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Innovation Wednesday: On the Road with the Fast 50

Despite the amazing panoramic views in our new office, we still get the occasional case of skyscraper fever and have to hit the road. This year we took along winners of the Fast 50.

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Despite the amazing panoramic views in our new office, we still get the occasional case of skyscraper fever and have to hit the road. This year we took along winners of the Fast 50. The idea behind what we dubbed the Fast 50 Dialogues was to bring the conversation that we start in the pages of the magazine to life with you, our readers.

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The theme of this year’s Fast 50 was “Business can save the world,” so we featured the people and businesses with the courage and creativity to tackle the world’s most urgent problems. Not bad company to keep. In Philadelphia, SunEdison outlined how it developed lower-cost distributed solar power. In Boston, EcoFish told readers how it’s identifying and promoting sustainable seafood sourcing. In Chicago, Southwest Michigan First described the venture fund it started to support life-science startups. In Silicon Valley, Phoenix Motorcars took readers behind the scenes of its growing feet of affordable electric trucks and SUVs.

The latest event was yesterday in Austin, Texas (one of our Fast Cities this year). Angela Nahikian (pictured here), the manager of global environmental strategy and programs at Steelcase, kicked off a lively discussion by telling how the world’s largest office furniture company has come to focus on sustainability. In product development. Sourcing. Manufacturing. The supply chain. Although Steelcase is leading industry-wide change through its cradle-to-cradle approach, the work has just begun. Every change to a process or product line begets a new set of questions, a new set of problems. I like how Nahikian puts the effort in perspective: “This isn’t about making a green product. This is about changing the way you do business. If you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’re lying to yourself…This is an imperfect journey.”

For more coverage of yesterday’s event, check out this piece by Hoovers’ Tim Walker, who was on hand.

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About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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