In the 20th anniversary issue of Ethical Corporation magazine, we look at how the sustainability agenda has evolved - and where it needs to go in the next 20 years
We have a special issue celebrating 20 years of Ethical Corporation by bringing you commentary from some of the journalists, columnists and interviewees who have featured in its pages over the years.
They include some of the most influential voices in sustainability, setting the agenda two decades ago and today: John Elkington, David Grayson, Mike Barry, Oliver Balch, Simon Zadek, Emma Howard Boyd, Mark Wade, Peter Knight, Solitaire Townsend and Arlo Brady.
We’ve asked our contributing columnists to reflect on how the business case for sustainability has evolved since 2001, and where they see it heading in the critical 20 years ahead.
And what rings loud and clear from these pages is that what started as CSR has turned into CPR: urgent measures that companies need to take before they are engulfed by the twin crises of climate change and escalating biodiversity loss.
For many companies the risks are not only reputational but physical, as the mounting impacts of global warming threaten access to water and other resources they need to continue their operations.
As the Environment Agency’s Emma Howard Boyd says in her column, “it will be a case of adapt or die”.
Ethical Corporation was a true pioneer when it was introduced by Toby Webb in December 2001 as the “first independent by-industry, for-industry briefing on the business case for corporate social and environmental responsibility”.
Twenty years on, the magazine is still going strong. We have a brilliant sub-editor in Karen Luckhurst and hugely talented designer in Sarah Redman, as well as our expert contributing writers. Importantly, the magazine hasn’t lost its fearlessness about calling out companies on their myriad of negative impacts, including pollution and human rights abuses, as well as helping highlight best practice from the companies that are genuine leaders.
Nor, as Mike Barry points out in his column, has it lost its willingness to “unpack complex issues, and propose solutions that are stretching and often intimidating”, even for the relative few who were working in the field when he was developing Marks & Spencer’s ground-breaking Plan A.
Today, sustainability is no longer the stuff of the pioneers, with more than 1,000 companies having set the most ambitious science-based targets, and many more looking to do so.
Ethical Corporation is not alone in covering the business and climate beat – far from it. But with the devil in the delivery of net-zero, I think the approach of diving deep into complex sustainability issues in The Ethical Corporation magazine (renamed this year to add the definite article and now quarterly), is needed now more than ever, alongside our monthly news analysis in The Sustainable Business Review.
So happy birthday to The Ethical Corporation, and happy holidays to all our readers. We’re looking forward to continuing to be a critical friend to business in 2022 and far beyond.
CSR sustainable business climate energy COP26 nature-based solutions