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Landmarks for Sustainability
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Landmarks for Sustainability

Events and Initiatives That Have Changed Our World 

Wayne Visser on behalf of the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
April 2009   200 pp   200 x 160 mm  
paperback   ISBN 978-1-906093-17-4   £25.00  

Alternative formats: eBook (PDF)

Review copies  
A high-impact, quick-reference guide to many of the most critical events and initiatives that have shaped our world, and the sustainable development agenda, over the past 20 years and more.

"... informative, authoritative, reliable ... Each of these capsule accounts is a small treasure beautifully packed with solid information and human drama." William C. Frederick


Landmarks for Sustainability is a high-impact, quick-reference guide to many of the most critical events and initiatives that have shaped our world, and the sustainable development agenda, over the past 20 years and more. These include high-profile historic events — such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Rio Earth Summit, the anti-globalisation protests in Seattle and Genoa and the collapse of Enron — as well as more subtle but no less important developments, such as trends in fairtrade, ethical codes and sustainable investment.

By shining a spotlight on these and other landmark events and initiatives, the book draws into sharp relief the most significant social and environmental challenges of our time — from climate change and the state of the planet to poverty and corruption. Equally importantly, however, more than half of the book is dedicated to constructive global responses, such as the boom in clean technology, the role of the World Economic and World Social Forums, and the growth of ISO 14001 and SA8000 standards.

Each of the 20 chapters follows a similar easy-access full-colour design, with inspiring quotations, compelling photographs, a timeline of associated events, a narrative description of trends, and spotlight features of specific initiatives or events, including charts, factboxes and suggestions for further reading and websites. Also included is the world’s most comprehensive sustainability timeline, listing and dating 190 key sustainability-related events and initiatives that occurred between 1919 and 2008.

All these features combine to make the book an essential and highly accessible resource for managers, teachers, students, government officials, consultants and activists alike. For the first time, these crucial change agents will have a single-source reference book, which is not only packed with useful facts and figures, but is also fascinating to look at and full of inspirational material.


This book — informative, authoritative, reliable — provides a penetrating glance directly into the central core of one of today’s most exciting supernova-like phenomena: the brilliant illuminating flash of Sustainability, following the virtual and continuing collapse of conventional ways of conducting business and caring for the planet Earth … A brief 8-page chapter neatly summarizes each global indicator, gives prominent examples, quotes authorities, provides graphic photos and statistical displays, and includes authoritative pro-and-con bibliographies and website addresses … Each of these capsule accounts is a small treasure beautifully packed with solid information and human drama. The publisher — Greenleaf Publishing, Ltd. — deserves a big pat on the back for the book’s artistry and compact design. One of the most useful features is a Landmarks Timeline that records the yearly and multiple appearances of the Sustainability Landmarks … So, who can use this book? A marvelous handbook for executives. It slips compactly into student backpacks. A savior for faculty looking for quick examples to squeeze into a lecture. A delight for website geeks and bloggers international. A jewel for libraries.
William C. Frederick, October 2009. Read the full review

The book offers sustainability facts as an introduction to the subject, as well as being a reference book for practitioners. With an attractive look and feel, equipped with photographs, charts and fact boxes, the book is not a boring ‘study book’, but an inspirational source.
Karina Toonekurg, CSR International. Read the full review

… it is a broad ranging, easy to read, review of the last twenty years. Everyone who’s been involved in any of these areas of activism, innovation and development should have a copy. It’s so easy to lose sight of how much has been going on across so many issues, and this book is a refreshing reminder — and a great resource to get a quick insight into developments across the whole field of sustainability.
Osbert Lancaster, 15 July 2009. Read the full review

This is a quick reference guide to all the most significant events and initiatives since 1919 that have influenced sustainability thinking and action.

The book is split into to two sections, which have subsections below that. The flow starts with Global Challenges and Global Responses. Global Challenges includes subsections on Environment health and safety which includes State of the planet, Crisis events, Climate change and Health and safety. Global Responses is split into Leadership, Collaboration and Management with subsections covering such diverse topics as World Summits, Business associations, Social enterprise, Industry initiatives, codes and standards, corporate governance, Sustainability reporting, and stakeholder engagement. I went through the book quite carefully and I don’t think any significant items have been left out. A really useful tool is the Landmarks Timeline which tracks events and initiatives from 1919 to the present.
Arend Hoogervorst (Editor), Eagle Bulletin, January 2010


Polly Courtice, Director, Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
This item available in PDF format for free download     Download


A. Global challenges

ClimateI. Environment, health and safety

1. State of the planet
With spotlights on the WWF Living Planet Index and the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

2. Crisis events
With spotlights on Exxon Valdez, Shell Brent Spar and Shell in Nigeria

3. Climate change

This item available in PDF format for free download     Download

With spotlights on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol

4. Health and safety
With spotlights on OHSAS 18001, ‘Big Pharma’ and access to AIDS drugs

SocietyII. Society and economy

5. Globalisation and its critics
With spotlights on the protests in Seattle and Genoa, and Live 8 and Make Poverty History

6. Poverty and development
With spotlights on the Millennium Development Goals and the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) model

7. Human rights
With spotlights on Nike and the UN Norms on Business and Human Rights

8. Corruption and transparency
With spotlights on Transparency International’s indexes and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

B. Global responses

LeadershipIII. Leadership

9. World summits
With spotlights on the Rio Earth Summit and the Johannesburg World Summit

10. Business associations
With spotlights on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the UN Global Compact

11. Leadership initiatives
With spotlights on the World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum

12. Social enterprise
With spotlights on Grameen Bank and the Schwab and Skoll Foundations

CollaborationIV. Collaboration

13. Industry initiatives
With spotlights on Responsible Care and the Forest Stewardship Council

14. Financial initiatives
With spotlights on the UNEP Finance Initiative and the Equator Principles

15. Sustainable investment
With spotlights on sustainability indexes and clean-tech investment

16. Sustainable consumerism
With spotlights on eco-labelling and fairtrade

ManagementV. Management

17. Codes and standards
With spotlights on ISO 14001 and SA8000

18. Corporate governance
With spotlights on Enron’s collapse and the King Report on Corporate Governance

19. Sustainability reporting
With spotlights on the Global Reporting Initiative and the Carbon Disclosure Project

20. Stakeholder engagement
With spotlights on McDonald’s (McLibel and Super Size Me) and AccountAbility (AA1000 and Responsible Competitiveness Index

Mike Peirce, Deputy Director, Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership

Landmarks timeline

Wayne Visser

Wayne Visser is Founder and CEO of the thinktank CSR International, as well as Senior Associate of the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. He is the author/editor of eight books, including six on sustainable and responsible business, among them The Top 50 Sustainability Books(Greenleaf Publishing, 2009), Making a Difference (VDM, 2008) and The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility (John Wiley, 2007).

Before getting his PhD in Corporate Social Responsibility (Nottingham University, UK), Wayne was Director of Sustainability Services for KPMG and Strategy Analyst for Capgemini in South Africa. He has an MSc in Human Ecology (Edinburgh University,
UK) and a Bachelor of Business Science in Marketing (Cape Town University, South Africa).

Wayne lives in Cambridge, UK, and enjoys art, writing poetry, spending time outdoors and travelling in his home continent of Africa. His personal website is

Oliver Dudok van Heel

Research associate

Oliver Dudok van Heel is passionate about finding solutions to the sustainability challenges we face as a society. He believes that by bringing together human ingenuity with respect for our wonderful planet and its people we can develop solutions and create a planet worth living for.

He tries to make this vision reality in different ways. Oliver founded Living Values to help integrate sustainability within corporations. He is a tutor on the University of Cambridge’s Postgraduate Certificate on Sustainable Business and a facilitator of the Be The Change Symposium. He helped launch the Lewes Pound, a local currency, to support the local community and reduce its carbon footprint, as part of the Transition Towns movement. He is also a co-founder of Transition Training and Consulting.

Oliver speaks English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish and Portuguese and holds a Master’s of Law and an Insead MBA.

Oliver lives in Sussex with his wife and three children.

CPSL logo The University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL) works with business, government and civil society to deepen the understanding of those who shape the future and help them respond creatively and positively to sustainability challenges.

Our focus on deepening understanding of sustainability through seminars, leadership groups and practical engagement builds on the University’s strengths as one of the world’s premier academic institutions. Our programmes provide opportunities for leaders to explore and debate key social and environmental trends and their significance within the global economic and political context. We draw on the intellectual breadth of the University and on leading thinkers and practitioners from around the world to help participants examine the array of strategic risks and opportunities and make decisions on the basis of a real appreciation of cutting-edge science, world-class thinking and best practice in business and government.

Our programmes include flagship initiatives inspired by the vision of our Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales. This unique coalition between the University and His Royal Highness gives the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership the power to convene thought leaders and top-level decision-makers from across the world in order to advance innovative thinking and transformational change.