Sustainability Symposium

We recently participated in the university’s sixth annual Sustainability Symposium, a day of inspirational speakers — all passionate about the same thing.  The day was a great networking opportunity.

Each team in the cohort created and presented a poster on leveraging sustainability for innovation and competitiveness.  My group’s theme was “Revving up Revenue.”  We looked at ways that companies can increase their top line by leasing products and services and creating new “green” products similar to those that are already part of their product line.  At the symposium, we discussed our poster with corporate leaders, including Al Neupaver, CEO of Wabtec, and Mohammed Zaidi, Former VP of Technology for Alcoa, two speakers on the executive panel. 

The day began with keynote breakfast speaker Andrew Winston, co-author of Green to Gold.  Mr. Winston commented that most people equate “going green” with more costs, when in fact “going green” saves money.  More businesses need to view sustainability efforts as a way of profiting rather than spending. 

The afternoon keynote speaker was Bill McDonough, architect and co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.  McDonough focuses on total improvement, not just reducing environmental impact.  Something that McDonough said that stands out is that “less bad” does not necessarily mean “good.”  Many people look at initiatives that offer minimal improvement and are satisfied.  McDonough taught us to look at total process improvement. 

Another interesting aspect of McDonough’s presentation was the question of “what’s next?”  When asked to design buildings, McDonough does not look at the current use; he always looks at the end use first.  If everyone began to look at what will happen next, they could better plan for a sustainable future.  I found this new way of looking at buildings and products very interesting.

A sustainability officer from Procter & Gamble accepted our university’s “Green to Gold” award and spoke about the company’s long-term commitment to using 100% renewable energy and making all products from recycled materials.

Several Duquesne sMBA alumni were present, each sponsored by their current employer.  It was great to see how graduates of the program are now using their sustainability knowledge to help their employers.

The cohort was very lucky that we were able to participate in such a great learning experience.


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