Alec Lager reports back from the 2012 Ceres Annual Conference

For more than a decade Ceres has hosted an Annual Conference which brings together representatives from business, investment and public policy organizations to brainstorm solutions to the world’s most pressing sustainability issues. This year’s two-day forum covered topics ranging from energy efficiency finance and water risk, to corporate governance and the redefinition of materiality. Alec Lager attended both days of the conference, noting a few key themes and outcomes of the gathering:


Among the principal messages of this year’s Ceres conference: industry collaboration is an essential driver of system change. Companies, governments and nonprofits can no longer afford to take siloed approaches to sustainability – the imperatives are too great, and the timescales too short for broad sustainability initiatives and best practices to exist in parallel. Plenary keynote speaker Jeremy Rifkin notes, specifically, that the need for smart grid developments approximating an “energy internet” will require bold new public, private, and consumer partnerships.

Supply chain sustainability

The growing awareness of supply chain impacts was made abundantly clear in the standing room only workshop “Great Expectations: Building a Sustainable Supply Chain.” Participants covered difficult topics including supply chain climate resilience, improving workers’ lives in manufacturing facilities, and creating distributed energy networks. All told, the session yielded more questions than answers, and spoke to the need for deeper discussion and analysis of supply chain sustainability.

Oil and water

The two sleeping giants of oil and water will become the inevitable foci of resource wars. In 2011, the IEA noted suspicions that peak oil may have been reached (launching the race for the second half of global oil reserves, still in the ground), while research from the GRACE Satellite System shows accelerated groundwater depletion in many parts of the world. Keep an eye out for the new documentary Last Call at the Oasis: Solutions to the Water Crisis.  


To learn more about Ceres or register for the 2012 Annual Conference, visit

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