The State of Sustainability in America -- Experts Weigh In...

Where are we when it comes to the state of the sustainability movement in the United States? I asked top green business executives, experts and political leaders, who are speaking at the 2012 Sustainable Operations Summit in NYC, what they think is most encouraging as well as what they think is most frustrating about the state of sustainability. Here's what they had to say:

What's Most Encouraging?

The Debate is Over!
"Nearly every large company has shown some commitment to sustainability. They're all engaged on some level now, with most having a senior executive responsible in some way, and most answering questions from CDP and others on climate strategy. In short, the debate about whether sustainability should be a part of the business agenda is mainly over." -- Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold and Green Recovery

Fortune 100 Companies Are Committed to Sustainability
"What I find most encouraging about the current pace of the sustainability movement is the commitment of Fortune 100 companies to invest the resources and make sustainability a key part of their business strategy. This is happening across a wide range of business segments. In July 2011 Coca Cola appointed Beatriz Perez as their Chief Sustainability Officer in support of their 2020 Vision. Companies like UPS, HP, and Walmart continue to raise the performance bar as leaders in the sustainability journey. I think we can accelerate the impact as we continue to collaborate and share our know-how and insights from technology to processes to accomplish collective goals to reduce our environmental impact and help make the world a better place for our customers today and in the future." -- Roger McClendon, Chief Sustainability Officer, YUM! Brands

Sustainability is Converging with Sound Economics
"What I find most encouraging is the way sustainability is converging with sound economics, particularly in terms of the density of settlement patterns (i.e. curtailed sprawl) as well as the field of energy efficiency in buildings." -- David Bragdon, Director of Long Term Planning & Sustainability, City of New York

Technical Innovation is on the Fast Track
"Technical innovation has been outstanding -- from solar to biofuels to batteries to efficiency. More technology has been developed in the past 10 years than the previous 100 years." -- Kevin Surace, CEO, Serious Energy.

What's Most Frustrating?

A Lack of Real Urgency
"....There are almost no companies that have committed enough resources or set goals that match the scale of the problems we face. If you added up all the targets on things like greenhouse gas emissions, it wouldn't be enough. So while most get the basic business case and see some benefit in going green (saving money, answering customer concerns, driving innovation, etc.), there's a lack of real urgency." -- Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold and Green Recovery

Dependency on Venture Capital
"We basically placed an entire retrofit of our energy puzzle on the backs of venture capital. This, of course, in hindsight, was crazy. They need rapid returns. And changing our entire map of energy supply and demand is anything but rapid. Thus, we see a total bust now in the VC world around energy while it is boom times for social media. One can save the world... the other does not." -- Kevin Surace , CEO, Serious Energy.

Rate of Change is Too Slow
"What I find most frustrating about the current pace of sustainability movement is that we are moving too slow. I think we need to increase the rate of change and incorporate the best practices in our businesses faster and broader. We have to focus our efforts across the supply chain to the internal processes of the business to the design details of life cycles of our products. At YUM we are looking at our business holistically and we want to improve our efficiency of how we design, build, operate and maintain our restaurant operations globally. It will help us become a world-class operations company. Our commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility will help us become the defining global company that feeds the world!" -- Roger McClendon, Chief Sustainability Officer, YUM! Brands

Baseless Critiques Still Exist

"What I find most frustrating are the critiques based on ideology and resistant to facts." -- David Bragdon, Director Of Long Term Planning & Sustainability, City of New York