What’s helping us achieve a sustainable world and how do we scale it, brought close to 100 US BCSD and WBCSD members, government, academic and NGO colleagues, and other sustainability thought leaders to Yale University’s Center for Business and the Environment on June 27-28, 2012. The working agenda stressed collaboration first and foremost in defining directions to reach a sustainable world in which nine billion people can live well and within the planet’s resources by 2050.
Meeting attendees worked on partnerships, synergies and productive work outcomes that combined US BCSD regional implementation strategies with the WBCSD’s global Vision 2050 sustainability pathway. Over two days, attendees discussed examples of successful activities already under way to achieve Vision 2050 “must haves” and sought out ways to help articulate, acknowledge and scale those activities. They then joined forces in an innovation workshop aimed at seeking out and encouraging step changes towards the Vision 2050 in the US. Interspersed in this engaging group discussion were presentations and panels from sustainability thought leaders focusing on new financing mechanisms, organizational design, new collaboration opportunities, and examples of groundbreaking innovations highlighted in the breakout group pages below.
Introducing Vision 2050
Chris Turner, Director of Rio+20 Programs for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; Mohammad Zaidi, former Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Alcoa and lead representative during the Vision 2050 process, and Patrick Doherty, deputy director of the National Security Studies Program and director of the Smart Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation opened the day’s discussion with an in-depth look at Vision 2050 and the importance of developing a national strategy for sustainability.
“To achieve Vision 2050 we need to do everything possible, joining forces wherever we see value.” Mohammad Zaidi, CTO Alcoa (retired)
The panelists had just returned from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, where more than 100 heads of state had tried to reach an action-oriented path forward to achieve meaningful sustainability goals like those put forth in Vision 2050. Chris, Mohammad and Patrick emphasized the need for leadership from business to help fill this void with practical, pragmatic steps centered on national and regional implementation strategies.
“Rio was based on a vision circa 1992, post cold war; but today, 190 countries can’t reach agreement. Unilateral action on productivity is the demand.” Patrick Doherty, New America Foundation
To provide inspiration before working breakouts, Michael Gromacki, Dixie Chemical; Robert Ter Kuile, PepsiCo; Joanne Beatty, KPMG; Joseph Fiksel, Center for Resilience; and Bill Sisson, United Technologies Company dove deeply into Vision 2050, focusing on ecosystems, energy, sustainable consumption and water. PepsiCo’s role in putting together the new WBCSD report titled “A Vision for Sustainable Consumption,” helped frame sustainable consumption in the context of Vision 2050.
Joanne Beatty from KPMG emphasized water-use reduction, company accountability for water use in their operations and across fencelines, and the importance of work with other watershed users to find business to business solutions. The WBCSD and US BCSD both have projects underway to address water issues outside a company’s fenceline. The use of treated wastewater will be a growing need in water-stressed areas. United Technologies Company (UTC) has played an instrumental role in the WBCSD’s Energy Efficiency in Buildings 2.0 initiative launching this year, in which deep energy efficiency improvements in market building stock, from retrofit of existing properties to new properties, will be implemented. Joseph Fiksel linked the importance of understanding and valuing ecosystem services with material reuse, energy efficiency and community resilience.
Following the morning panels, meeting attendees moved into breakout groups for Ecosystems, Energy, Sustainable Consumption and Water seeking details on what’s working, and how to scale it to operationalize Vision 2050. Click the icons for summaries and action items for our attendees from each of the four focus areas:
Financing Sustainability and Organizing for Success
Dennis Hunter, founder and chairman of Ygrene Energy Fund, a winner of the “Screw Business As Usual” award from Sir Richard Branson at Rio+20, talked about Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing as a viable way to incentivize and drive energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings, related equipment, and operating processes and practices.
Scott Nadler, ERM; Gretchen Hancock, General Electric; John Bradburn, General Motors; and Gifford Pinchot, Bainbridge Graduate Institute took the stage to explore how different structures and cultural practices can successfully spread sustainability through organizations; and embed sustainability practices, concepts and ideas into business decisions and operations. John shared a number of examples of innovative waste reuse at GM, aligning several units across the company under a common waste-reduction sustainability goal. Gretchen shared similar success stories from GE, where Ecoimagination and sustainability give employees a common language across multiple roles, including marketing and sales. Gifford, president at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, stressed the importance of having a bold vision and fostering a team environment that empowers individual ecopreneurs.
Growing Collaborations and Innovating for Success
Paul Anastas, Yale University; Sabrina Watkins, ConocoPhillips; William Chernicoff, Toyota; and Andrew Mangan, US BCSD shared examples of successful collaborations that are dramatically enhancing and/or scaling specific sustainability efforts, and operationalizing Vision 2050 goals. Panelists stressed that an integrated systems perspective is needed to encourage collaboration, metrics and incentives need to be aligned with sustainability across multiple parts of an organization, and that policy collaboration, as we’ve seen with fuel economy innovation, can result is positive outcomes.
Jessica McGlyn, WBCSD; David Conrad, Nokia; Joe O’Connor, Cisco; Sam Harrington, Ecovative Design; and Paul Anastas, Yale University inspired our audience with a examples of game-changing innovations and structures driving innovation in their organizations. Ecovative Design has started a bottom-up, material revolution that replaces plastics in many packaging applications using agricultural by-products and mycelium, a fungal network of threadlike cells. Nokia is driving sustainability in its customer base through innovative products and applications like Nokia Drive. And Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities uses intelligent networking capabilities to weave together people, services, community assets, and information into a single pervasive solution, to help achieve sustainability.
Engage Business and Foster Innovation
Dan Esty, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, gave an inspirational end-of-day talk on evolving government structures to engage business and drive innovation. He stressed the need for leaner and more efficient government processes to improve the relationship between regulation and business operations. The Connecticut legislature recently passed PACE-enabling legislation, recognizing the importance of energy efficiency in commercial and industrial buildings as a key piece of CT’s long-term sustainability platform.