Last week, I joined hundreds of leading sustainability and energy practitioners at the 2014 GreenBiz Forum. For those who were unable to attend, I wanted to call your attention to three themes that I noticed buzzing throughout the conference. For those who joined me at the Forum, I hope you’ll add your perspective in the comments below.
1: Align your policy efforts with your sustainability goals
I was struck by an emphatic talk by Anne Kelly from Ceres BICEP. She emphasized the need for green business leaders to get involved in policy and to influence their company’s decisions on lobbying. She urged the leaders in the room to envision the future of green business and drive us there.
The growth of our industry can, in part, be attributed to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. She implored attendees to stand up on climate policy, because “silence is not neutrality.” We cannot be complacent if we hope to preserve earth’s natural systems and stop the worst effects of climate change.
2: Push past stagnation
Business as usual has fundamentally changed, as the 2014 State of the Green Business report makes apparent. The way companies address sustainability, energy and waste has advanced, but our progress is slowing – we’re now facing barriers that prevent us from getting at the truly transformative projects. We can’t let up on our efforts.
The report draws attention to several growing trends in the industry – the new frontiers of corporate sustainability. These include the drive for chemical transparency and more efficient water use. At EDF, we’ve collaborated with businesses to tackle both of these issues.
My EDF colleague Elizabeth Sturcken discussed the work we do with Walmart to create safer, healthier products, and the effects of this work across the entire retail industry. Sturcken explained our long-term partnership with Walmart simply: “It makes sense to pull the biggest lever we have. For us, that's Walmart.”
EDF and AT&T have worked together for six years — both through EDF Climate Corps and as partners in developing a Water Efficiency Toolkit. Tim Fleming, senior energy manager at AT&T, shared his experience with both projects in a workshop we co-hosted about the Virtuous Cycle of Strategic Energy Management. Participants shared their experience getting at the “low-hanging” energy and water projects, but said that making the business case for deeper retrofits and longer-term projects is an ongoing challenge.
3: Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
Collaboration to achieve our collective goals was an additional and very important theme. With the recently published GreenBiz NGO Report, many individuals talked about how NGO-private sector collaboration can best work. Many of the companies who have picked the low-hanging fruit are now trying to make the business case for greater investment and are seeing opportunities to engage with NGOs. Collaboration across sectors is critical to pushing past stagnation. NGOs also provide the third party perspective to help to start conversations with your government affairs team on policy.
At EDF, we’re eager to engage, and have decades’ worth of successful case studies on how NGOs and companies can work together to pioneer innovative solutions to environmental problems.
This story originally appeared at the EDF Climate Corps blog. Photo of crowd at the GreenBiz Forum by Peter Jordan Photography/GreenBiz Group