This weekend, I had the privilege to attend the Net Impact 2011 conference which was held in Portland, Oregon. The conference contained a wealth of information on sustainability, social innovation, renewable and green energy, sustainable finance, agriculture, and education. I found it extremely resourceful in the topics and areas that I am interested in. I very much valued the conversations that the conference initiated, and the engagement of so many stakeholders from students who will form the future and present leaders, to corporations who have much influence in the directions we take into the future, to the organizations that are working on the sustainability issues and are looking for partners and contributors.
Here are some statics on the 2011 conference from their website that will outline the extent and reach of the conference. Source: http://2011.netimpact.org/.
- 2,500 Attended.
- 129 Schools Represented
- 14 Countries and 39 States
- 73 Exhibiting Organizations
- 395 Dynamic Speakers
- 131 Energizing Sessions
I will be using some of the information that I have learned in the conference in future blog posts. For now, I want to leave you with some food for thought. In my discussions with several participants after the conference, there were two camps of opinions on the conference. There were some that did not feel that the conference went far enough to address sustainability, and some like me were just grateful that the conference is taking place and that the various stakeholders are engaged in the conversation on sustainability. Let’s expand each position, and you can choose which you sympathize with the most.
The first camp thought that the conference did not go enough. They felt that there was a lot of green washing. Most of the corporation representatives were its sustainability officers, who are trained to speak in these situations and present a favorable view of each company in the sustainability area. The level of discussion was not in terms of how everything would fit in the context of sustainability, but rather sustainability as a speciality and a value added piece.
The second camp, which I am part of, thought that having as many stakeholders represented and engaged in the conversation of sustainability is a tremendous step in the right direction. Change will not take place overnight, but as the conversation expands, change will happen. There were many sessions that outlined the sobering issues of what faces the world today. The response is not at the level required to meet these challenges. There is an attitude that we can continue to do business as usual and the incremental steps in the right direction will save the day. In my opinion, this attitude that will rapidly change as the externalities caused by the global challenges inevitably get priced into our models. It will take some time, but we are moving in the right direction.