Experience shows that there is no easy sustainability blueprint applicable to all companies. Each must develop its own vision, explore opportunities and potential changes within its own operations and markets, and come up with its own action plan. Therefore extraordinarily creative, confident leadership is required.

“It's like Lewis and Clark,” says architect and designer Bill McDonough of McDonough-Braungart Design Chemistry, a Charlottesville, Virginia–based firm specializing in “eco-effective” product and process design. He explains that the early world explorers didn't know at first where they were going. “But they had to lead. It's a state of mind and not a map. That's the point. We have to go draw a map.”

Darcy Winslow, general ...

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