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WaveFront: Meeting 2017 with Hope and Purpose

January 12, 2017

This is the January 2017 issue of our WaveFront newsletter. A dose of inspiration, reality, and reflection for a sustainable new year. If you would like to receive future editions directly in your inbox, subscribe here

Sustainability work has never been more essentiala message from Alan AtKisson

When 2016 ended, I felt a need to reflect. Maybe you felt it too: 2016 was not a normal year. It was a year of accelerating tumultuous change — political, climatic, environmental, cultural, economic, demographic.

It helps in such times to keep an eye on the long term, and I was grateful to the folks at Thought Leader Global TV for interviewing me about that. (See 5 min. video):

But we have to keep an eye on today’s reality. As sea ice in both polar regions disappears (see story below), both human refugees and wild species have continued to stream northward. In 2016 we also saw the Western world’s politics take a hard swing to the right (with exceptions, like Canada). Geopolitical tensions have hardened. Even Sweden, where I live, has alerted its municipalities to start including preparations for war in their program of work on safety and security preparedness. Just in case.

So on one hand, the shifts of 2016 were not good news for sustainability work, especially in comparison with the “annus mirabilis” of 2015, which gave us the 2030 Agenda, SDGs and Paris Agreement — enormous breakthroughs.

Perhaps a backlash was inevitable. But on the other hand, 2016 was the year that sustainability, sustainable development and all the variants thereof — “resilience,” “purpose,” “CSR,” “Net Positive,” etc. — became clearly more mainstream and more necessary than ever. These are the ideas and practices we must continue to build on, no matter what negative ideas dominate the news headlines or Twitter trends.

I used the quiet New Year’s break to think, write, and prepare for a certain-to-be challenging 2017. Below you can read about our 2016, which was extraordinary, and the projects we have already planned for 2017. A special highlight of 2016 was helping launch the important new Oslo Manifesto. More on that below as well.

Here’s my basic message for 2017, to myself, and also to you:
Even when so much change around us looks very negative indeed, we must keep pushing for the positive. Indeed, we must push for change all the harder. The tides may seem against us now. But they will turn again.

And sustainability will continue to advance, and ultimately prevail. Until it becomes fully normal.

It has to.

Please read on to catch up on our recent initiatives and get some inspiration for 2017. And please feel free to write to us! Tell us what you think about 2016, and what you plan to do in 2017 — so the momentum of this sustainable future we’re building keeps on growing. No matter what.

Warm regards,
Alan AtKisson
Pres & CEO AtKisson Group


Inspiring Designers, Architects and City Planners to Adopt the SDGs
The Oslo Manifesto launches a global campaign

Late 2016 saw the launch of a major new initiative, formed out of a partnership between (a volunteer multi-stakeholder partnership sponsored by AtKisson Group) and the Norwegian Center for Design and Architecture, DOGA.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 11.31.01 PMThe Oslo Manifesto is a document, but it is also a movement. It translates the UN Sustainable Development Goals into “design language” so that designers, architects, and city planners can use the SDGs in their daily work.

The beautiful new website tells the whole story, inviting designers of all kinds to read and sign the document, and start integrating the SDGs into their practices in concrete ways. The site also provides creative professionals with resources and stories of inspiration, and gives them a chance to share their own inspired work.

Please help us spread the word about this important global initiative, launched in Oslo, but intended for the whole world. Here is the website:


A weird year for the Arctic and Antarctic: the story we cannot ignore
Polar sea ice is in stunningly rapid retreat

arctic-and-antarctic-sea-ice-31dec2016I spend a lot of professional time reading about the Arctic, and lately, I’ve come to this conclusion: the media is practically ignoring one of the biggest stories on the planet.

Consider this graph, and the red line at the bottom, which combines the data for all of 2016 on global sea ice (Arctic + Antarctic) …

Learn more and read this whole article, including links to multiple sources here.




What we did in 2016… and what we plan to do in 2017
It was a remarkable year, but 2017 needs to be even better

Let’s start with the future: we already know that 2017 will see the following highlights from AtKisson Group:

  • A new report, for and with the WWF, on the Arctic Blue Economy: how to make marine-based activity
    more sustainable and prosperous in the long term. Considering that the Arctic Ocean sea ice is melting fast (see below), getting this right the first time seems extremely urgent to us.
  • Also with WWF, we’ll be helping to make the UN’s first summit meeting on the oceans, in June 2017, as successful as possible. The oceans need human attention, of the positive kind, more than ever before.
  • In February, Alan AtKisson will be keynoting at Greenbiz 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona, and also lecturing at 81d0e9e3-b33b-431d-bf36-44cb7f8bfffethe Arizona State University. Plus: an ASU choir and band will debut a new choral arrangement of Alan’s hit song (“hit” is relative here), “We Love the SDGs“. The topic? How to combine serious policy and strategy work on sustainability with serious creativity as well.
  • In May 2017, Alan will also keynote the Better Cotton Initiative‘s conference in Germany. (Are you wearing any cotton? Probably. In the future, it should all be “Better Cotton,” and better yet, fully sustainable.) And in June, he’ll do the same for a major global design conference.


Looking back, 2016 was an exceptional year:

  • In November, Axel Klimek and Alan AtKisson launched their new book Parachuting Cats into Borneo, about how to become a more effective leader of change. Published by Chelsea Green, it has received very positive reviews so far. (Have you read this book yet? Would you consider writing a review on Amazon?)
  • Alan advised and co-moderated the launch of the Open SDGClub of Berlin, for the German Council on Sustainable Development — a path-breaking event that modeled a new way to harness the power of stakeholder interaction in international settings.
  • He also helped the United Nations Secretariat (UNDESA) develop its new global strategy for supporting countries as they develop their capacity to implement the SDGs. (By the way, UNDESA is doing more and more strategic, systems-based work to help make the SDGs a reality.)
  • Several leading companies engaged us to help advance their internal strategies for sustainability (or CSR, or Net Positive, or whatever names they preferred). We watched that field advance ever more quickly, prompted by the SDGs.
  • And Alan gave dozens of keynote speeches, seminars, lectures and trainings, speaking to thousands of people, and traveling to Oslo, Moscow, Brussels, Vienna, Berlin, Copenhagen, Bangkok, and Vilnius, capital of Lithuania.
    22bc7e43-00bd-4f20-9196-8cacd983f6b4A special highlight: in Vilnius, Alan AtKisson met the nation’s president, Mme. Dalia Grybauskaitė, who kindly accepted a copy of Parachuting Cats into Borneo. Alan opened the first-ever conference of business leaders on sustainability and social responsibility to be held at the Lithuanian presidential palace.

Plus, there are the things we’ve already mentioned, such as launching the Oslo Manifesto, keeping moving, and re-invigorating our social media channels.

Follow us on social media!

We have four “channels”  (AtKisson Group, 17Goals, CforST, and Alan AtKisson) which you can find on Facebook and Twitter, and we invite you to follow and engage in the ones that best meet your needs.

  • AtKisson Group for professional sustainability news and inspirational stories from our network
  • 17Goals for news and resources to help you implement the SDGs
  • CforST for inspiration and tools to support you as a leader and agent of change
  • (or Alan’s feeds on Facebook and Twitter) for a dose of thoughtful commentary on global affairs, and news on his speaking appearance, music, and other writing
  • Our newsletter WaveFront, is a kind of “Best Of …” summary from our continuous media feeds. Subscribe here. 
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