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Dawn is (still) Breaking in the Sustainable Century.

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Twelve years into the industrial revolution Cromptons’s spinning mule and Watt’s steam engine were years from being patented. Within 25 years however the face Western economies would forever change.

Twelve years into the Sustainable Century consumer patterns, industrial tragedies, resource scarcity, sustainably certifications, government regulation, and stakeholder group pressure (with the aid of a little thing called the internet) conspire to make sustainability something companies simply cannot ignore.

But don’t uncork the campaign yet….

The many good donation deeds and Big Four savings programs (H20, CO2, Energy, Resource Use) helped companies advance CSR performance in 2012, but few are realizing gains to be had from sustainability strategies that can result in breakaway competitive advantage (Nike, Marks and Spenser) and exponential CSR Brand Value enhancement (Cemex, EcoPetrol).

As we saw in 2012, CSR is not about doing one thing or another well, it’s about doing many things right at once. Just ask Wal-Mart. It has world class environmental programmes, but has substantial unresolved community, labour, and corruption “challenges” (the latter of which will cost it about $200M in a new anti-bribery programme and billions in potential US federal foreign corruption practice fines); or ask BP, whose legal bills headed north of $60B in 2012.

Tragic loss of life in Asian factory fires this year remind us much remains of the industrial age, particularly in the developing world. These sad events portend a major shift in 2013: the sustainabilization of supply chains (S2SC). Lead by the GRI G4, S2SC will, like steam in the 1750s, revolutionize sustainability in developing economies affecting leading and smaller firms equally.

Most developing world companies will stubbornly embrace 20th century business practice, but an enlightened few — perhaps through a new Mayan consciousness – will seek to maximize returns, corporate value and impacts through sustainability. We will see many and great seeds of this transcendent behavior sown in 2013.

Post Script: This article published in Spanish for Expok News Sustentabilidad y RSE (http://www.expoknews.com) as a summary of CSR in 2012 and a look forward for 2013. It is available at http://bit.ly/UN8VBJ

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