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New Research Calls for Less Talk, More Action to #MoveTheDate

Image credit: Global Footprint Network

Today, August 1, marks our earliest yet Earth Overshoot Day — the day humanity has used nature’s resource budget for the year — since its establishment in 1987.

Despite increasing awareness of our planetary boundaries and social thresholds, we’ve not only not managed to reverse it, we’re making it worse.

So, are businesses holding themselves accountable? London-based sustainability consultancy Article 13’s latest annual sustainability practitioner research, released today, examined what 200 big companies are measuring and reporting, and the targets they are setting, for the past three years. They also conducted over 100 interviews with leading sustainability practitioners.

Among the findings:

  • There’s plenty of measuring going on, but targets are lacking
  • 57 percent of targets are set for 2020
  • Continued increase in activity for high-profile topics such as climate (carbon and energy), pollution (and waste), water and gender equality
  • No evidence of any targets set against the ocean acidification boundary or political voice threshold
  • Despite wider adoption of the SDGs for reporting, the study found few companies setting targets and measures for access to health, food and housing

More action on corporate commitments is needed to help reverse the Earth Overshoot Date.

On the plus side, the study saw the start of a shift, from seeing planetary boundaries and social thresholds as a risk, to viewing them as an opportunity for future business value. Focusing on these opportunities with emergent generations is a powerful way to address the dangerous direction of Earth Overshoot Day.

With this in mind and a 2030 focus required for corporate target-setting, Article 13 also asked Gen Z — arguably the most important generation of planetary stewards — what they thought, introducing them to the real science and social economics behind our planet’s dwindling resources and the potential consequences they might be facing in 2030.

It’s been well documented that Gen Z are hyper-aware and concerned about human impacts on the planet and each other — which is why these 17 million soon-to-be-voters were also the perfect group to engage to speak out about issues such as climate change: So, in May, 17 of New York’s top marketing, advertising and communications agencies formed a coalition with leading climate scientists and non-profits — and hundreds of high school graduates across the US — to motivate urgent and collective action to address climate change. The initiative, Donate:60, was a student-led nationwide campaign asking valedictorians and class leaders to donate 60 seconds of their commencement speeches to the issues that matter most to their generation: along with action on climate change, messaging on safety from gun violence; and equality across race, gender and sexual orientation as issues the students felt compelled to address. More than 250 students heeded the call to action spanning 136 cities in 24 states. The primarily digital campaign leveraged social media to amplify the message of #donate60seconds and reach hundreds of thousands of student voters across the United States.


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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