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  • Writer's pictureLarry Washington

10 things to be thankful for after 10 years of sustainability work.

Working in sustainability is a unique profession. The work can be mind-blowingly frustrating sometimes at any level. From leadership that doesn’t value the possibilities of sustainable thinking to budgets that feel like table scraps, sustainability work can dole out a special style of torment all its own. So what keeps the soldiers of sustainability going full steam ahead?


There is value in everything we do when focused on sustainability, right down to the every day fulfillment that comes from the work itself. So in this week of thankfulness I’ve reflected on the value of my last decade working in the sustainability and wellness world and want to share a few things we can all be thankful for. Hopefully these will get a few head nods and strengthen our resolve when facing the next set of obstacles that are sure to come.

10 things to be thankful for after 10 years of sustainability work.

1. More education.

The first sustainability focused jobs started popping up around 20 years ago but it has been in the last decade that sustainability has grown into a broad career possibility. The quality and quantity of sustainability education continues to increase. That means our future business leaders will rise through the ranks with a deep understanding of sustainability’s value to their business.

2. More awareness.

It has been amazing to see growth over the last decade in the awareness of sustainability’s value among consumers. That awareness has lead to more consumer demand and that has changed the business world forever. We should be encouraged with the growth in awareness coming from education outside of the classroom, in the real world.

3. More definition.

A growing understanding of the ideas that give sustainability its power have moved the consumer from a single-minded focus on “Green” to a more true view of environment, wellness, and sustainable business practices. A broader understanding like this means a broader chance for application.

4. More case studies.

Consumer awareness has guided companies to some amazing accomplishments. Sustainability case studies were tough to come by a decade ago but today we have an avalanche of remarkable stories with more being added every day. The more success we show the more other businesses and individuals will see the power of sustainability.

5. More conferences.

Just in the US, the number of conferences focused on sustainability, wellness, and good corporate practices has exploded in the last decade. BSR, Greenbiz, SOCAP, Sustainable Brands and many others are increasing the importance of sustainable thinking across the business world. Yes, these conferences tend to preach to the choir but the sheer number that we now have is testament to the gaining strength of sustainable thinking.

6. More budget.

Yes, I said more budget. We’ve seen sustainability move from the “nice to have” to “must have” category. I’ve seen first hand how budgets have grown over the last decade. Yes, we’re still fighting for budget but there is definite progress that we can applaud and that bodes well for the future. Just look at the number of sustainability departments that now exist that did not just a decade ago.

7. More strategy and mission.

Seeing more companies hold true to stronger value systems has been one of the most inspirational things to happen over the last decade. Patagonia’s “don’t buy more” direction, Timberland‘s transparency, CVS‘s decision to place people before profit, Coca-Cola’s 100% water replenishment announcement are just a few of the efforts over the last few years that should give those in the sustainability business world hope for the future.

8. More attention to issues.

Companies are seeing the value in social, environmental, and wellness issues now more than ever. The old view of profit is shifting to a broader interpretation that continues to grow the value of long-term good business practices. It’s an amazing and obvious shift over the last decade that doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

9. More transparency.

Forced by the expansion of the digital world and consumer demand, companies have accepted a more open nature or have been dragged into it. We’ve seen the closed business practices of old fall away over last 10 years. That’s one great thing to come from newfound consumer power online.

10. More cool.

This is maybe the most inspirational thing of all. Patagonia, Tesla, Burton, even Woolworths are showing us how sustainability has crossed over from the fringe. Cool means care. The higher the cool factor the higher the care factor.

We’ve seen sustainable thinking grow at an amazing rate over the last decade and it doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon. So when you hit those roadblocks and disappointments, when the sustainable momentum seems to have stalled in your company, when the budgets leave you wanting, don’t forget to take a look back and see where we’ve come from.

So take time today and pat yourself on the back for many jobs well done and then get back to work changing the world for the better. There’s a lot to be thankful for and a lot more work to do.

I wonder what you’ve seen in sustainability work over the last 10 years that gives you hope for the future. Are there any other things to be thankful for you can think of? Let me know in the comments.

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