In 2019, there were over 130 mainstage panels, talks and GreenBiz Studio interviews produced as videos from our GreenBiz Group events. As the year comes to a close, we’re featuring a handful of the most intriguing and thoughtful conversations.
1. The future is in good hands
Over the course of 2019, there were many great conversations about the importance of addressing inequity as we move toward a clean economy, featured in this Video Vault. One in particular really stuck with me.[embedded content]
As the VERGE19 program in October read, “The Kids Are (More Than) All Right.” Youth activists Marlow Baines, global crew director at Earth Guardians; Isha Clarke, organizer at Youth Vs. Apocalypse; and Tokata Iron Eyes, member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Indigenous who sits on the board of sustainable energy group Indigenized Energy, graced the stage and offered both inspiration and calls to action.
“When you’re having conversations about things that are impacting communities, do you see anyone from those communities that are in the building?” Clarke asked attendees at VERGE19, which took place in October.
“If not, then something needs to change. Because if we don’t have people who are experiencing this on a day-to-day basis, then we’re going to continue to repeat and repeat the same thing over again and we’re going to be back exactly where we are right now.”
2019 was a year in which the youth continued to push adults to go further and faster in addressing the climate crisis. This conversation at VERGE19 was just one example of that.
2. Commitments need collaboration[embedded content]
Earlier in the year at GreenBiz19, Janis Searles, CEO of the Ocean Conservancy, was in conversation with GreenBiz’s executive editor, Joel Makower; Haley Lowry, global sustainability director at Dow; and Rob Kaplan, CEO and founder of Circulate Capital. They discussed the challenges that come with tackling debris in the ocean.
Searles said her organization set a goal to end the flow of plastic into the ocean by 2030. The conversation spoke to the importance of collaborating across sectors to achieve environmental sustainability goals. In order to address the complex ocean plastics issue, Ocean Conservancy is working with other organizations across sectors including Dow and Circulate Capital.
“From our perspective, corporations are part of the problem so they need to be part of the solution,” Searles said, noting that the Ocean Conservancy has found great partners to help them develop and implement solutions. “Partnerships are only valuable if the work that you’re doing together is meaningful and measurable, and if there’s credibility on both sides of the partnership.”
Similar to ocean plastic, many issues within the climate crisis are complex. As this conversation shows, it will take collaborations across industries, governments and value chains to define and implement solutions that lead address the problem at the root.
3. The corporate duty to lift up local communities[embedded content]
During another part of the GreenBiz19 program, Vien Truong, principal at Truong & Associates who previously served as president at Dream Corps, spoke with Shana Rappaport, GreenBiz’s vice president and executive director of VERGE, about the role the private sector should play in advancing environmental justice — both steps to take immediately in the present and the long term aspirational vision for the future.
Truong, who grew up in Oakland, California, said some of the work she’s been doing is to address challenges that the communities where she was raised and still lives continue to face. Among those issues are the diesel trucks, which Truong referred to as “refineries on wheels” driving through the community on a daily basis, leading to increased rates of asthma for the children in the area.
Rappaport asked Truong what companies can do to advance social and environmental equity. Truong urged the audience to reach out to existing organizations doing the work in their local communities.
Truong offered the example of Dream Corps working with Earth Friendly Products on its #FuelChange4Kids Art Program, an extension of its #FuelChange campaign, an effort to fight climate change and improve health by bringing zero-emission electric cars, trucks, and buses to underserved neighborhoods across the country. The art programs gave young artists ages 5 to 17 an opportunity to show the organizations what a pollution-free future looked like to them.
“Find collaborations together. It’s a win-win for everyone,” she said.
4. Stop blaming consumers, empower them take action[embedded content]
At the inaugural Circularity conference in June, Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of Shelton Group, provided an overview of what her marketing communications company found when it polled over 1,000 Americans on their feelings about plastic — how much they’ve heard about bans on single-use plastics and which climate issues they’re actually interested in learning more about, for example.
About 80 percent of those polled said they’d heard about the plastic waste issue. Shelton said this has implications for companies because ocean plastics is the environmental issue Americans feel they actually can do something about.
“You are making people feel bad as they interact with your product,” Shelton said, noting that consumers feel complicit in the problem.
Additionally, a third of Americans who were surveyed said they’re likely to change brands because of packaging. The solution for companies is to change their packaging, giving consumers better options that in turn, helps them feel more empowered instead of bad about buying things wrapped in plastic.
5. The politics of politics[embedded content]
Circling back to VERGE19, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Ryan Popple, president and CEO of Proterra, an electric vehicle design and manufacturing company, took to the stage to discuss leadership in the clean economy.
“I’m telling you, politics is just so critical to all of our success in this, the local, at the microlocal… and at the federal level,” Granholm said. “You’re not gonna see any of this stuff happen unless you’ve got people in those positions who want to be bold and lead on this instead of retreat.”
In 2020, people undoubtedly will continue to have more insightful and nuanced conversations. More important, companies, governments and individuals hopefully will continue to do the work needed to address the climate emergency and stave off its impacts.