded at future games and world events. 

What are your favorite sustainability milestone of 2012? Let me know in the comments or at @Measure4What.

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