Over the past several weeks, I hit the last round of conferences and expos focused on sustainability. My experience was one of joy as I witnessed my colleagues working to improve process, efficiency, costs and environmental impact. Human drive and ingenuity are hard at work, and this was clearly evidenced by the men and women I encountered this month. A year ago, these conferences felt like a collection of people who were interested in play and owning the “green” game. Today, if feels like a smaller and more focused set of business leaders who plan to be around in 5, 10 or 20 years. It’s less about competitive advantage and more about survival. Not only the survival of our individual businesses, but a great understanding of the survival of capitalism and the ability for mankind to integrate growth and abundance into the laws of nature.
My first stop was Opportunity Green on the UCLA campus in early November. I had been asked to lead a panel on “Trends in Green” with some very impressive friends: Adam Lowry, founder of Method Cleaning Products, Fashion Macon, senior manager of partnerships and promotions for T-Mobile USA and Jason Kibbey, founder of Wear PACT. Each of these panel members had much to contribute to the topic of green trends, but the overall takeaway was that we have moved into a more solid position of sustainable operations and away from one-off marketing gimmicks. Trends in green product design are following closely with the LOHAS descriptor of “in me, on me, or around me” which speaks to the overall health and sustainability of a product, as opposed to simply the environmental practices in creating it. Each of these leaders discussed their plans to move toward more intelligent and sustainable design. I look forward to sharing more from these individuals in future blog entries.
My next trip took me to one of the most exciting gatherings of the year, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. I was there with Mohawk Industries, a company who is in the middle of its own renaissance for improved operations and long-term sustainability. (You can read more about the direction of the company from the President of the Commercial Division, Al Kabus, in this recent article in IndustryWeek.
With over 27,000 people in attendance, the Green Building movement is shifting from a standard to the way of building. I was most impressed with the time I spent with my friend Jayni Chase who has been dedicated to the greening of our schools for many years. Jayni, a founder of the Center for Environmental Education, has partnered with brilliant leaders in the space such as Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Materials and Rachel Gutter, senior manager of the education sector for the USGBC. If there was any big takeaway from Greenbuild for me, it was about partnerships and that leadership occurs in it.
Finally, I spent a few days in Chicago at the 3rd Annual Good and Green Conference. Numbers were smaller this year, but dedication was at a high. Those who were present felt like a strong core of task masters ready to understand the next move for green marketing. From groups such as The Shelton Group, Gfk Roper and Earthsense, the audience learned about the current marketing trends in green. The major takeaways were: Make it Practical, Affordable and Doable. The best way to get your customers, vendors and all other partners to embrace change in retooling and designing their current operations, homes, businesses is to provide solutions that make sense. While people want to care about doing the right thing, it must match up with the ability to make sense for their needs.
So, overall, we can expect to see our “green” leaders become more clear, visible and focused. Many companies will stay behind in the dark while these beacons of change lead the rest of us who are willing and able to view business in an entirely new manner.