(Some of) what you missed at GreenBiz 19
Sustainability professionals, nonprofit advocates, environmental academics, eco-athletes and poets came together in Phoenix last week for GreenBiz Group’s annual gathering of those dedicated to advancing corporate responses to combating climate change.
At the 11th convening of the GreenBiz conference, sustainability leaders attended talks and workshops on topics as diverse as the field of sustainability itself. From interviews with CEOs such as SC Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson III, to a standing-room-only summit about green finance, to hands-on native desert plant restoration, to workshops on plastics and more, the three days of the event were filled with lively, energetic discussions and announcements.
This year’s function was marked with a particular sense of urgency — science says we have 12 years to slow global temperature increases to below the Paris Agreement, and many speakers echoed that number during main-stage presentations and discussions. Not as a cautionary tale, though, but as a call to action.
"If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change,” noted GreenBiz Chairman and Executive Editor Joel Makower in his opening remarks onstage, quoting the Italian novel "The Leopard." And ideas for the nature of that change were the talk of the conference.
Whether you sat in the crowd in Phoenix, caught some sessions virtually or haven’t watched at all (you still can, as the GreenBiz 19 plenary session livestream archive is available here), here are highlights from the year's largest gathering of sustainability changemakers.
During the conference opening session, GreenBiz continued a tradition: take an "us-sie" — to symbolize the importance of collaboration, partnerships and connection in building a more sustainable world. Partnerships continued to be a major topic of conversation among the sustainability set.
Many sustainability leaders stepped onto the GreenBiz 19 mainstage to discuss their long-time work. The Environmental Defense Fund's CEO of 30 years, Fred Krupp, sat down with Joel Makower to talk about how to build effective relationships between nonprofits or NGOs and corporations.
"From our standpoint, in the beginning, it was a bit of a risk to partner with a company. It wasn't really done in the environmental community when in 1990 when we initiated partnerships ... But those of us who care deeply about the environment, human health, the natural world, and who know that we need to get results ... breaking bread with a supposed enemy could, in some situations — not every time — but when you had a motivated company, could get real results," Krupp said.
While operating the conference, GreenBiz and Waste Management teamed up to divert as much waste from the event as possible. This year, diversion rates were over 99 percent. Eric Gray, senior consultant with Waste Management, gave tours highlighting how exhibitors at the event use reusable, recyclable and compostable materials to stay at or near zero waste.
Formerly an Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens All-Pro fullback, environmental education advocate Ovie Mughelli shared his sustainability story onstage and in conversations with other conference attendees. These days, his Ovie Mughelli Foundation supports environmental justice causes and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) inclusion outreach and work — both in the Atlanta community and across the United States. Here he met with some Emerging Leaders who received scholarships to attend the event.
Conference attendees networked with cocktails at GreenBiz 19's sponsor Dow's networking event on the JW Marriot Desert Ridge's lawn at twilight in front of the hilly desert surroundings. Co-workers, partners, clients, new acquaintances and strangers chatted, munched and imbibed among cacti and palo verde trees.
At GreenBiz 19's After Dark party, Oakland's own Golden Bell Productions spun some tunes while serenading partygoers with smooth music. GreenBiz's after-conference parties are a longstanding tradition for attendees to both kick back and get down.
Liberty Wildlife Foundation is a rehabilitation center that helps birds of prey and other natural wildlife in Arizona, as well as provides environmental education and community conservation services. Here, a volunteer stands at the Arizona State University Solutions Summit with a great horned owl to demonstrate wildlife rehabilitation.
At GreenBiz Group partner ASU's Sustainability Solutions festival, students presented innovative projects to sustainability professionals in celebration of potential practical approaches to addressing global challenges. Here, Patricia Reiter, executive director of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, emcees the event.
On stage, GreenBiz Editorial Director Heather Clancy talked with Tyson Food's executive vice president of alternative proteins and CSO, Justin Whitmore, about the future of food — and sustainability as a whole.
"The future of food and food systems is going to be about how you bring all these things forward in a way that people can trust and allow businesses to survive and thrive," Whitmore said.