Who’s Who in Sustainability?

The current state of sustainability is like the settlement of the American West. In the 1800s, the American West was a frontier waiting to be explored. As settlers moved west, there was no authority, no guarantees, and plenty of unknowns facing pioneers, miners, and traders. In the great unknown of the American West, many organizations grew to prominence taking risk in uncharted territory.

Like the American West of the 1800s, sustainability in the 21st century lacks authority, has no guarantees, and presents many unknowns to businesses and governments just beginning to explore it. Also like the American West, sustainability today is a frontier full of immense potential.

Sustainability Organizations

There are many groups dedicated to advancing sustainability. This page provides you with an overview of some, but not all, of the organizations defining sustainability today. This listing will certainly change as the market develops, but here is a brief summary of the most well-known leaders in the space:

The Global Reporting Initiative
The World Resource Institute
International Society of Sustainability Professionals

Despite the wonderful work produced by these organizations, the sustainability industry as a whole has lacked a dominant authority, dominant standard, and a consistent set of terms and beliefs. Sure, at a high level, many organizations have agreed on the same metrics for defining success. It is these high-level preferences that have provided an overarching framework within which companies and organizations have worked toward achieving internal sustainability goals.

The Global Reporting Initiative

GRI Sustainability Reporting InitiativeThe Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) mission is to create conditions for the transparent and reliable exchange of sustainability information through the development and continuous improvement of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework.

Most Fortune 500 and governmental organizations follow the GRI’s reporting framework for sustainability.

Learn more about the Global Reporting Initiative.

World Resources Institute (WRI)

WRI Greenhouse Gas ProtocolThe World Resources Institute, in partnership with the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, has developed the internationally accepted and the most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standard.

The WRI Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) sets international standards on greenhouse gas accounting and reporting. The GHG Protocol provides the framework for government programs and corporate greenhouse gas inventories worldwide.

Learn more about the World Resources Institute.

International Society of Sustainability Professionals

international society of sustainability professionals logoThe International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) is the world's leading professional association of sustainability professionals. This organization works to make sustainability standard practice through empowering professionals to advance sustainability in businesses and communities around the globe. As a professional association, ISSP improves the skills of sustainability practitioners through ISSP Sustainability Professional Certification, education, knowledge sharing, research, and professional credentials.

Learn more about the International Society of Sustainability Professionals

Other Organizations Worth Noting

Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) – Launched in 1999, the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes are the first global indexes tracking the financial performance of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide. Based on the cooperation of Dow Jones Indexes and SAM they provide asset managers with reliable and objective benchmarks to manage sustainability portfolios.

The Carbon Disclosure Project – The Carbon Disclosure Project,, representing 300 large institutional investors worldwide and more than $41 trillion in funds under management, investigates the emissions strategies of companies.  This is one example of investor pressure for sustainability creating different costs of capital depending on a company's level of emissions.

The Forest Stewardship Council – The FSC sets international standards for responsible forest management.  Over the past 13 years more than 90 million hectares in more than 70 countries have been certified according to its standards.

The Electronic Industry Code of Conduct – This code has been adopted and implemented by the world’s leading electronics brands and their suppliers.

The Business Social Compliance Initiative – A broad business-driven platform for the improvement of social compliance in all supplier countries and for all consumer goods with a membership comprising more than 80 companies.

The Suppliers Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) – A web-based system for companies to maintain data on labor practices at production sites, supported by a group of UK retailers and suppliers including Geest, Marks & Spencer, Northern Foods, RHM, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Uniq and Waitrose. SEDEX covers 13,000 suppliers and is adding 500 each month.

California Climate Action Registry – The California Climate Action Registry is a program of the Climate Action Reserve and serves as a voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) registry to protect and promote early actions to reduce GHG emissions by organizations. The California Registry has provided leadership on climate change by developing and promoting credible, accurate, and consistent GHG reporting standards and tools for organizations to measure, monitor, third-party verify and reduce their GHG emissions consistently across industry sectors and geographical borders.

The Climate Registry (TCR) – THE CLIMATE REGISTRY is a nonprofit collaboration among North American states, provinces, territories and Native Sovereign Nations that sets consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions into a single registry.

Western Climate Initiative – The WCI is a collaboration of independent jurisdictions working together to identify, evaluate, and implement policies to tackle climate change at a regional level. This is a comprehensive effort to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, spur investment in clean-energy technologies that create green jobs and reduce dependence on imported oil.

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