Top 10 Sustainable Business Trends of 2011

By Jim Jubelirer, Sustainable Futures

My friends Pete May and Joel Makower at GreenBiz have produced their fourth annual edition of the State of Green Business report. The report continues GreenBiz's efforts to measure the environmental impacts of the emerging green economy. This year's report shows a continuing shift in mainstream business: Companies are thinking bigger and longer-term about sustainability. Despite the recession, many companies increased their sustainability investments and publicly made bold commitments.

The State of Green Business report makes the good point that progress in sustainable business has occurred in a hostile political environment and despite poor coverage from mainstream media.

"The general lack of political leadership and will — due in large part to a misguided notion that we can’t afford to consider sustainability during tough economic times — is a stark contrast with the far more enlightened, proactive leadership of some corporate leaders. Much of the greening of business remains an untold secret largely ignored by the mainstream media and, in many cases, not widely discussed even by companies."

To conduct their research, GreenBiz combed through 2,200 news reports, blog posts, opinion pieces, and podcasts they published during 2010. Here are the Top 10 Sustainable Business Trends of 2011:

Consumer Giants Awaken to Green
Without much green marketing, the world's biggest brands are setting bold sustainability goals.

Companies Aim for Zero
Large polluters are earnestly finding ways to reduce their footprint.

Developing World Yanks the Supply Chain
The rare earth crisis and conflict minerals are finding their way into mainstream media and public discourses.

Greener Transport Makes its Move
For more than just the Prius and Volt, greener technologies are emerging for cars, trucks, boat, trains, and planes.

Sustainable Food Becomes a Main Course
Sustainable agriculture is now a mainstream concern - Michelle Obama as First Mom and Gardener-in-Chief adds a boost of credibility

Metrics and Standards Become the Rule
Growing requests from numerous stakeholders is increasing the demand for metrics, despite the lack of uniform standards for reporting.

Toxic Concerns Spur Greener Alternatives
Toxics are increasingly unacceptable and the new field of green chemistry is growing rapidly.

Water Footprinting Makes a Splash
We will learn to live without oil (hopefully sooner instead of later) but we cannot live without water. Water-intensive industries like semiconductors and beverages have already been focusing on their water use and now a wider circle of businesses have become aware of the vital nature of water.

Companies Learn to Close the Loop
Closing the loop means reusing, repurposing, and recycling and companies are getting increasingly sophisticated in their closed loop processes.

Bioplastics Become Material
Did you know that coconut husks, mushroom spores, corn byproducts and others are being used to create replacements for paper, plastic and steel?