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August 22, 2014Infra

Sustainability @ Scale Recap

Bill Weihl

Late last month, more than 200 people convened at Facebook’s offices in Menlo Park for Sustainability @ Scale, a day-long conference focused on corporate sustainability. Our hope, in bringing this group together, was that we could foster some open discussion of the sustainability challenges we all face and identify some opportunities to work together to address those challenges.

Participants came from a range of backgrounds including technology, apparel, materials, consumer products, non-profits, and academia. The conversations throughout the day ranged from the nuances of data collection and modeling, to the challenges of measuring water use, to the complexities of sourcing green energy. We discussed ways to drive internal engagement and consensus on sustainability issues, ways to encourage consumers to practice environmental stewardship and sustainability at home and work, and ways to collaborate with policy makers to drive long-lasting change.

Our panel on green energy stressed the need for utilities to be flexible, innovative partners in our effort to green the grid. In another session, we heard several companies discuss their efforts to translate carbon impact into a more common business language – many felt that a financial equivalent resonated with upper management more than a metric ton did.

From beginning to end, these discussions were open, engaging, and productive. But what excited me the most was the group’s persistent focus on identifying opportunities to work together on these challenges – to find opportunities that transcended any single company’s sustainability goals and instead pushed for systemic change. This is exactly the kind of approach we’ll need to take if we hope to make a real impact on these issues, and it was incredibly energizing to be a part of these discussions.

For those who couldn’t be there, we’ve included videos of some of the day’s sessions below. We hope to host more of these conferences in the future, so if you’d like to attend, please like this post to indicate your interest.

Opening Remarks

Facebook's Bill Weihl set the stage for a day of cross-industry conversation and collaborative solution-finding in order to solve our biggest sustainability challenges.

Water Sustainability in a Changing World

Tom Cooper of Intel discussed the challenges associated with operating manufacturing facilities in water-poor areas. He was joined by Desirae Early of Levi Strauss, and Eric Olson of BSR, for a broader discussion on water sustainability and business operations.

Driving Sustainability Through Consumer Engagement

Two of the biggest levers a company has to scale sustainability are its consumer base and its employees. In a discussion moderated by Emma Stewart of Autodesk, Jonathan Atwood of Unilever, Jill Dumain of Patagonia, and Susan Hunt Stevens of WeSpire spoke about how employee engagement programs, in-store marketing choices, and communication strategies can promote sustainable products.

Looking at Climate Change Through the NGO Lens

Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Jodie Van Horn of the Sierra Club, David Pomerantz of Greenpeace, and Elizabeth Sturcken of the Environmental Defense Fund stressed the importance of 100% renewable commitments, policy changes, and public campaigns to drive positive environmental change.

Closing Remarks

Bill Weihl closed the event by echoing the importance of industry collaboration in order to achieve sustainability at scale.

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