Category Archives: definitions

Google Search Results on Sustainability

Four years ago I wrote a post on Google search on the term, sustainability, noting that Wikipedia and the Environmental Protection Agency were top listings on the first page of results followed by research and consulting companies, mostly all business to business (B2B), not consumer (B2C) with the exception of Walmart. Then as now there were no sponsored links.

Do a search today and you can easily see the influence of Google’s promotion of local search results, what Eli Pariser talked about as the filter bubble effect (TED, March, 2012).  At that time the Zuckerberg quote circulating, Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 5.49.55 PMand not fact checked by me, was on target, ideally helping shoppers, but not necessarily those seeking information and knowledge.  The effect on national and international organizations, especially causes, is rarely discussed largely I think because many of our sustainability leaders are disconnected from the role search can play in educating our citizens and the shift to local is just a technical detail they might notice when searching for a new camera or local restaurant.

Doing a search from my current location of Petaluma, California the results include most of the B2B organizations on the top half of the page, as it was four years ago, but this time moving down to a local seed company, a Petaluma Health Center Conference on the Sustainable Enterprise, and a sustainable investment company.  Sustainability quickly gives way to sustainable, if only they meant the same thing.

At the same time, search traffic on the term, sustainability, has remained relatively constant this past year.

blog insert,sustainabilty

Traffic on global warming for same period has decreased by 18% while climate change has increased by 22%.  You can see the activity on this chart which also includes the terms sustainability, global warming, climate change, social justice and environmentalism.  You will note environmentalism, not to be confused with searches on environment, remains low (green line) followed by social justice reflecting the emphasis placed on environmental sustainability.

blog 3

Google reports the average monthly searches on the terms with global warming highest at 450,000; climate change at 165,000; and sustainability at 135,000. Sometime last year Google changed the tool I was using that used to report monthly global searches for sustainability at 1.2M per month, similar to climate change.  Don’t ask me to explain the differences in numbers just yet.

three terms, all countries

sustainability awareness largeOne reason for looking back this month is because seven years ago was founded in San Francisco so it our birthday month.  Our goal is to help increase sustainability awareness by advancing the voices of sustainability.  We are a specialized search engine to all curated video content. We have not been as successful as we would like to be especially in achieving a presence in the top three page results for the term, sustainability, and the over 300 key phrases and terms we have include in our one-of-a-kind sustainability taxonomy.  The emphasis on local results has not worked in our favor, but we now have a collection of over 2,000 voices and have increased their page rankings and visibility across the Web.  We are holding firm on the idea that citizens searching on the term, sustainability, should have easy access to the unfiltered voices speaking on behalf of Mother Earth and her peoples, the next seven generations.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, May 30, 2014, Petaluma, California




Revisiting Definitions: What is Sustainability?

“Since you and I have been communicating regularly again, all of sudden ASPA has been publishing a lot on this subject and soliciting for articles on it too.”  Nancy Foye-Cox, Member, National Council, American Society for Public Administration (ASPA)

Nancy and I go way back to the mid-seventies when we served together on the ASPA Committee on Women in Public Administration. Over the last few months, and since I moved but an hour away from her,  we have been emailing more frequently.  And, yes, ASPA like other professional associations are increasingly turning their attention to sustainability pppresulting in more opportunities to increase awareness and answer one of the first questions often asked, What is Sustainability?  Over 60,000 searchers a month ask a variation of this question on Google and even more on the term, sustainable as in sustainable business. This out of the 1.2M overall searches per month on sustainability, thirty-seven percent from the United States.

Dr. Stuart Hart

Dr. Stuart Hart

Complicating matters is the issue of there being the opportunity to customize an answer based on individual interests and world views. Stuart Hart the Samuel C. Johnson Chair in Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University’s Johnson School, observes “Sustainability is tribal to some degree. There are many different factions. People come from different directions that all use the same term.”  In other words, there is no one strict definition (video quote 1:37).  This is particularly nettlesome as some folks use this lack of precision “as an easy way to set sustainability  aside.” It is for this reason that I am revisiting some definitions and also citing a recently posted video from the folks at Eastman Chemical Company.  You may find these quotes by sustainability leaders  helpful to reference in conversations. Link to the their videos in email and in your blog posts.  Most importantly, craft your own definition of sustainability and be passionate about it.

“Defining sustainability also means you have to admit what you are not yet doing that you ought to be doing.  And so that gap between aspirations and reality is what you want to cross.”  Christoph Lueneburger of Egon Zehnder International (video 3:02)

Dr.Karl-Henrik Robèrt

Karl-Henrik Robèrt

The first of four operational principles for sustainability is “in a sustainable society mined materials such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and heavy elements are no longer systematically increased in concentration in natural systems.” Karl-Henrik Robèrt, M.D., Ph.D. and founder of The Natural Step. (video 8:29) ”

My vision for sustainability at Eastman is that it is embedded in everything we do, it is part of our DNA, part of our daily life…it is an attitude, a state of mind, its not something you choose to do one day and not the other.” Godefroy Motte, SVP, Regional and Sustainability Officer, Eastman Chemical and

“What sustainability comes down to is balance. It’s about having to make hard choices every single day. To do things that are right for business, right for the planet, and ultimately right for you.” Matt Acarino, Chef ( (video 2:49)

“Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground — the unborn of the future Nation.” The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations: The Great Binding Law, Gayanashagowa.

There are many more of our leaders addressing sustainability and several animated videos in our special collection, What is Sustainability on, voices of sustainability to help with the conversations around sustainability at home, in the office, and in our communities.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, Cleveland, Ohio, June 28, 2013

What is Sustainability?

The 1.2M citizens per month* searching Google on the term, sustainability, very often ask, as we do here, What is Sustainability? It shows we have some work to do to raise awareness by starting with the basics. The definition I use most frequently comes from the Constitution of the Iroquois Nations:

Look and listen for the welfare of the constitutionwhole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.

Here are thirteen other voices, some you may recognize, others, until you listen, are strangers, but all are sustainability advocates.panel1 We begin with Dr. Stuart Hall of Cornell University, Sustainability Has Many Definitions, 1:37

Larry Merculieff (Aleut), Alaska Native Science Commission, Use of the Term Sustainability 4:52. This is one interview of a series conducted by Dr. David Hall on Native Perspectives of Sustainability.

Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt of The Natural Step, Defining Sustainability:Business panel2Insights, 1:39 and The Responsibility of Civic and Business Leaders, A Personal View 5:56. No better source for sustainability than Dr. Robèrt.

Dassault Systemes, Definition of Sustainable Innovation, Elementary Style, animation, 2:50

Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism Solutions, What is Sustainability? A Nest of Issues 9:26

RealEyes, Definition of Sustainability, animated feature 2:02. More videos on their YouTube channel such as Sustainability in Turkish.

panel3Dr. Albert Bartlett, Sustainability 101: Exponential Growth, 59:12 Even the first 3 minutes is worth the listen especially about percent growth rate, but this is really stuff we should have all learned in arithmetic.

Chris Farrell, Being Frugal: The Original Sustainability, 5:34 He makes a good point.

Christoph Lueneburger of Egon Zehnder, Definition of Sustainability by Corporations, 3:01. Biggest barrier is just starting with the definition.

People 4 Earth, Consumer Awareness of Sustainability, animation, 2:50. More of this kind of education and we further consumer and sustainability awareness.

Allison and Bud McGrath, R&K McGrath & Associates, What Is Sustainability? (audio only) and a father-daughter team.

Professor Julian Agyeman, Tufts University, What is Just Sustainability? 38:11. This is Julian’s keynote speech before the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Professor Nikos Avionas, What is Your Vision for Sustainability, 4:56

sastampThese voices of sustainability on will give you more to talk about, new people to reference, and great quotes when the topic of sustainability comes up as it does often. We hope you will be inspired to do your own definition and “broadcast yourself.”  When you do post it to YouTube to let us know about it and we will add it to our special collection, What Is Sustainability?  If you want to do more online video around sustainability to increase sustainability awareness for you and your business, call us. With over 1,000 voices now in our collection, all curated for relevancy and quality, we have learned a bit about sustainability and online video.

Ruth Ann Barrett, Sustainability Advocate, March 12, 2012, Portland, Oregon, 415-377-1835.

Note: *This is about the same number for those searching on corporate social responsibility and those wanting to know the price of an iPhone.