As I sat in the audience at last week’s Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics Conference, I was excited at the amount of conversation happening in the economic and governmental arenas pertaining to sustainability. As a communications professional who is quite obviously passionate about sustainability, I was, of course, also a bit disappointed. Not at all with the conference itself, as it was fantastic; instead, with the fact that companies are still trying to figure out IF they want to talk about sustainability and the efforts they are making.
In defense of the folks in the audience with me, and those on stage sharing their wisdom, I was at an economics conference. So the fact that sustainability communications wasn’t the primary focus of presentations was simply the way the conference was designed, and that was okay with me – after I got it through my head that not everyone is as ready to talk about sustainability as I am.
What got me the most jazzed over the course of the three days was the volume of companies and entrepreneurs who are looking for new ways to embed sustainability into our global culture. It’s EXCITING stuff! There are companies transforming the way organizations tackle public space waste and recycling, business owners pioneering the future of urban agriculture, and others who are producing cost-effective, sustainable products for the fuel and chemical industries. And those are just a few examples of the companies “making innovative, sustainable stuff.” Others are providing services like cleaning up their communities – Riverkeeper, for instance, works in defense of New York’s water.
Another exciting development is that funding is becoming more available for the creation of these sustainable solutions. It’s important that we start to reduce our collective footprint, and funding groups and institutions who are stepping up to help make dreams become reality were well represented at this event.
And finally, there’s increasing discussion about the need for finding political “common ground” on the issues of sustainability. Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz (at the ripe ol’ age of 92) sat on stage and spoke eloquently about the need for a coming together of Republicans and Democrats on this issue. His belief is that a substantial budget for R&D is key to successfully reducing the world’s carbon footprint. Not all in the audience (or even on stage) agreed with him, but the conversation was had, and that is progress, folks!
There’s so much that took place at the conference, space simply doesn’t allow me to share it all with you. I will say, at the end of my time at the conference, I sat in on a roundtable about green marketing. It was well attended by representatives from companies large and small. I hopped on my plane encouraged that the business case for sustainable innovation is compelling and that sustainability communications will become important for most organizations. As well it should.