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State of Green Business 2013

12 February 2013

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About the report

This sixth annual State of Green Business report includes some significant changes, not just in look and feel but in content.

First and foremost, GreenBiz have partnered with Trucost, a leading research firm focusing on natural capital and sustainability metrics, to revamp the indicators by which progress is assessed in the private sector in addressing global environmental challenges. In the spirit of continuous improvement, GreenBiz have scrapped the set of metrics used for the previous five reports in favor of a more comprehensive and robust set that is global in scope. They cover companies’ natural capital costs, their supply-chain impacts, various measurements of transparency and disclosure, and other things.

Unchanged is the Top Trends section, which looks at where the world of sustainable business is headed, and highlighted below:

Top sustainable business trends of 2013

  • Companies take stock of natural capital
  • Sustainability becomes a matter of risk and resilience
  • Corporate reporting gets integrated
  • The sharing economy makes its mark
  • Commerce gets relocalized
  • M2M enables the rise of greener machines
  • Sustainability goes app crazy
  • Materiality becomes material for investors
  • Companies look past their goals
  • Peak sustainability threatens corporate progress


Last year saw a resurgence of interest in the idea of accounting for “natural capital” — the indispensable stocks of natural resources provided by the planet that are essential for human survival and economic activity. The notion of integrating sustainability reporting with financial reporting — and, in the process, making the two inextricably linked — also got some lift. In both cases, progress is slow and the changes relatively small, but the conversation is changing: These things are now being discussed by some of the world’s largest companies, and not just in passing. In the coming years, they will become part of sustainability’s next wave — a new level of company engagement with the world in which they operate.

As engagement grows, some companies are finding they are able to achieve, even exceed, their sustainability goals. Suddenly, small improvements in energy efficiency seem quaint, compared with the leapfrog advances enabled by advanced technology and systems-level thinking. Some companies are even finding that they’ve set the bar too low.

The question, of course, is what positive changes are actually taking place, and at what speed, scale, and scope. Is the growing engagement of companies sufficient to alter the trajectory of negative environmental and social trend lines — issues like climate change, air quality, the health of aquifers, species extinction, the abundance of topsoil and fisheries, human health and well-being, and all of the other things that make up, for lack of a better term, “the sustainability agenda”?

Why did GreenBiz partner with Trucost?

GreenBiz Group partnered with trucost to bring natural capital metrics to the “State of Green Business” report. Trucost has been valuing natural capital and putting a price on resource use and pollution for more than a decade to help companies and investors address sustainability issues in board room business decisions. Trucost’s Environmental Register, the world’s most comprehensive database of natural capital metrics, provided the data insights for this year’s report, showing that companies became more environmentally efficient over the past five years.

Trucost has analyzed the environmental performance of more than 4,000 companies worldwide and applies an environmental economics methodology to conduct natural capital benchmarking. In this report, those benchmarks have been aggregated for both the S&P 500 index of U.S. companies, and the MSCI World Index covering more than 1,600 companies in 24 developed markets.
Trucost has developed an econometric methodology based on an environmental input-output model to calculate companies’ natural capital impacts and allow for comparisons between all companies, regardless of disclosure levels.