Sustainability: Transcending Politics

In preparing for our upcoming Sustainability Symposium, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with sustainability professionals from both sides of the aisle. Their overriding message: progress will continue.
Dec 19, 2016 11:00 AM ET

One of the most exciting aspects of planning a big event is the opportunity to speak ahead of time with presenters and participants about the issues that are top of mind.  In planning for the Sustainability Symposium 2017: Ready for Anything, taking place on January 9 at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts in Orlando, I’ve had the good fortune to speak with some of today’s visionary leaders and most passionate professionals in the sustainability sector.

While most of these individuals are keenly watching with a mixture of hope and apprehension to see if the new Administration will walk away from the Paris Agreement, systematically dismantle the EPA, and lift moratoriums on oil and gas drilling on Federal and protected lands and seas, the overall sentiment is that sustainability, energy efficiency, renewables, and emerging technology solutions that make our built environment greener, cleaner, more efficient, and healthier are now in the hands of the market, and therefore cannot thwarted irrespective of who is in the Oval Office.

These market forces are the same influences that have taken renewables beyond price parity relative to fossil-fuel based energy sources, making solar the least expensive retail form of energy and wind the cheapest wholesale form of energy, and the same powers that have made green buildings more cost-effective and valuable than their conventional counterparts.

The combination of enhanced accountability to shareholders and pull from consumer demand has roused businesses across all sectors to make bold commitments to climate action, blazing the trail to widespread renewable energy adoption, breakthrough technology development, and novel corporate sustainability strategies.

Forward-thinking companies like Carrier and Emerson are developing market-changing technologies that will make our homes and buildings more connected, intelligent, and efficient.  Uponor is pioneering the intelligent water category with innovative solutions that promise to revolutionize the way that we use and monitor water.  Ingersoll Rand has created a new model for employee engagement.  And DuPont continues to enhance products and building science practices that result in more durable, high-performance building envelope systems.

It is largely acknowledged that ongoing progress in the private sector will be augmented by the work of individuals, communities, and elected officials at a grassroots and municipal level.  Pioneering Mayors, such as Republican James Brainard from Carmel, Indiana and Democrat Buddy Dyer from Orlando, Florida, are taking on powerful roles to propel their peers at the Conference of Mayors towards climate action, leading by example by developing green community action plans and smart city initiatives.

The tireless efforts of celebrity advocates like award-winning filmmaker Philippe Cousteau, who is working assiduously to educate the public about the transition to a sustainable economy, and environmental activist turned racecar driver Leilani Munter, who is teaching the NASCAR crowd about renewable energy, electric vehicles, and the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, are contributing to the mounting interest in and momentum towards enhanced climate action.

Even code experts, like Maureen Guttman, President of the Building Codes Assistant Project, feel optimistic about the future, asserting that building codes are generally protected from Federal rollbacks, since they are developed by code officials, professionals, and related interest groups (rather than policy makers) and implemented at a state level.  Guttman also noted that when developing the 2018 code proposals, there was an unprecedented level of collaboration between industry groups representing a diverse set of interests to develop a solution regarding ERI values and onsite power production that was satisfactory for all parties (with that said, she lamented that the 2018 code did not realize the energy efficiency gains that sustainability advocates were hoping for.)

Based on the multitude of conversations I’ve had recently, one thing is clear: the passion for sustainability and commitment to climate action has only strengthened with the recent election. 

I’m eager to learn more about how these leaders and sustainability professionals believe the market will continue to evolve to support green products, technologies, and solutions.  Fortunately, the opportunity to do so is right around the corner at the Sustainability Symposium 2017: Ready for Anything on January 9 in Orlando.

Want to take part in the dialogue?  There is still time to register, but space is limited, so click here to reserve your space today!

Questions?  Write to me at

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