by Brian Wagner
This year I was fortunate to attend the GreenBiz 22 conference in Scottsdale, Arizona with nine other members of the MBA-SBP cohort. It was probably the most fulfilling professional development experience of my life. There were professionals working in sustainability from all over the country that attended GreenBiz to teach, learn, and network with one another. The organizations that were represented at the conference ranged from Walmart to Meta to the United Nations to Salesforce and each of these organizations could speak about their unique experiences in their sustainable journeys. In this reflection, I will talk about a few of the most impactful messages I learned from some of the panelists.
On our first day I attended a tutorial called ‘Finding the Story in Your ESG Numbers’ that was presented by CEO of Shelton Group, Suzanne Shelton. In this presentation we learned how ESG scores are calculated and how a company can shape a narrative around their scores. The major message that I took away from this presentation was that scoring well on ESG by simply meeting requirements should not be the endgame for companies, mitigating risk should be. By performing well in ESG, companies can more consistently minimize their exposure to business and legal risks. Once companies have their sustainable business practices in order, they can start telling their story in a way that consumers can trust.
A theme that I picked up on throughout the event was that organizations are facing a constant tension between delivering quarterly growth and implementing circularity into their business processes. Often times, businesses find that circularity is the correct long-term business decision, but struggle to implement it because their investors don’t have the patience. The panelists spoke openly and honestly about this struggle and their plans moving forward. Some companies are taking the approach of ‘radical collaboration’ and others are working on education campaigns with their investors to explain the long-term stability circularity can provide.
GreenBiz was one of the greatest professional experiences of my entire life. It was inspiring to see so many companies and individuals working towards improving their business operations. The panelists were insightful and the networking connections are valuable. I return from GreenBiz with a renewed sense of enthusiasm about sustainable business practices and the opportunities associated with it. There are brilliant minds working on sustainable solutions and I feel excitement to pursue a career in sustainability.