Making Connections for Sustainability
Sustainability will never be delivered by people working in isolation. From a practical point of view, you’ve never transform your supply chain, never mind implement something adventurous like industrial symbiosis, without knowing who’s out there doing what.
But from learning point of view, restricting your experiences within your organisation or even within your sector will give a very blinkered view of what is possible – the best you can expect is a bit of drearily dull ‘best practice’. Most green events don’t help – the Powerpoint-Q&A format saps all energy out of a subject and the networking during coffee is simply random, making small talk and watching the more predatory consultants cruising past like sharks (I know someone from a big consumer goods brand who refuses to wear his name badge at conferences so he doesn’t get hassled so much).
There are quite different – ie much better – ways of going about networking properly. My own Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group (CoSM) is based around structured discussions between a small number of top sustainability executives. The intensity of the exchanges brings out some really great insights, learning points and the occasional epiphany. One high street brand told me they wouldn’t join because there weren’t any other retailers on board – I said that was the whole point!
On a bigger scale, I’m delighted to be opening The Big Eco Show in October with the theme of Conversation, Connection, Collaboration. The even has been structured around round table discussions lead by facilitators – a format I pinched from the now sadly defunct Low Carbon Best Practice Exchange as it is one of the best ways I’ve come across to get people talking in a meaningful way in an event like this (we decided OpenSpace was a step too far).
No man (or woman) is an island – the sustainability practitioner does need to get out there and keep interacting and keep learning – but choose the forum carefully as many are simply not worth the time and effort.