Last week, we gathered at the “Happiest Place on Earth” to convene the fourth CHOICES Sustainability Summit. But as Boise’s Chief Operations Officer Bob Warren took the podium to welcome attendees, he reminded us that the act of protecting the Earth takes more than dreams and wishes to come true.
“Unfortunately, we don’t live in the Magic Kingdom – we can’t sprinkle pixie dust and achieve our sustainability goals. But we can learn from each other, and that’s what this summit is all about.”
Indeed, the most frequently repeated phrase of the day among attendees seemed to be “wow, what a diverse group!” This year’s Summit brought together business, sustainability and organizational leaders representing a broad variety of industries and audiences – from medical device manufacturers to college professors, office suppliers to television directors and everywhere in-between.
The resulting conversations – many of which took place in the hallway between sessions or after-hours at the welcome reception – were engaging and wide-ranging, to say the least. Even the presentation topics ran the gamut – social sustainability best practices in business leadership, demystifying forest product certifications and urban tree-planting initiatives in the country’s largest cities are just a few of the subjects discussed during the conference.
After a sustainability-focused walking tour of Disneyland Park, where Summit attendees learned about some of the environmental initiatives put in practice at the park, attendees regrouped for a cocktail reception and capped off the evening by viewing Disney’s stunning World of Color water and light show. With nearly 1,200 high-pressure water jets, 28 high-definition projectors and 15 million gallons of water, World of Color was an appropriately dazzling kick-off to the CHOICES Sustainability Summit – an apt display of the coordination and cooperation required for many moving parts to achieve spectacular results.
So what did we learn from such a plethora of perspectives? Here is a selection of salient topics and opinions that rose to the surface during the Summit, many of which we will continue to explore on the CHOICES blog throughout the year:
Sustainability should have global relevance, beyond the immediate business benefits. For instance, Dr. Beth Stevens from the Walt Disney Company shared her team’s work to build upon the company’s long-standing commitment to sustainability, as Walt Disney himself championed good corporate citizenship and conservation as founding principles long before most business leaders embraced such concepts. In addition to the many conservation initiatives being undertaken at Disney theme parks, Disney Cruises and Disney Resorts, this global perspective is embedded in the company’s corporate citizenship commitment.
Forest certification sets the world standard for sustainable forestry. Joann Cox shared how forest products are among the United States’ most prominent and valuable exports. With our long history of responsible forest management, the U.S. has an obligation to lead the way in educating emerging economies about maintaining their own renewable forests.
Sustainability relies on imagination and innovation. Whether we’re touting office composting or duplex printing, sustainability is about more than recycling and carbon footprints. It’s about economic and social commitments that pervade all parts of an organization. Keynote speaker Drew Dudley touched on the social elements, while members of our sustainability panel discussed the “business” of sustainability and bottom-line impact.
Sharing best practices strengthens the “community ecosystem.” Sustainability leaders often talk about how it “takes a village” to embrace the practice, and sharing information is perhaps the best way to rally citizens, businesses, municipalities, employees, commuters and service providers around a common set of sustainability goals. Several presenters – including the RePaper Project, Two Sides and Alliance for Community Trees – touched on the importance of involving all stakeholders in sustainability decision-making.
Over the next several weeks, CHOICES will be sharing video excerpts and resources created or inspired during the Summit. But in the true spirit of collaboration, we want to tap the “wisdom of the crowd” to determine which topics most interest you, the CHOICES community. What parts of the Summit were most compelling and relevant to your business? Which subjects would you like to explore in more detail?
Better yet, would you be interested in writing a guest blog post for CHOICES and sharing your unique perspective? We welcome any and all comments below, or via Facebook and Twitter, as we continue to learn from each other.
Tags: 2012 CHOICES Sustainabilty Summit, Alliance for Community Trees, Drew Dudley, Environmental Paper Network, iReuse, Nuance Leadership, Phil Riebel, The RePaper Project, The Walt Disney Company, Two Sides