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Nature of Business Radio

Eric Lowitt: Thinking globally, but collaboratively

<p>A conversation with an optimistic pessimist (and author and consultant) on what it takes to truly address sustainability challenges.</p>

This week I spoke with sustainability consultant, thought leader, and founder of Nexus Global Advisors, Eric Lowitt. Lowitt is also author of The Future of Value as well as The Collaboration Economy, which hits the shelves next month. We talked about the current state of sustainability, his work with companies, NGOs, and public-sector entities as they map out a sustainable development platform — aspects of which he is both optimistic and pessimistic — the importance of cross sector collaboration, communication strategies, and more.

Lowitt spends his days determining how we best address the world’s greatest challenges in a way that kickstarts growth. Toward this end, he spans the globe helping his clients effectively win the race against time with regard to climate change and its eroding effects.

What would a sustainable development platform look like in the next four to eight years? If only we truly knew. Lowitt, himself, is rather pessimistic on carbon and water regulation. And he is only cautiously optimistic as far as achieving a roadmap for next 30 years goes that tapers down on hydrocarbon while refining renewable energy technologies and upgrading our antiquated electric grid to handle those types of renewable energy sources. If done effectively, however, this could realistically result in the reduction of hydrocarbon use from a 60 percent to just 20 percent. Real progress.

We also discussed the overwhelming and common challenge of communicating sustainability effectively. Many of us in the field consistently struggle with this. One good place to start, says Lowitt, is with the weather. Here in the northeast, for instance, we have been hit by Sandy and Nemo. Meanwhile, the middle of the country has seen a 60-year drought, while the rest of the U.S. has experienced severe temperature fluctuations, not to mention that 12 out of the last 15 years have been the hottest on record.

So we are not winning the big picture, but as Lowitt optimistically explains, a solution is, in fact, within our reach where we can mitigate risk of climate change and get back on track towards a healthy sustainable environment while driving economic development. Why? Because every nation is feeling the increasingly drastic effects of climate change. In fact, our conversation on this is echoed by Allan Savory’s recent comments. There is a tremendous opportunity to unite on the intertwined issues of water, food, and energy. And the effects of doing so, would almost certainly have tremendously positive results.

And it’s good news that, increasingly, business is aware it must take the lead on this. With austerity measures in place in a majority of governments, Lowitt points out that companies, enthusiastically or not, are taking on an ever larger role to shoulder the financial burden surrounding issues such as water infrastructure or farmer living standards. But to really reach the light at the end of the tunnel, I agree with Lowitt that success can only be realized with the implementation of cross-sector collaboration and a true understanding that we are losing precious time.

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