The Strategy Behind Sustainability 3.0

I am not a fan of these 2.0/3.0/4.0 monikers. (Anyone remember Web 2.0?) But the new article by Yvon Chouinard, Jib Ellison, and Rick Ridgeway in the October 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review uses the term Sustainability 3.0 to describe the world that could be brought into being by the success of the apparel and footwear Value Chain Index (VCI) they’ve been working on through the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

They envision a word in which brands and retailers adopt a standardized, trusted system for rating the environmental impacts of consumer products. (They say that manufacturers representing some 30% of the world market for apparel and footwear are already members of the coalition, with another company joining every week.)

Broad-based adoption would raise consumer awareness of the system and begin to foster greater consumer demand for products with light environmental footprints. Greater consumer awareness would ultimately drive politicians to give greater heed to consumers’ desires for a sustainable economy. Politicians’ engagement would in turn lead to the creation of comprehensive regulations that would require improved environmental performance from companies and would require them to internalize environmental costs. Finally, this would again shape consumer preferences. And the cycle continues.

The diagram is how I visualize the strategy they describe. While it may play out differently than this nice circle suggests, the initiative is definitely pointing in the right direction.

What do you think?

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Filed under ecosystem services, Life Cycle Assessment, sustainability

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