Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR

Every year, the BSR Conference provides an opportunity for us to consider how much progress has been made in the past year, and how much more there remains to accomplish.

This year, on the occasion of our 20th anniversary, we are looking further back, and further ahead. As my BSR colleagues and I prepare to welcome 1,000 conference participants from around the world here in New York, this anniversary is a moment when we can all take pride in the creation of a vibrant, creative, accomplished, and sometimes messy sustainability movement. Simply put, this didn’t exist 20 years ago, and to borrow a phrase from the current U.S. presidential election, I say to everyone here: “You did build that!”

But we also arrive here in New York with humility and an abiding commitment to do better. As we say in the latest BSR Report: Accelerating Progress, published today, a review of the past two decades shows that “everything’s changed … yet nothing’s changed.”

Everything has changed in that businesses all across the globe have embraced sustainability; hundreds of millions of people have moved out of poverty, and very real gains in resource efficiency have been achieved.

It is equally the case, however, that a truly sustainable economy remains far off. The climate is warming faster than most anticipated, with wild weather becoming a norm that disrupts peoples’ lives as well as the economy. Biodiversity continues to shrink. And poverty remains endemic, with 2 billion people still living in abject conditions, often outside the protection of rule of law and human rights.

This is exactly why we have chosen “Fast Forward” as the theme of our 20th anniversary conference. It is a time to celebrate what’s been accomplished, and to learn the lessons of our experience. Even more so, it is time to build on what’s already been created and to take it forward even faster.  In our Report, we note that the world doesn’t need any more roadmaps: We know where to go. What is most sorely needed now is faster progress towards that goal.

We also write in our Report of the importance of powerful partnerships to enable faster progress. Indeed, as BSR looks ahead to our third decade of activity, we have made a commitment to devote even more energy to building partnerships, expanding our investments in multi-stakeholder efforts, industry working groups, and other means to achieve systemic change. Just in 2012, we have already worked in partnership to advance women’s economic progress, sustainable fuel supplies, human rights, and ecosystems services.

The Conference is a living example of the power that resides in the BSR membership and in our extended family of partners from across business, civil society, government, and elsewhere. We hope that the next three days inspire and activate this remarkable network, setting the stage for even greater progress over the next 20 years.

If you are unable to attend the BSR Conference 2012, join the conversation on Twitter (@BSRnews) using the hashtag #BSR12, and follow the daily buzz on our Conference website.