Last week Cool Choices co-hosted the 10th Annual Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council (WSBC) conference at the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin.

The event – which draws hundreds of attendees from a variety of Wisconsin businesses each year – aims to create a forum where business leaders who are actively working on sustainability issues can share ideas and insights. The event is unique in that all of the conference presenters are people leading sustainability efforts within a company, rather than consultants selling particular approaches. That means there’s plenty of frank talk about lessons learned, enabling the attendees to avoid repeating costly mistakes while accelerating ideas that have a proven record of success.

Making Progress in Sustainability

As the conference’s annual co-host, we had the honor of once again welcoming event attendees to this year’s event – a responsibility we take quite seriously. We wanted to motivate people to engage at the event, and to take insights back to their organizations. Sometimes it’s easy to craft that message. For example, in 2015 the WSBC conference occurred just days after the Paris Treaty on Climate Change, which meant everyone was excited about the potential for international efforts and new opportunities.

In 2017, by contrast, inspiring action seemed like a big challenge, at least at first glance. This year the US federal government pulled out of the Paris Treaty on Climate Change and reversed a variety of social and environmental commitments at both state and federal levels. Commitment to sustainability action seemed to be in jeopardy. In fact, there have been moments when it seemed like there’s bad news everywhere.

But that was just the first glance. If you look more closely at what’s happening right now there’s a lot of good news for sustainability advocates – and a lot of progress too.

Thousands of US leaders across business, local governments, higher education, and faith-based organizations are committing to meet the Paris Treaty standards, with or without the federal government. Efforts like We’re Still In demonstrate the power of leadership at all levels.

Market Shifts Accelerate Sustainability

Then there’s everything that’s happening in the market. Wind and solar electric systems are now comparable in cost to fossil fuels in many locations, a prospect that seemed implausible just a few years ago. Plus electric vehicles and the all-important electric storage options that are gaining market share too, prompting unprecedented reductions in price along the way. Increasingly, the costs of clean energy options just makes good economic sense–smart leaders see no reason to opt for the more expensive, dirtier options.

Additionally, the views of regular people are shifting – the folks who make up your workforce and your customer base. Eight-in-ten millennials want a career where they can contribute to the company’s environmental efforts, MBA students report they are turning down offers from companies that don’t have sustainability goals, and customers – by increasingly large margins – prefer products that are environmentally responsible.

Taking together all of that means this is an exciting time to be involved in sustainability! There’s leadership support, there’s grassroots support, and the technologies are available (at increasingly lower prices) to make change happen.

Inspiring Sustainability

When we welcomed attendees to this year’s WSBC conference, we told them that it was a terrific time to be working on sustainability. This is our time to shine, to make change happen. Even if you didn’t attend WSBC, we hope you can see past the negative headlines and recognize all of the great opportunities available to sustainability professionals right now. And we hope you are inspired to lead your own organization further than anyone thought feasible a few years ago.

It’s a great time to be involved in sustainability and we’re grateful to collaborate with all of you on this important quest.

For more details on how Cool Choices can help accelerate your sustainability efforts, please view one of our on-demand sustainability webinars, download our white paper (which outlines results from our employee engagement programs, and how we’ve inspired real behavior change around sustainability for our clients), or contact us to learn more.

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