Businesswomen’s Sustainability Leadership Summit

Last week, (seems that all of my postings start this way) I attended the Second Annual West Coast Businesswomen’s Sustainability Leadership Summit, a Women’s Network for Sustainable Future event, at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.  There were about 150-200 women in attendance (my guestimate).  I am by no means an expert on “green” businesses and sustainability, but I definitely have an interest in learning more about what this area is all about.  Is it a buzz or a real trend?  Do companies really care or is it a status/image thing?

The morning started off pretty fast with Dr. Sharon Nunes doing a keynote about sustainability and IBM’s involvement.  It kept my attention.  Then we did breakout sessions to answer one of five summit questions.  I was in the yellow group, so our question was “How are the customer values changing? What can companies do to keep up?  Let me just say that I love breakout groups.  It gives me a chance to meet other people at the event and a chance to contribute.

We answered:

There are different groups of “green” consumers: 1) those who are on the cupse of being green, 2) those who go green if it’s cheaper, 3) those who go green at any cost, 4) those who do not know what green is

Consumers aren’t always motivated by cost savings.  There is a trend of saving the earth for the future of our children.  Many moms chimed in saying sometimes going green is the safest for kids (e.g., toys without toxic paints).

Companies can keep up by listening to their customers via social media or other feedback mechanisms.  Also, companies can be proactive rather than reactive by educating themselves on green issues.

To kick off the afternoon, Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality, and environmental advisor to President Obama, gave us a talk about thing that the goverment is doing to become more green.  I was impressed that the goverment cared enough to attend this 150-200 women summit.  It was definitely a treat.

To close, Judith Estrin gave us a talk on having sustainable technology, not necessarily related to sustainability as in green, but how to make sure innovation continues to happen.  I was intrigued by her bio, CTO at Cisco, currently or previously a board member at Disney, FedEx, and Sun Microsystems.  And to top it all off, she is an engineer.  Gotta love that!

All in all, the summit was very educational.  It hasn’t convinced me that I should be going after green jobs, but I’m more conscious of the things companies are doing and recognizing the huge challenge ahead of us.

Check out the tweets from the event here.

My takeaways:

battery-operated cars today only run for 100  miles, working on research for lithium air batteries to run cars for 500 miles

ikea’s value co-creation
– customers transport and assemble furniture

value creation network, it’s about creating relevant and compelling solutions

Asia will become 50% urban in next 15 years

urban population will almost double between 2010-2050 (to 6.4B!)

$11.5 worth of produce is wasted in India b/c of outdated post-harvest infrastructure

you can’t solve one problem w/o looking across the value system, you start to charge toll going into the city then you better have excess public transportation to handle the change in passengers

triangle of sustainability: does it hurt the environment? does it hurt people? does it save businesses money?

money is not the only driving factor for sustainability

make sustainability at work easily do-able, small steps

integrate sustainability into performance reviews

Nancy – from white house
$4.5B to help develop a smarter electric grid

Recommendations for Federal govt: encourage telework, updating IT systems so they turn off at night, use goats to save on lawn mowers

eco friendly buildings: natural lighting, motion sensors that turn off lights but you have to get up to turn lights back on

how long will smog be tolerable in a city with 22M people (Shanghai)?

joint chief of staff does planning 50 years out, climate change is one of the biggest threats

One panelist said her title is Chief Sustainability Officer or green queen

“think globally, act locally”

Siemens’ global sustainable board is made up of the business heads of each unit

global trends: climate change, demographic change, urbanization

general population of Europe is pretty savvy about being green

working with businesses outside of US, they are more nimble and more reactive

maybe partner up with someone to get green expertise, innovation takes awhile, solve it together

customers have broader problems

a lot of peole are studying environmental sciences, but what can you do?  get a set of skills that is applicable for a job, green is an area of expertise, not something that you just learn and no other skill

question to panel: how many peole execute the green initiative at your company?  The answer was 1, 1 with a workgroup of 20.  my conclusion: green jobs aren’t a big focus for companies

deep innovation is messy when you don’t know the outcome or when you don’t know when the outcome will happen

3 types of innovation: 1) breakthrough – credit card, 2) incremental – private labeled credit card, 3) orthogonal – debit card

1 & 3 can be disruptive – create new markets and industries

2 is necessary, just not sufficient

5 core values for innovation: questioning, risk, openness, patience, and trust

Sophia Perl

Sophia Perl is a product manager for a database tool at IBM. She has over 10 years of software development and management experience. Sophia holds a BS in Computer Science from University of Southern California and an MBA from University of California at Davis. She is the creator of iPhone apps PicPredict and Eventabulous.

2 thoughts on “Businesswomen’s Sustainability Leadership Summit

  1. Seems like it was an interesting conference with interesting speakers. When you mentioned that green jobs aren’t a big focus for companies, I wonder what types of companies? Tech? What kinds of green jobs? However, I’m also wondering if conserving resources or using eco-friendly products over for example styrofoam is not a big focus for companies. I feel like it should be, especially because corporations with large buildings use so many resources. What were the statistics, if any, on resource conservation in large corporations?

    On another note, I have read in many places, that moms are the most concerned over environmentally friendly/non-toxic products for their kids, so that is probably the biggest target audience for eco-friendly products.

    Thanks for the post!

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