The Katerva Challenge For Sustainability

Trying to drink from a firehose! That is what it is like trying to keep up with the flood of organizations engaged in promoting, reporting on, recognizing or awarding Sustainability initiatives. Sustainability has evolved from a principled cause to a cultural meme to a global virtual industry, opportunistically appropriated to polemics, politics, and public relations.  One yearns for a different term to signify: “A world that works better for everybody, economically, socially and environmentally.”

Notwithstanding the overcrowding (who knows, maybe the field needs to follow the classic trajectory of new markets: i.e; a fast rush of opportunists leading to a speculative spike followed by a crash and shakeout followed by long-term solid and, um, sustainable growth), a recent arrival to the cause that is worth supporting is The Katerva Challenge (full disclosure: I am a member of Katerva’s advisory group.)

The Katerva Challenge is an annual ranking by the Global Challenge Institute of the best sustainability efforts in the world. They use a network of thought leaders and experts to identify and rank programs based on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Vision 2050 report. Winners are those organizations and individuals making the greatest strides towards a sustainable planet. Winners do not get cash prizes ala The X-Prize. They receive promotion and publicity for their projects.

An earlier version of Katerva was a curatorial model that invited teams of innovators to develop sustainability initiatives and submit them for Katerva awards. Katerva 2.0 is more of a crowd-sourcing model where a network of third party “spotters” recommend projects that they think are worthy of recognition. I am contacting knowledgeable people to request that you pass on notable innovation initiatives to

Katerva’s COO, Klaus Kneale, explains their agenda further:

In short, we believe that recognition and award for great ideas and great efforts should be unencumbered by whether an organization is willing to take the time to participate or spend money to enter.  By making changes in this direction, it will be easier to promote the challenge as the ultimate global award for sustainability efforts.

This new direction involves 3 moving parts.  First, everyone involved and some other individuals and organizations now constitute our spotter network.  This network identifies initiatives around the world that we should be reviewing for recognition (nominees).  Being part of this network simply means that you keep an eye out for new innovative ways that organizations are making strides in sustainability.

The second part of this new direction is our research engine.  Once we’ve identified nominees for our sustainability awards, we will be reaching out to them for more information as well as pulling together any media coverage or public information about the nominee.  This information will be used by the experts to determine who will ultimately win the awards.

Last but not least is our role in the discussion of sustainability.  We feel that there is an opportunity to become one of the key shapers behind the term “sustainability”–which is even now a largely undefined term.  By helping to define sustainability at it’s core, we hope to shape the debate surrounding it and accelerate the implementation of sustainable thinking.

We are currently building content on our website and would appreciate any content you may be able to contribute.  This can be repackaged or customized content–we would greatly accept either.  The easiest content for us to use is blog-structured posts and short videos.  Initially, we would like some of our content to answer “how we might define sustainability?”

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact Klause Kneale at your convenience:

Klaus Kneale, COO, The Katerva Challenge, +1.859.309.1652

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