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John's Blog

Taking the High Road to GreenBiz18

As Executive Director for Wisconsin Environmental Initiative (WEI), I am honored to have the opportunity to join the world’s brightest sustainable business and policy leaders at the GreenBiz18 conference. Not only am I eager to escape frigid WI to the warmer climate of Phoenix, AZ, but am looking forward to discussing the paramount challenges, successful new directions, and exciting opportunities to build the clean economy.

I also hope to connect with Wisconsin business leaders, exploring tools and the emerging technologies, systems, and policies to create a solid new direction for the state. I’ll give my highlights, thoughts, criticisms, etc., of each day of the conference. Check out my blog to get my reflections on the previous day at 9 a.m. CT.

Register for the virtual event here.

To learn more about WEI, visit our website at

We Are Still In

Day 3 — Thursday, Feb. 8

The final day of #GreenBiz18 was a short half-day session, but a full agenda of working sessions and plenaries on driving sustainability and engagement in companies and organizations. Highlights include:

  • The role of leadership, communications, strategic thinking and a global perspective to develop triple bottom-line strategies.
  • New models of supply chain collaboration and grassroots partnerships to encourage widespread adoption of sustainable agriculture practices by farmers.
  • A great women-powered panel on GM’s systems-level approach to transforming transportation and infrastructure. The company’s radical transition and commitment to launch 20 all-electric vehicles by 2023 is another opportunity for Wisconsin to take the high road. The state should establish an “electric vehicle highway” of fast-charging stations at rest areas and other locations around the state to meet the growing demand of electric cars and trucks used by consumers and businesses. In addition, the state could leverage and market this innovation as a “Travel Green” attraction to benefit Wisconsin's tourism economy.
  • Key trends and new polling data show a significant shift in Americans attitudes, beliefs and actions towards sustainability.
  • We Are Still In — with more than 2,600 signatories and growing, the movement represents over one third of the U.S. population and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy. This major commitment to climate action and emission reduction goals includes more than 1,800 companies, many that are small or medium sized firms, but several large WIsconsin corporations are listed, including Johnson Controls, Kohler, and Organic Valley.
  • To see a video of some company commitments, watch We Are Still In.
  • To see a few photos from the event, please visit here.
  • To view the virtual event, please visit here.

This week showed us that leadership can transcend politics. Wisconsin needs an economy that works for everyone, invests in innovative policies, technologies and infrastructure and takes the high road to protect workers and attract and retain talent. #GreenBiz18 shows us that “Doing well by doing good” is possible and becoming a high road state can help build a more vibrant and sustainable economy.

The key takeaway? It's time to join the cause, step up, speak out, become bigger than you are and do it for the right reasons. I’m in… Are you?

More Collaboration, Partnerships and Effective Advocacy

Day 2 — Wednesday, Feb. 7

Day two of #GreenBiz18 emphasized collaboration, partnerships and effective advocacy to accelerate high road, clean energy, climate and sustainability innovations and policies. Some highlights from the second day:

  • A look inside the B Corp movement. A new generation of benefit corporations or B Corps are emerging among both smaller and larger firms. Benefit corporations are a type of corporation that considers its impact on society and the environment in addition to earning a profit. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Wisconsin recently became the 34th state to pass benefit corporation legislation. On issues from worker’s rights to women’s rights and voters rights, clean energy and clean water, Wisconsin businesses have the opportunity to leverage the B Corp movement as a powerful force for good.
  • A plenary session and how-to workshop for efficient and effective policy advocacy for a clean economy and other high road policies was led by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a leading pro-environment business advocacy group that engages legislators at the state and national levels.
  • A Public-Private Partnership Playbook for taking on challenges to realize high road opportunities to transform our cities, industries and policies.
  • A Zero Waste Tour by Waste Management to understand their process of diverting 100% of the waste generated by the GreenBiz18 conference with over 1,000 attendees. At GreenBiz17, 97.3% of waste was diverted from landfills, by composting 65.2%, recycling 24.5%, donating 7.4% and reusing 0.2%
  • A Mobile Microgrid Training Platform for hands-on training and workforce development around solar PV, battery storage, sensors, controls and maintenance. The recently released Wisconsin Jobs Project identified sensors and controls in advanced clean energy production, conservation and storage as a significant economic opportunity for job growth, having the potential to support an annual average of 44,000 jobs through 2030.
  • Plug-in electric vehicle (EV) test drives, plus an exhibition area for leading business and NGO sustainability initiatives.
  • The fifth annual Arizona State University (ASU) Sustainability Solutions Celebration brought together business and academia to celebrate young innovators, thinkers and designers who reimagine global challenges.
  • To see a few photos from the second day, please visit here.
  • To view the virtual event, please visit here.

High Road Good For Business and the State

Day 1 — Tuesday, Feb. 6

Wisconsin needs to establish a solid new direction. In many ways, we’re becoming a low-road state with policymaking that tends to favor monied interests over the environment, workers and our communities. So, I welcomed the opportunity to attend GreenBiz18, the premier annual event for sustainable business leaders with more than 1,000 influential professionals from the world’s largest companies, government and NGOs — to connect and explore successful new directions, technologies, systems and policies to build the clean economy. Attendees include representatives from Microsoft, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Disney along with Wisconsin companies, including: SC Johnson, Kohler Co., American Family Insurance, MG&E and Miller/Coors. Leading NGOs include the Environmental Defense Fund, Rocky Mountain Institute, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Business for Social Responsibility. Some highlights from the first day:

  • A half-day deep dive on how leading companies are finding ways to implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a compelling new strategy for companies to collaborate and engage to achieve progress on societal issues. Smart businesses take better care of employees, customers and their communities to ensure long-term business success.
  • The annual presentation of The State of Green Business.
  • Personal hero and influencer William McDonough shared results from Davos on the current financial markets and the potential of The Circular Economy. According to McDonough: “...The five goods are so simple that kids can explain it better than adults can. Materials, Economy, Energy, Water, Lives…”
  • A CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Hearing from young emerging leaders about their vision for the future of sustainable business.
  • A presentation on Project Drawdown, the most comprehensive plan to solve climate change that provides extraordinary opportunities for business. A top strategy? Recycling and proper disposal of HCFCs from air conditioners and refrigerators. HCFC emissions are 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a contributor to global warming.
  • Best practices in circular water management by industry experts including Miller/Coors, and their effort to implement best practices across operations, watersheds and agricultural suppliers to dramatically reduce water and energy use in beer production. As a massive user of water from Lake Michigan, Foxconn should be required to make smart investments in water technology, sustainability and stewardship. The company could implement a zero discharge system to greatly decrease the demand for water and apply innovative treatment strategies and green infrastructure investments. For example, the roofs on the massive 20 million square feet facility will produce almost 500 million gallons of stormwater each year that should be captured and reused.
  • To see a few photos from the first day, please visit here.
  • To view the virtual event, please visit here.

Day 2 will feature a look at the emergence of benefit corporations and how companies are leveraging B Corp certification as a powerful force for good; Zero Waste and Microgrid Tours; Successful strategies for company-NGO partnerships; and Tools and techniques for the Clean Economy.

GreenBiz18 Schedule

Here is my tentative plan for the week:

Tuesday, Feb. 6

8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Tutorial: Fulfilling the Potential of Business to Realize the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)

1:30 – 1:55 p.m. Welcome

1:55 – 2:05 p.m. The State of Green Business

2:05 – 2:15 p.m. The Creation of the Perception of Scarcity Where Nothing Exists

2:15 – 2:35 p.m. Reimagining Fashion

2:35 – 2:55 p.m. The Role of the C-Suite in Driving Diversity and Inclusion

2:55 – 3:05 p.m. GreenBiz Emerging Leaders: Envisioning Breakthroughs

3:05 – 3:30 p.m. Solving Climate Change: The Opportunity for Business

3:30 – 4 p.m. Networking Break

5 – 7 p.m. Opening Networking Reception, presented by Dow

7:30 – 9:30 p.m. Dinner Clubs

9 – 12 a.m. After Dark Party

Wednesday, Feb. 7

7:45 – 8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:30 – 9:30 a.m. To B or Not to B? Inside the B Corp Movement

9:30 – 10 a.m. ASU Microgrid Tour

10 – 10:05 a.m. Welcome

10:05 – 10:25 a.m. Customer Obsessed: Customer demand for Sustainability and Engagement to Maximize Impact

10:25 – 10:35 a.m. Creating Shared Value: How Community and Business Benefit Through Collaboration

10:35 – 10:55 a.m. Financing the Energy Transition

10:55 – 11:05 a.m. Designing for the Circular Economy

11:05 – 11:25 a.m. Uncommon Collaboration: Action-Oriented Transparency

11:25 – 11:45 a.m. The Power of Business Advocacy to Accelerate a Clean Economy

11:45 – 11:55 a.m. Special Announcement: the Sustainability Solutions Celebration

11:55 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Sustainable Solutions: Collaborating for Climate Change

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Advocating for a Clean Economy: Tools and Techniques

2:45 – 3:45 p.m. Faster, Farther, Together: How Rise in Pre-Competitive Initiatives is Driving Positive Change

4:15 – 4:20 p.m. Welcome

4:20 – 4:30 p.m. Special Performance

4:30 – 4:50 p.m. Conservation 2.0 = Marketing

4:50 – 5:15 p.m. The Sustainable Development Goals: Mobilizing Action at a Global Scale

5:30 – 9 p.m. The 2018 Sustainability Solutions Celebration

Thursday, Feb. 8

7:45 – 8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:30 – 9:30 a.m. The Power of Purpose to Elevate Sustainability

9:30 – 10 a.m. Networking Break

10 – 10:10 a.m. Welcome

10:10 – 10:35 a.m. Taking a Systems-Level Approach to Transform Transportation

10:35 – 10:45 a.m. From Idea to Open Source: A Sustainable Packaging Journey

10:45 – 11:05 a.m. From Doing Better to Doing Enough: Using Science and Context to Set Meaningful Targets

11:05 – 11:25 a.m. The Role of Company Boards in Driving Sustainability

11:25 – 11:35 a.m. Why Now is The Best Time to Tell Your Sustainability Story

11:35 – 11:40 a.m. Closing Remarks

11:40 a.m. – 12 p.m. We Are Still In



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Wisconsin Environmental Initiative

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