Note from the Editor: Beware, Visionaries Ahead

A quiz: What do sustainability and energy management professionals from Tesla, Coca-Cola, the Department of Energy, AB InBev, and Asia Pulp and Paper have in common?

Answer: They’re all visionaries…and they’re all speaking at the Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference (ELEMCON) in May! Here’s the thing about visionaries: our industry really needs ‘em.

In November, I was lucky enough to tour the conservation efforts of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) in Indonesia. While there, I met a number of people involved in different types of sustainability initiatives and had many conversations with insightful folks about environmental responsibility, but one conversation in particular – with APP’s VP of sustainability and stakeholder engagement Ian Lifshitz and a leader with The Forest Trust – often comes back to me.

The Forest Trust is an international nonprofit that works with member companies to improve the sustainability of their supply chains. Ideally, they help companies bridge the gap between the “worlds of people and nature” to set realistic sustainability goals and ensure that all stakeholders benefit. This challenging job is nearly impossible, I was told, without a visionary person who can drive efforts from both an environmental and a business angle.

Without that visionary, sustainability can still be a tough sell. “There are brands that look at [sustainability] as a business driver. Others are seeing it as a way of being a good citizen,” Ian said. “But there are multiple pieces of the puzzle that need to come together.” It’s easier to come together when someone with vision – with passion for environmental responsibility as well as an understanding of a company’s business goals – is driving it.

At ELEMCON, I’ve met hundreds of these inspiring people who drive a company’s sustainability goals, so I was surprised when the folks at The Forest Trust said it can be difficult to find that person at the companies they work with. They need just the right combination of insight, passion and business sense.

Ian is one: he helped drive APP’s transformation from a company that was struggling with the sustainability of its supply chain to one that is a leader in conservation efforts on the ground in Indonesia. And the efforts – including a commitment to achieving a deforestation-free supply chain and a water security initiative – have made a positive impact, not just for the environment but for the business itself.

“Companies that had concerns years ago are re-engaging with APP,” Ian told me. Ultimately, the substantial investment in sustainability has made good business sense.

With that in mind, I’m excited to announce a panel session that will take place at ELEMCON in May: Anatomy of an Effective Sustainability Leader. This high-level panel session, with four of the industry’s most experienced and successful corporate sustainability leaders – from New Belgium Brewing, Jackson Family Wines, the City of Fort Collins, CO, and Sustridge – will give attendees key insights into the makeup of a successful sustainability visionary, what it takes to affect change in a large organization, and the biggest challenges faced by sustainability professionals today.

Other visionaries speaking at ELEMCON include folks from Tesla and Coca-Cola, as well as Ian from APP and dozens of others. I can’t wait to learn from them all.

Stay in touch and I hope to see you in May!

Jennifer Hermes Nastu
Content Director
jen@environmentalleader.com

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