I celebrated my seventh anniversary with Cool Choices last week at the Sustainable Brands conference. The event, which is very much a celebration of business leadership on sustainability coupled with a strong nudge to do more faster, was exactly the right place to be as I reflected on these past years.
Some things have definitely changed over the last seven years. While our climate challenges are more pressing, the cost of renewable energy is much brighter, making our quest to reduce emissions both more urgent and more attainable. Increasingly, we realize that the challenges are less technical than cultural. We have the means to act in the best interests of humanity, if we can find the will.
Which is why, for me, it was so energizing to spend my anniversary amid sustainable business leaders. Since Cool Choices’ beginning, we’ve believed that business will be part of the climate change solution. Today, we are learning this is more true than ever.
BUSINESS SUSTAINABILITY: ENGAGING EMPLOYEES IS KEY
I came to Cool Choices already deeply influenced by the workplace initiatives we experimented with at Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program, where we worked with local hardware stores to sell thousands of energy efficient light bulbs to consumers at their place of work. The effort worked because people helped influence the purchasing practices of their colleagues, which for me suggested that workplaces were the new hubs for social influence.
At Cool Choices, we took this to the next level and began to talk with businesses about engaging employees, and we found strong interest from forward-thinking business leaders. When we were first building our engagement model, I talked with two Wisconsin businesses that were leaders on sustainability. Both businesses immediately said “yes” to hosting a pilot program, even though we didn’t yet know what that pilot would look like. We quickly learned that business leaders were eager to engage employees around sustainable practices in a positive and productive way.
Across the subsequent years of partnerships, we have had the privilege of seeing how our employee engagement programs around sustainability can help business leaders inspire their employees. We have also seen that inspiration leads to innovation and new opportunities, both within and across organizations. When employees really understand corporate sustainability goals – when everyone knows it’s part of their job to reduce waste and facilitate innovation – the results are transformative.
BUSINESS AND THE CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTION
The Sustainable Brands conference was a sort of epicenter of those kinds of success stories. Businesses came together in Detroit under a theme of “Redefining the Good Life,” which meant interesting conversations about quality over quantity. Leaders talked about innovative efforts and audacious goals associated with social justice, environmental impacts, and economic prosperity.
In short, the conference re-affirmed that business is not only ready to be part of the solution, but that smart businesses understand that their prosperity is tied to expanding sustainable practices within, and well beyond, their own corporate walls.
Our climate challenges are substantial and so far no one is doing enough. Savvy businesses are striving, though, to be part of the solution, and it’s an honor for us at Cool Choices to partner with those businesses as they re-define the good life for employees, the broader public, and all other beings on earth.
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