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2022: the Year in Preview

Claudia Baldwin

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Happy 2022 and welcome back! I hope you had an enjoyable, restful — and healthy! — holiday and are raring to face the next 52 weeks.

We certainly are. Over the past year, GreenBiz Group has continued to grow, even amid the challenging climes, adding new events, reports and other offerings, and expanding our terrific team. (On that score, check out the seven job openings we currently have, and please share them with your friends, colleagues and networks.)

Over the past year, GreenBiz Group has continued to grow, even amid the challenging climes.

This week, with your indulgence, I’m going to use this space to share what we’ve got in store for 2022, starting with…

Today: On this first business day of the year, I’m thrilled to announce that Dylan Siegler has joined us as vice president and senior analyst, sustainability. Many of you have met Dylan over the years, or seen her speak at our events, in her prior roles in sustainability at NRG Energy and, more recently, in corporate responsibility at Verizon.

In her new role, Dylan will lead our ongoing efforts to develop and enhance our offerings that support sustainability professionals, including chairing our flagship GreenBiz conference each February. In the coming months, you’ll also see her writing articles and analyses about the evolving roles and responsibilities of those in this dynamic field.

“This is a complex moment for sustainability practice,” Dylan told me last week. “As a field, we’re rapidly specializing and that’s an important evolution, but I’m particularly interested in the action that happens at the intersections between those specialties. I’m excited to help drive that action by listening and connecting and adding my voice to everything GreenBiz already does so well.”

We’re excited, too, Dylan.

I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Dylan to her new role at the heart of the GreenBiz community. And look forward to seeing her in person next month at GreenBiz 22.

Also today: Senior EditorElsa Wenzel’s third annual list of C-suite sustainability champions, a rundown of corporate leaders who are playing catalytic roles in advancing sustainability in their companies and sectors.

Moving on, here’s a month-by-month calendar of what else we’ve got in store:

Jan. 24 — Our 15th annual “State of Green Business” drops with a webcast featuring several analysts and editors who contributed to this year’s report. It shines a light on the trends we’ll be following in the coming months and features some insightful data on sustainability jobs and careers from our partners at LinkedIn. Register here. The report is also a fitting lead-in to…

Feb. 15-17GreenBiz 22, our 14th annual flagship event, back in Scottsdale, Arizona. We’re beyond excited to be reconvening in person next month and will be taking every measure possible to ensure the event is as safe as it is impactful. Hotel space at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn has already sold out, but there are still some rooms available nearby.

March 8 — On International Women’s Day, Editorial Director Heather Clancy reveals her latest list of “badass women” climate leaders, always a fun and inspiring read.

April brings publication of our biennial “State of the Profession” report, produced by Vice President and Senior Analyst John Davies, based in large part on the more than 1,400 responses to our most recent survey on the salaries, backgrounds, responsibilities and reporting relationships of corporate sustainability professionals.

April 22, Earth Day, brings the planned premiere of a new annual editorial feature: nonprofit leaders who are having an impact.

May features the launch of a new annual report, this one on the state of ESG and sustainable finance, in partnership with S&P Global.

May also brings back in-person gatherings of the GreenBiz Executive Network, our peer membership network. (Additional in-person meetings are slated for September.)

May 17-19 is Circularity 22, this year in Atlanta, our fourth annual convening of circular economy professionals and their value-chain partners and stakeholders.

June 13 is when we introduce our sixth annual cohort of “30 Under 30” up-and-coming sustainability professionals.

June 28-29 is GreenFin 22, our second annual ESG and sustainable finance conference, in New York City.

July 26-27 is the first of two annual online events, VERGE Electrify, bringing together leaders from the private and public sectors, investors, startups and others to accelerate electrification across transportation, buildings and industry.

Oct. 25-27 is VERGE, our 12th annual climate tech conference and expo, this year at the San Jose Convention Center in the heart of Silicon Valley. (No website yet, but here’s last year’s.)

Dec. 6-7 closes out the year with our other annual online event, VERGE Net Zero, convening professionals working in supply chains, facilities, fleets, manufacturing and other fields to advance the private sector’s most ambitious carbon targets.

And every week: daily news and analysis, seven weekly newsletters, podcasts, webcasts — and a few surprises. Plus, dispatches from Climate Week, COP27 and other key industry events.

Whew.

I encourage you to stick with us throughout the year, and sincerely hope you will. It’s an exciting, challenging time in our field and we’re here to help you make sense of it all.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz, from which this was reprinted, and listen to GreenBiz 350, my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy.

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Environment

Episode 327: Meet Carbontech Startup Air Company

Claudia Baldwin

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This week’s run time is 29:34.

WEEK IN REVIEW (3:45)
FEATURES
Turning carbon into value (18:55)

Gregory Constantine, co-founder and CEO of Air Company, talks growth plans for his startup — a leading carbon use company specializing in consumer goods such as vodka and fragrance made from air.

*Music in this episode: Lee Rosevere: “And So Then,” “4th Ave. Walkup,” “I’m Going for a Coffee” and “Let That Sink In.”

STAY CONNECTED

To make sure you don’t miss the newest episode of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes or Spotify. Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at [email protected].

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The Sustainability Scorecard, Reviewed

Claudia Baldwin

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A version of this article originally appeared in our Circularity Weekly newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter here.

I was invited to read a new book and interview one of the authors. As someone who has long enjoyed reading books about sustainability, it was very flattering to be sent a copy of a new book, “The Sustainability Scorecard,” by Paul Anastas and Urvashi Bhatnagar, and asked to provide my thoughts in a review.

Many of our Circularity Weekly readers are probably familiar with Paul Anastas. A hero of mine since graduate school, Anastas is a deep thinker, a brilliant chemist and an engaging speaker. I was far less familiar with Urvashi Bhatnagar. Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to chat with Bhatnagar over the phone about her book and immediately became a fan. A healthcare executive and population health expert with a keen eye toward sustainability, Bhatnagar brings a different perspective to “The Sustainability Scorecard” that pairs quite well with Anastas.

“The Sustainability Scorecard” provides a simple and straightforward method for identifying where a company currently is on its sustainability journey and a method to track progress. The book proves that sustainability makes economic as well as ecological sense and guides leaders in creating and scaling their own green supply-chain initiative. I’ve read a lot of sustainability books, and this one provides the most practical steps for corporate improvement. According to Goodreads, “Through repeatable, reliable processes that address operating model design and new key performance indicators to scaling, this book is a practical guide that leaders can rely on to make their existing systems more sustainable and profitable.”

What I learned No. 1: Entrenched systems are not so entrenched

To some degree, this takeaway from the book follows quite well on my piece from a couple Fridays ago. We often get the false sense that the status quo is the status quo is the status quo is the status quo (Wait, did I just type that a bunch of times? Whoops, leaving it in because it helps make the point). “Entrenched systems and globe-spanning companies may appear impossible to dislodge,” Bhatnagar and Anastas write, “but consider that none of the top-10 most valuable companies today were on that list in 1990. Many didn’t even exist in 1990. Big changes can happen within only a few decades.” Because of this, we need to overcome the learned behavior that we can’t make a difference because the behemoths in the economy will never change.

What I learned No. 2: The scorecard framework

Bhatnagar and Anastas have provided a straightforward and scalable model for firms to move directionally towards sustainability. The framework focuses on four areas:

Waste prevention
Maximizing efficiency and performance
Renewable inputs
Safe degradation of materials

While these endpoints are largely rooted in environmental sustainability, they also cross over into social wellbeing for workers, fence-line communities and product users — all very important considerations for any sustainability practice.

When I looked at the scorecard, I was struck by how it is simultaneously simple and in-depth. The four high-level goals manage to get to the heart of how to make more sustainable products and processes without overcomplicating things. The authors have developed a data-driven methodology that can be approached whether you are starting your sustainability work (Initiate phase), are down the path but still learning (Develop phase) or are an industry leader that’s been focused on sustainability for quite some time (Maturity phase). The key to this framework, and I think one of the key insights I pulled from the book, is that directionality is important. In other words, set a direction for your sustainability work that aligns with the best science available and start moving. Sure, the pace we are moving is important, but the direction is far more so.

What I learned No. 3: Perfection is unattainable

When I spoke with Bhatnagar about the book, she mentioned this was one of the sticking points in writing and publishing it. There is always a desire within any framework to define the perfect state, to show users how to grab the brass ring. Bhatnager and Anastas argue that sustainability doesn’t have a perfect state. Even if firms can achieve the best score in all areas of the sustainability scorecard (zeros for all categories in this case), there will always be work to do. The work could be remediating the issues the firm has created in the past or pushing upstream and downstream partners to improve their sustainability. In other words, firms should be reaching for perfection, but it should always be getting farther away as the science evolves and shows us what it means to be sustainable as an individual, a company, a nation and a global community.

Overall

When I look at this book and the Sustainability Scorecard as a whole, I am excited for the structure it can bring to corporate sustainability in all sectors of the economy. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the private sector trying to build sustainability programs, I can confidently say that these broadly applicable frameworks are always welcome as inputs to a sustainability strategy.

I’d encourage folks to pick up this book, give it a read and think about how you can apply the Sustainability Scorecard to your own work. If you set directional goals, track data and measure progress, you can ensure you are moving in the right direction. And remember, if you reach for the brass ring and fall, at least you tried.

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Environment

Episode 326: the Heat Index; a Historic Climate Policy Opp

Claudia Baldwin

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This week’s run time is 44:51.

WEEK IN REVIEW (3:30)
FEATURES
A sweltering European summer (21:05)

James Murray, editor-in-chief of BusinessGreen, chats about record-breaking heat waves in the U.K. and Europe are challenging infrastructure and economies, and reshaping the dialogue about climate risk.

Cognizant CSO reflects on climate change and employee well-being (30:20)

Sophia Mendelsohn, chief sustainability officer and global head of ESG at tech services firm Cognizant, addresses the company’s broad ESG strategy and why employee well-being needs to be considered in the context of climate change.

*Music in this episode: Lee Rosevere: “Keeping Stuff Together,” “Not My Problem,” “Snakes,” “Southside.”

STAY CONNECTED

To make sure you don’t miss the newest episode of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes or Spotify. Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at [email protected].

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