As 2022 rolls to a close, it’s been a giant year for sustainability in business. Looking back at our top stories from January to November, according to Google Analytics, the list tells a story of increased interest in environment, social and governance company strategies, excitement over new entry-level sustainability careers and a focus on carbon markets and plastics. Listicles and articles from our reprint partners were excluded. Here are the original narrative stories that attracted the most attention (we excluded lists such as the GreenBiz 30 Under 30), with key excerpts from each.

1. A three-part ESG series by Joel Makower

“Today’s negative externalities could become tomorrow’s financial risks, and addressing them now can mitigate both. But there is no standard definition of what constitutes good ESG. Ratings firms’ assessments are based on subjective judgments, extrapolation and incomplete data. Many studies that report ESG outperformance are flawed and are based on short-time horizons that are not statistically significant. And ‘a positive relationship between high-ESG companies and alpha may result from correlation — not causation.’”

2. ‘The sustainability job market is booming. What does that mean for hiring?’ by Prerana Tirodkar

“There is high demand for sustainability workers and an increase in supply of sustainability jobs, but there is still a sense of randomness to how sustainability jobs are getting filled. We lack clarity on what skills qualify as sustainable. It can mean different things in different sectors, industries and geographies. For example, it could mean working in marketing, program management, risk advisory or being an environmental engineer, a human rights lawyer or a climate expert.”

3. ‘Is advanced recycling the answer to plastic waste?‘ by Joel Makower 

“Advanced and chemical recycling have become dirty words among some environmental activists, who often conflate (or perhaps confuse) the waste-to-fuels and incineration processes with the growing waste-to-materials marketplace, dismissing the entire suite of advanced recycling technologies as chemical industry greenwash. The activists would be encouraged to take another look. The processes used by waste-to-materials companies have improved and are ramping up, with significant potential to create long-hoped-for circular models for plastics, including the stuff that previously hadn’t been easily recycled.”

4. ‘Where’s the next generation of sustainability talent? Consulting‘ by Dylan Siegler 

“If you were to look for this next generation of sustainability professionals in today’s workforce, where would you find them? I hope your answer is EY, KPMG, Deloitte, PwC, Accenture and their big and small brethren, because that’s where this next generation is currently cutting its teeth: consultancies. There’s a consulting baby boom of well-educated, well-trained young practitioners with increasingly specialized skill sets who — in three or five or 10 years — might be the next hire for an in-house sustainability team (or might be the one hiring you).”

5. ‘Can high-speed rail finally become a reality in the U.S.?‘ by Vartan Badalian

“The U.S. is so far behind on high-speed rail compared to other countries it seems the U.S. is Superman and high-speed rail is its kryptonite. However, what if all that is about to change? What if the U.S. is at the precipice of a major shift where technology, politics and climate action all come together to help spur the adoption of high-speed rail? Well, it is not that easy or perfect. But, it is not all doom and gloom either. The U.S. is much further along on high-speed rail than I thought, even with the hurdles that stand in its way.”

6. ‘Salesforce will launch carbon credit marketplace‘ by Jesse Klein

“Salesforce’s Net Zero Marketplace will allow businesses to buy carbon credits from a trusted partner with a third-party verification. The platform is built on Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud, which integrates directly with the Salesforce Net Zero Cloud sustainability management software application. But even businesses that are not customers of Salesforce can purchase credits through the platform. Opening up carbon credits to this type of ecosystem is a double-edged sword. High-quality credits are already in short supply, and the ease of service of the marketplace will increase demand from smaller companies.”

7. ‘Costco and Walmart: A tale of two supply chains’ by Jesse Klein

“Walmart has been outspoken and press-happy about Project Gigaton, its plan to avert the release of a gigaton of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030. In its most recent report, Walmart concluded it avoided 186 million metric tons of emissions through Project Gigaton in 2020. Costco, on the other hand, has been much quieter on its supplier sustainability plans. Whether this is due to lack of movement or a different press strategy is unclear. In January, the company’s board opposed a shareholder proposal, led by the impact investing fund, for Costco to be more forthcoming about its greenhouse gas outputs and supply chain emissions.”

8. ‘Sustainable investing expert Alison Taylor on ESG misconceptions and why ethics are part of the equation‘ by Grant Harrison

“We’ve fallen prey to unhelpful binaries everywhere, and ESG is no exception. ESG coverage tends to treat the issue as a boxing match between free market advocates who think this is all a dangerous effort to manipulate us, and people who imagine that ESG will save the world. This isn’t just the media. A lot of academic studies on whether ESG links to financial performance seem to want to prove or disprove the link to financial performance, so there’s a lot of confirmation bias in the studies.”

9. ‘Your next corporate job: Protecting biodiversity‘ by Joel Makower

“Over the past year or so, a growing number of companies — primarily but not exclusively in Europe — have created positions to support nature and biodiversity. The roles aren’t just at firms with products and services that are directly dependent on natural capital — logging or agriculture, for example. This new generation of nature-related jobs can be found inside chemical companies, consumer products companies, real estate companies, tech companies, insurers, bankers and retailers.”

10. ‘Resale is not changing our relationship with stuff — here’s why‘ by Nellie Cohen

“Resale programs have done a commendable job of mainstreaming the purchase of used clothing. But many of these programs launching recently incentivize customers to consume even more new things. In order for a resale program to be an authentic sustainability program, it must enable the brand to divert some sales of new clothing to the sales of used clothing. The world cannot afford recommerce to become another greenwashed, box-checking exercise for the fashion industry.”

Here are 10 more of our top articles of the year:

11. “The truth behind EV sales in 2022” by Vartan Badalian

12. “Are carbon offsets a joke? A response to the comedian John Oliver” by Jim Giles and Jesse Klein

13. “Aware: Inside Amazon’s new private label for sustainable goods” by Joel Makower 

14. “The ranting critics of sustainability may have a point” by Joel Makower

15. “The war on plastics, 2022: A change of climate” by Joel Makower

16. “How to greenwash like a pro” by Joel Makower

17. “So you’re the first sustainability hire. Now what?” by Olivia Morton

18. “Made in America: A lithium supply chain for EV batteries” by Katie Fehrenbacher

19. “Jennifer Granholm: ‘Send us proposals for the big, bold clean energy projects'” by Elsa Wenzel

20. “Lab meat has 3 big problems. Is it time for a pivot?” by Jesse Klein

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