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  • Writer's pictureTamanna Mohapatra

Thoughts on ‘Corporate Environmental Sustainability Programs’

That was the title of the third in a series of six events organized by Columbia University Alumni division.  As usual, it was held at a very swanky location (Satatchi & Saatchi, Global HQs in NYC!) Although I had read Adam Werbach’s book and new he was related to this firm, I didn’t know much about it except that it was a much acclaimed and proclaimed advertising agency. I finally checked out their website to confirm this fact

Any who, coming back to the event, it was a good event and worth every penny of the $25 entrance fee. They had 3 speakers, one of whom overshadowed the other two; in fact till I was sitting in that packed room with the other 150 people (yes, sustainability is quite popular or we are just a rapidly growing group of nerds :-)), I didn’t even realize the 3 speaker fact.

One was from Pepsico (this company keeps popping up regularly in all sustainability events), another from CA (I need to check them out seriously) and the third was from one of my most respected companies: seventh generation.

The Pepsico lady was very honest in her talk. They do it because it saves them money, gives them a good brand name and mostly because it’s a CEO initiative..yay for Women CEOs!!

Next was the IT person from Computer Associates; he too was a great speaker and truthfully declared that he had no idea why he was chosen for the job by his CEO five years ago and he didn’t have any concept of what it meant and why it should be led by an IT guy.

But long story short, CA is a big fan of sustainability for pretty much the same reasons as above..big money and resource saver. He did go one step further and mention how he personally thinks feeding 9 billion people and providing water for them is what worries him the most..but, we all know how short sighted our human race is. Forget about saving future generations, we are having a hard time agreeing to save our current generation (aka climate change vs. global warming!)

Which leads us to the third speaker: Jeffrey Hollander; his title at his company is Chief Inspired Protagonist, he’s the founder of a company called ‘seventh generation’, which believes all we do in our life times should be keeping in mind the future seven generations. He has a great book list on his website (by the way, he recommends every school child and adult should read ‘Thinking in Systems’. I’ll check it out one of these days. He gave a wonderful and very open talk; often at the company of his peers..other business companies. Here’s what I remember

1. Very few companies believe in sustainability.

2. Of those, the majority are trying to lessen their bad…less Co2, less water pollution, less waste etc which assumes that someone has given business  the right to generate waste, pollution etc in the first place.

3. CEOs need to think of true sustainability in a genuine way and that includes caring for their employees; it can’t be that the gap between the lowest paid employee and the highest in a company be 500 or 1000 and that that they call them a fair and just company.

4. To be truly sustainable, the whole company needs to be in synch. Left hand and right hand have to know what the other is doing. A few years ago, while one part of Toyota was promoting and selling Prius, the legal arm was lobbying against increase in gas prices. Both techniques are equally important, even if one improves business and the other doesn’t.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ll stop here because a)I feel like I am beginning to lecture and b)I don’t want to lecture.

On a lighter note, summer is finally here, which means we can all enjoy the outdoors again.

Next blog better be on the great weather outdoors.

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