Highlights from GreenBiz 18

Amy Hou  |  February 13, 2018  |  Energy & Sustainability  

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GreenBiz 18 was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise tenuous era of support for sustainability. From zero waste to full disclosure, the speakers present never failed to inspire with their exemplary leadership. Here are some of the top trends we saw coming out of the conference:

The State of GreenBiz 18

Joel Makower, co-founder of GreenBiz, opened with the state of our green union in 2018 — and it’s never looked better. He reported seeing:

  • ESG move from the margins to the mainstream
  • Science-based targets gain traction
  • Economic inclusion become a sustainability imperative
  • Energy storage charge forward
  • Cities mobilize to avert “peak delivery” congestion
  • The electrification of everything

Cradle to Cradle

A unifying topic across these positive trends emerged in the form of the sharing economy. Across industries, sustainability leaders have taken on the challenge of reducing waste and closing the loop of production. Bill McDonough, often called the father of the circular economy, elaborated on his vision for a sustainable future at GreenBiz 18.

According to McDonough, the average American buys around 70 garments of clothing a year, coalescing into “clothing entropy.” He urges us to rethink how we frame goods and services, for if we think of goods as recurring services rather than one-time purchases, we can make “more goods and less bads.” Said McDonough:

“It’s about how much we can give for all we get, not how much we can get for how little we give.”

Disney has been inching toward a cradle-to-cradle model with their packaging. Candela Montera, Director of Corporate Citizenship, described the company’s effort to make toy packaging more environmentally sound as “an incredibly long journey, much longer than we anticipated.” But they’re getting there. The packaging that comes with the Moana doll, for example, now comes with reuse instructions to build it into a canoe.

McDonough added that if businesses follow all the cradle to cradle principles, we could achieve all the UN Sustainable Development Goals at once.

Action on the SDGs

Alas, if only it were so easy. In a tutorial run by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development at GreenBiz 18, various speakers painted a picture of how businesses are doing so far at engaging with the SDGs. Many are still in early stages, merely aligning messaging around their current initiatives with how they pertain to the SDGs. It will take time for businesses to absorb the goals into their strategy at the outset.

However, a session on sustainability reporting cautioned companies against shaping their entire strategy around something like the SDGs, lest reporting become the “tail that wags the dog.” The panelists suggested that businesses review their strategy in light of the SDGs, but to follow their strategy nonetheless.

“We’re still in…and we’re taking things to the next level.”

Lise Kingo, CEO and executive director of UN Global Compact, reiterated the importance of the private sector’s role in accomplishing the SDGs. “These 17 goals…that is the plan. There is no plan B. Business can play a huge role.”

Check out the results of our survey on the outlook of sustainability in the era of Trump.

Above all, the takeaway from GreenBiz 18 was that we’re keeping up our momentum. As Makower put it: “When Trump announced the U.S. intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, all of you didn’t double over — you doubled down. We’re still in…and we’re taking things to the next level.”

What was your favorite part of GreenBiz 18? Join the conversation and let us know on Twitter.

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About Amy Hou

Amy Hou is a Marketing Manager at Urjanet, overseeing content and communications. She enjoys writing about the latest industry updates in sustainability, energy efficiency, and data innovation.


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