How emerging leaders view sustainable business

GreenBiz 17 Emerging Leaders
GreenBiz 17 Emerging Leaders with GreenBiz Group President Pete May during the annual sustainability event in February 2017.

We launched a new program at our annual GreenBiz conference this year: The Emerging Leaders Scholarship, designed to bring fresh, diverse perspectives to our events from groups traditionally underrepresented at sustainable business conferences: in particular, youth and people of color. At GreenBiz 17 last month, we welcomed our first cohort of GreenBiz Emerging Leaders Scholars.

We received nearly 100 applications and were thrilled by the quality of the applicant pool. They received free admission to the event, including accommodations. United Airlines contributed airfare for those who needed flights to and from Phoenix. The 10 recipients we ultimately selected embody the future of sustainable business and, based on what I learned about each of them, the future looks brighter than ever.

The Emerging Leaders came into the event with a variety of backgrounds. One founded a nonprofit that uses sports as a lens for environmental education. Another is a future environmental law student. Others were on a path to degrees in environmental management, chemical engineering and business administration. All had a core interest in corporate sustainability.

After the conclusion of the event, we asked each of them for a brief overview of their takeaways from GreenBiz 17, and their answers were as diverse as the experiences that they brought to the table. Here are excerpts, edited for length and clarity.

Derek Battle
"It was very encouraging to learn about the progressive actions that companies and individuals are taking in regards to sustainability on an international scale. I recently started an environmental nonprofit and was concerned about our future ability to secure support and funding, but witnessing the innovative ideas shared at GreenBiz 17 emboldened my team and I to continue and expand our message." — Derek Battle, co-founder, PlayFresh

Katelyn Harris-Lange

"One memorable speaker emphasized the power of driving change by striving to become an explorer instead of an expert. I will apply that framework to my personal and professional life as I continue to push for a better world. We’re all in this together, so let’s make some more room at the table and get to work." 
— Katelyn Harris-Lange, MPA candidate, University of North Dakota


Ruby Julaj

"GreenBiz 17 emphasized the need for collaboration to uncover innovative ways to move from mindless action towards a sustainable way of living in a changing environment. I think we have come to realize that companies shouldn’t just care about profit or reputation — the health and safety of our society, our families, friends, peers should matter more." — Ruby Julaj, undergraduate, chemical engineering, Carnegie Mellon University


Simardeep Kochar

"Before starting my MBA, I had a career as a merchant mariner on ships where I mostly worked on energy efficiency projects and reducing carbon emissions, so GreenBiz 17 was an exciting experience for me to learn about the sustainability work that is happening in other industries." — Simardeep Kochar, MBA candidate, Arizona State University


Kevin Lee

"The sustainable business movement is still unfortunately very homogenous. At the event, I heard many people grappling with this and wanting to figure out how to make the field more diverse, inclusive and equitable going forward. The fact that attendees were having these conversations — figuring out how to start movements within movements, while also encouraging me to share my own thoughts — gave me a lot of hope and energy for the future direction of green business." — Kevin Lee, MEM, Yale University

Taylor Price

"I left the conference with a broader knowledge of the real world challenges and successes within the field of sustainability. As an environmentalist at my core, I often neglect the social facets of sustainability. GreenBiz 17 helped me to put together all the pieces of the puzzle that comprise the practice of sustainable business." — Taylor Price, master of environmental management, Duke University 

Tyler Sam

 "Listening to other sustainability professionals’ trials and tribulations across their companies offered solace, but it also invigorated me to keep pushing sustainability in my own organization." — Tyler Sam, environmental specialist, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona


We look forward to making the Emerging Leaders Scholarship program a staple for future GreenBiz and VERGE events.