The Lost Decade of Failed Sustainability Standards

Knowledge Hub

Bill Baue


February 14, 2024

The Lost Decade of Failed Sustainability Standards centers on how sustainability standards have failed to deliver us authentic sustainability performance. Sustainability expert Bill Baue discusses r3.0, a global common good not-for-profit platform that crowdsources necessary transformations across sustainability in order to achieve a thriving, regenerative, and distributive economy and society. Bill will draw on the r3.0 resource paper, The Lost Decades, with an emphasis on the following topics:

  • Context-Based Sustainability (CBS)—the most robust and disciplined approach to assessing sustainability performance.
  • A brief historical survey of how sustainability standards, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, International “Sustainability” Standards Board (and its precursors), and the European Sustainability Reporting Standards, all fall short of comprehensively integrating CBS—and arguably sabotage sustainability.
  • The new United Nations Sustainable Development Performance Indicators (UNSDPIs) as the highest-level example of implementation guidance for what it calls authentic sustainability assessment.

The conversation covers applying systems thinking to design sustainability reporting frameworks to strive towards authentic sustainability performance and translating the frameworks to innovative business activity.


As an internationally recognized expert on ThriveAbility, Sustainability Context, and Online Stakeholder Engagement, Bill designs systemic transformation at global, company, and community levels. A serial entrepreneur, he’s co-founder of a number of companies and initiatives: ThriveAbility Foundation, Sustainability Context Group, Convetit and Sea Change Radio. He works with organizations across the sustainability ecosystem, including AccountAbility, Audubon, Ceres, GE, Global Compact, Harvard, UNCTAD, UNEP, Walmart, and Worldwatch Institute.

What excites me most about working with r3.0 is the opportunity to collaborate with other ‘positive mavericks’ who see that efforts in sustainability reporting and integrated reporting to date — while laudably setting a solid foundation — have yet to deliver the needed transformation to true sustainability and beyond. So r3.0 is needed to help actualize the promise of a really regenerative & inclusive economy.

—Bill’s profile from

Session notes

Bill mentioned the Global Threshold and Allocations Network, which involves several UN agencies and a diversity of international organizations. The network has leveraged its collective expertise within three working groups to advance knowledge and insights on the topics of holistic unlearning, systemic transformation, as well as social thresholds and allocations.


Bill’s slides


1-hour session video | Bill Baue’s presentation begins at the 17:00 minute mark and ends at 1:01:22 minutes.


Session summary

Download The Lost Decade 

The Lost Decade: Sustainability Standards Sabotage Sustainability

The r3.0 resource paper, authored by Bill Baue, is an analysis of two decades of sustainability standards.

What it would ultimately require is for sustainability standards to act as the normative institutions they are, but instead of acting to conserve the social norms of the past that entrench behaviors and worldviews that are no longer fit-to-task for our emerging reality and knowledge base, they would act to cultivate new emergent social norms that are truly future-fit, in order to steward us toward a sustainable future.
—Bill Baue

r3.0 logo made up of three connected circles the letter r in one and 3 and 0 in the other two

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