Prior to 2008 it seemed every company was talking about sustainability. It was unprecedented the number of corporations that were putting out sustainability reports or hiring senior executives responsible for corporate "green" strategy. That changed with the financial crisis.
In a few short months the "green" movement was replaced with concerns about jobs and saving the financial system. This is is a quote from a blog post I did back in 2008 shortly after President Obama was elected to his first term.
Remember a few months back when oil peaked around $140 a barrel. Of course you do…But do you also remember the momentum behind the green movement due to the reality of limited resources and escalating energy prices. Everything looked possible- a shift to renewable energy, energy conversation, higher gas mileage vehicles, and climate change legislation.
Now, only a few months later and oil is around $60-70 a barrel (I just filled up my gas tank for $1.90 per gallon) We saw an economic meltdown the likes that has not been seen since the Great Depression.
While the economy floundered, so did the green movement. Environmental issues were an after thought in the two presidential elections. President Obama slowed down his aggressive push toward climate change regulations.
Now it appears the economy is on firm enough footing that the sustainability movement is getting back its mojo. For example, take the recent New York Times Article discussing First Energy’s agreement with activist shareholders that want lower carbon emissions from the utility.
As part of an agreement reached with shareholders, First Energy agreed to study and report on what it could do to help meet President Obama’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
The Times notes that the agreement "comes as investors are increasingly pressuring corporations into action on climate change." In the 2013 proxy season, "shareholder submissions grew more than 6 percent compared with the year before, with environmental and social proposals representing the largest category, at just under 40 percent."
As of today, the price of oil crossed back over the $100 per barrel threshold. As the economy improves commodity prices will again rise. Higher prices for raw materials and energy pushes companies to think more aggressively about conserving resources.
As we head into 2014, my bet is you will start hearing that "sustainability" buzz word more and more.