Big Shmooze

We entered the huge, well-appointed ballroom for the plenary speeches. A glowing centre stage fit for a TV talk show, with five overstuffed chairs was flanked by video screens. The lighting was dramatic, the sound and pacing polished. The crowd eager to get to the 7pm cocktails. But there was both inspiration and optimism in the introduction and speeches:

Sustainable Life was started as a B2B portal in 2004 by KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Founder & President. She introduced the conference with the observation that even though an economic downturn may take down the ‘hot-ness’ factor of the growing green trend, there are too many drivers to sustainability for the issue to go away. This conference itself is an example. 550 people are coming from 37 states and 9 countries outside US, including Japan, Costa Rica, Ireland and Thailand. This number has basically doubled since SB 07 in New Orleans.

Pam Van Orden from Enlightened Brand ( then stepped up to give props to California as the conference host state and introduce the panel of speakers:

Elizabeth Trask Environmental Defence Fund Elizabeth presented some highlights from a document entitled Innovations Review: Making green the new business as usual. This report features best practices in sustainable technology and process. The California Million Solar Roofs Initiative is a state program announced by the Green Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger. To reach this goal, they also use tools like the Solar Power Purchase Agreement – where solar companies fund, installs, operate and maintain panels on the roves of business.

In the Human Resources sector, there is a new trend toward corporations staring their own transit systems. Yahoo Green Guzzler, for instance, is their own private bus service, complete with WiFi, which is an attractive employee benefit and probably a great Friday afternoon party bus.

In the packaging sector, Stonyfield Farms saved $1 Million a year just by replacing the plastic lid on the top of the yogurt container with a sturdy foil seal.

Starbucks became the first food retailer to use post consumer waste in food packaging. (cups) They worked with FDA to get clearance, and now that formula is an open standard for other food retailers to use.

Leonard Robinson California EPA Leonard introduced, among other things, the California Take It Back Partnership. This focuses on electronics and compact fluorescent light bulb return. Oscar the Grouch is the SpokesMuppet for the California EPA’s “Not in my Trash Can-paign”  Leonard also and had one of the best ideas of the conference so far: Companies shouldn’t get a patent for their innovations unless they can show, in a ‘Cradle-to-Cradle’ way, the  lifecycle of the product and what’s done with it at the end.

Spontaneous crowd applause.

Bob O’Connor from Wilson Sonsini Goodritch & Rosati outlined some of the investment in green tech going on these days. Capital is pouring into clean energy – 148.4 Billion global investment in 07, up 60% from 06. California leads the way, with 1.8 Billion in investment (Compared to Western Canada at 131 Million)

Tim O'SheaTim O’Shea from CleanFish. (Fish you can trust) uses the high culinary standards of Northern California to help redefine and demand responsible aquaculture. Their focus on ‘Artisan Fisheries’ gets consumers to demand it, and make the marketplace respond. In short, you’re either voting with your fork for better food practices… or you’re voting with your fork for practices that degrade systems.

Paige Poulos from the Mendocino Wine Grape & Wine Coalition left us with a beautiful and inspirational look at that Northern California county, billed as  ‘America’s greenest wine region.’ 

Paige puts it in simple terms: “Mendecino Wineries are pure. Clean. Open. You can go behind the barns – through the fields. Then ask yourself – could anybody go anywhere in your company and you wouldn’t be afraid that they would open the wrong door…?”

A worthy challenge with which led the eager crowd onwards to the shmooze fest at the TUSCA restaurant.

One in a series of articles on Lorne’s Sustainable Journey to the Sustainable Brands 08 Conference in Monterey CA. Click here for the full list of sessions, or here for the ‘Fear & Loathing’ road trip journals.

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