US politics trumped Brexit in Ethical Corporation's review of the stories that had the greatest impact on companies in a turbulent year

When we started planning this end of the year issue, asking Ethical Corporation’s team of expert writers to explore the 10 issues that shaped sustainability in 2016, I thought Brexit would be the cover story. But like a storm gathering force over the course of a turbulent year, the biggest shock came at the end: American voters’ decision last month to send bombastic outsider Donald Trump to the White House, threatening to undo decades of global progress on sustainability and globalisation and usher in a new world order. So sorry, Brexit, you were Trumped.

The list is:

1 Trump tsunami leaves CSR at sea

2 Points of light in fog over Brexit

3 Growing collaboration to beat climate change

4 Circular economy picks up speed

5 Energy storage taking centre stage

6 China’s leadership on green finance

7 The global crackdown on corporate governance

8 The food waste revolution

9 Big data’s impact on the supply chain

10 How the SDGs are transforming corporate reporting


The growing focus on human rights didn’t make our top 10, but it is the subject of an interview with John Morrison, chief executive of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, which has just published its annual list of the top 10 issues that will shape the business and human rights agenda for the coming year. Amid the growing backlash against globalisation, evidenced by Brexit in the UK and Trump’s ascendancy in the US, Morrison began our interview with an admission: ““We have really all failed, those of us who have been working in business and human rights for the past 15 years, to communicate the relevance of business to wider society.”

Ethical Corporation’s managing director, Liam Dowd, picks out the gems from Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summits in London, New York and Singapore in 2016, while our regular columnist, Peter Knight of Context, finds nine reasons to be cheerful in 2017. In NGO Voices, Dr Nick Hill of the Zoological Society of London looks at how the Net-Works partnership with carpet maker Interface, judged best company in Ethical Corporation’s awards this year, is empowering fishing communities to protect marine biodiversity. And Oliver Balch’s Deconstructing CSR column tackles something we will all surely need for 2017: resilience theory. 

2017 will bring some big changes for Ethical Corporation as well. From next month the pdf version of the magazine will adopt a new, more slim-line format, doing deep dives into two big issues every month, with additional features, analysis and opinion pieces appearing on the website. We will continue to increase our coverage of news, with our WeeklyWatch and CSR Cheatsheet being updated every week. You can see the editorial calendar here.

We will kick off January by examining how companies, both in Europe and North America, are driving sustainability out of their CSR departments and into the boardroom and shop floor. And we will look at how companies are responding to the large numbers of disaffected citizens who feel they have been marginalised by the forces of globalisation, giving rise to Trump and Brexit.

We will also feature an interview with sustainability éminence grise John Elkington, and an excerpt from his new book commissioned by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, Breakthrough Business Models. Elkington, who won Ethical Corporation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, argues that the entire sustainability industry must undergo a radical reinvention, with a shift in mindset from incrementalism to an understanding that capitalism can only survive if it adopts business models that are part of wider social and natural systems. As we head into a hugely uncertain 2017, with a vacuum of progressive political leadership, such a kick up the backside may be just want business needs.

Merry Christmas.

Terry Slavin


PS I am intrigued to hear what readers think about our top 10. Please use the comments box below, or email me at with your views on whether there are any burning issues that we have missed.


Trump  Brexit  climate  CSR  sustainability 

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