Top 10 Movers and Shakers in Sustainability – 2013

There have been many developments in sustainability this year and we have enjoyed reading other posts about 2013 recaps and upcoming trends for 2014. For our year end review we would like to focus on the individuals, companies, groups, states, or cities that changed the way things are done and are setting examples for a more sustainable future. Please note that our list is not in any specific order and is a bit U.S. focused since that is where we are currently based. That being said, here is our list for the Top 10 Movers and Shakers of 2013:

1. Alta Bicycle Share/Public Bike System Company (PBSC). Large-scale bike share programs have changed the way we interact and experience cities. They represent the new and thriving ‘sharing economy’ and allow city dwellers and tourists alike to be more sustainable. This partnership created the first solar-powered bike share system in the world, and has close to 20,000 bikes on the street globally. Bike systems in the Alta/PBSC family include the 2013 launch of San Francisco and NYC programs. Other locations include: London, Washington, D.C./Arlington, VA; Boston, MA; Minneapolis, MN; Melbourne, Australia; Chattanooga, Tennessee, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, Canada. Chicago in the works.

2. State of California.  California has taken the lead in addressing climate change this year through agreements with China, and also Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia through the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy. California put into place an extensive energy storage plan and carbon trading scheme celebrated its one year anniversary in 2013. The much needed reforms of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) were also passed. It is also worth mentioning that although many developments had already begun, Governor Jerry Brown’s environmentalist spirit makes it easier for California to keep making strides, illustrating the possibilities of what states can do to address upcoming environmental concerns with strong leadership.

3. President Obama. Although many people criticize the Obama administration for not coming up with climate legislation, President Obama makes our Top 10 this year, as he has made significant moves in regard to climate change using his executive powers and not relying on a resistant Congress. From his recent announcement calling for federal agencies to get 20% of their energy from renewable sources by fiscal year 2020, his National Climate Plan to prepare the U.S. for climate impacts, limiting emissions from new power plants, and ending U.S. financing to new coal plants abroad, President Obama has definitely earned a spot as a Mover & Shaker this year, making great progress in combating climate change. Let’s just hope he continues on this path and rejects the Keystone Pipeline in Spring 2014.

4. Tesla. Named 2013 MotorTrend car of the year and the safest car ever made, Tesla redefined the electric car. This is innovation at its best- zero emission electric car that looks fun to drive. Founded in 2003 this Silicon Valley company took the world by storm in 2013- selling out of their Roadster vehicle and cars now sold in over 30 countries. Vehicles can charge from typical household 110 or 200 volt outlets and special high-speed charging stations, providing a range of up to 300 miles. Although there are still constraints to electric cars in the U.S. such as long charging times and prevalence of changing stations, Telsa opened a new chapter in sustainable transportation and broke down stereotypes by taking environmentalism to a whole new level of classy and cool.

5. Tom Steyer. Another mover and shaker that defied stereotypes is Tom Steyer- the hedge fund billionaire, philanthropist, and environmentalist. Steyer left his full-time position to lobby against the Keystone XL Pipeline and for climate change action. Steyer has been engaged politically to protect climate change legislation in California and pushing for it across the U.S. LA Times just called Steyer ‘liberal’s answer to the Koch brothers’, which is what environmental policy needed desperately. Koch brothers’ lobbying has been detrimental to environmental issues for decades, but maybe they have finally met their match. Steyer and his wife are also members of The Giving Pledge and founded a community development bank in Oakland- now OnePacificCoast Bank.

6. Bogota, Colombia. Bogota is emerging as the new, sustainable Latin American city and the focus is on transportation. Bogota won the City Climate Leadership award for their TransMilenio public transportation and E-Taxis system in 2013. Considering the economic and social problems that plagued most Latin American countries in the 1980s and 1990s, Colombia has come a very long way and is emerging as leader for sustainable development in the region. Although there are many challenges to overcome, Bogota is a mover and shaker because this city is providing us a glimpse into what is possible in addressing the relationship between environmental and social issues and defining the future of Latin America.

7. World Resources Institute (WRI)’s Aqueduct. The Aqueduct global water risk mapping tool or atlas released this year allows private sector, governments, and NGOs to develop their understanding and ability to address water risk, which is the next big issue. With extensive research, data combines 12 water risk indicators to create maps. Users can look at specific indicators such as seasonal variability, industry, location, make custom weights, and access the most up to date water risk news.  WRI and the Aqueduct tool enable water risk management to be taken to the next level; it met a demand that was needed in 2013 to move ahead in 2014.

8. Greenpeace Arctic 30. In an attempt to peacefully bring attention to oil drilling and climate change, a group of 30 brave activists were arrested and held by Russian authorities for ‘piracy’. Twenty-two of the activists were detained since September 19th waiting for an investigation and hearing to take place. The Greenpeace activists received amnesty and were just released in time for the holidays (in what some call a ‘PR stunt’). No matter the reason for release, we are happy the activists are free and appreciate their dedication to addressing environmental issues all over the world. The Arctic 30‘s courageous escapade deserves a place on the Top 10.

9. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Launched at the end of 2012, SASB has taken CSR to the next level in 2013 with its ground-breaking work developing industry specific accounting standards for environmental, social, and governance (ESG or non-financial data). Standards designed to complement financial data reported to SEC and facilitate integrated reporting providing investors with a comprehensive view of how companies are managing sustainability issues material to their industry. The company level comparisons and industry benchmarks that SASB allows for will fuel competition and push sustainability ahead; moving and shaking private sector environmental and social performance.

10. University students and investors on fossil fuel investments. 2013  saw two groups of individuals standing up for a long-term perspective when it comes to fossil fuels and addressing climate change. Student-led fossil fuel divestment campaigns popped up all over the U.S. calling for divestment of universities’ endowments; groups at Cornell, Harvard, Brown, Yale, Duke and Dartmouth gathered thousands of signatures and held teach-ins and rallies (just to name a few big ones). Divest Fossil Fuels: National Student Network launched to further coordinate collective action. In October, a group of 70 investors representing more than USD 3 trillion wrote letters to the 45 biggest oil, gas, coal & electric companies demanding information on how these companies are going to address carbon risks (organized by CERES). Change is in the air and thanks to students and investors for leveraging collective action!

Thanks to you for taking the time to read our 2013 list of Movers and Shakers. If there are any other actors that you feel deserve to be on this list (especially outside of the U.S.) please let us know!

Happy Holidays, Cheers to 2014, and keep on moving and shaking!

 -The Sustainability Co-Op

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