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Sticking With Your New Year's Resolutions? Time to Think Bigger

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With the excitement of the holidays and New Year behind us, we're again faced with getting back into our regular routines and responsibilities (no more food coma or hangover excuses will fly). We're also able to look back a few weeks and assess the progress we've made toward our goals and resolutions for 2012. Whether it is eating healthier, getting back to the gym or sticking to a monthly budget, millions of people around the world are focusing on aspects of their lives that they want to -- need to -- change.

Essentially, each year we're quick to focus on changes that benefit us individually -- until diets slip and reasons to skip the gym pile on (or so I have heard anyway). But why not also take this reflection opportunity to think about some issues that may be a little larger than individuals -- trends that could potentially improve society, community and the planet at large?

San Francisco-based BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), a global non-profit that takes a progressive approach to building a more socially and environmentally responsible world, is thinking about this a lot. Rather than simply writing off business as the problem, they actually work hand-in-hand with more than 300 global companies to accelerate positive social and environmental change across a variety of sustainability issues that corporations need help facing.

Recently, BSR President and CEO Aron Cramer provided key insights that can help anyone who's looking to improve their business's sustainability record this year (as well as catapult corporate reputation). So in a year where the presidential election, Olympic Games and global economic crisis are at the forefront of hearts and minds, let's also think outside our personal bubbles to some global macro trends that, when applied to key sustainability issues, BSR agrees are definitely resolution-worthy:

  • Economy -- Sustainability progress from the last decade continues to face challenges/setbacks amid choppy financial waters. Companies that find ways to achieve and demonstrate progress toward big sustainability goals, even in uncertain economic times, will have the first claim on public trust coming out of the recession.
  • Government -- Faith in government will continue to fall. Companies and organizations that work creatively with NGOs and civil society organizations (who will be struggling to maintain funding), as well as other businesses to find broad-based solutions to sustainability challenges, will emerge as strong thought leaders and admired brands. Never underestimate the power of non-profit networks (which are oftentimes competitive with those of businesses).
  • Consumption -- In a weak economy, sustainable consumption becomes much more relevant. In 2012, companies should declare war on waste (and we're not just talking about trash), working internally and with consumers to reduce the massive amounts of energy and food that is wasted in the "developed" economies. Frankly, communities can't afford it.
  • Technology -- In 2012, the newest communication and measurement technologies can ensure that we have the information we need to achieve massive reductions is our footprint as individuals and institutions. Social media and advanced metrics will have the power to transform conversations and information sharing.

The real progress test this year will be to see how businesses, communities and society at large apply the above trends to the critical issues plaguing the sustainability space. A group of top global business leaders surveyed at BSR's annual conference cite human rights, climate change, workers' rights, and water issues (in that order) as the top priorities for their companies' CSR/sustainability efforts in the year ahead. Plenty of resolutions to be dreamed up in that crop. If it sounds daunting, just think of it as an acceptable opportunity to skip the gym.