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On Friday, March 27, Aquinas College hosted the “Sustainable Enterprise Exchange Series” which focused on governmental action and green marketing strategies.  This series consisted of a variety of speakers with experience in the field of sustainability. These individuals came from both positions in the government and industries across the nation. Attendees included both business and academic representatives desiring to learn more about sustainability and to share their knowledge.  Aquinas was the perfect venue for this event; they have developed the first sustainable business degree in the nation. Additionally they are considered the small business model for a sustainability program.

 

The global economy has fallen into the current sustainability and economic crisis because of a number of factors which include: the ignoring of risk, a lack of understanding of the issues at hand, and finally postponed action.  The federal government is trying to help the country recover from the issues with sustainability and the economic problems by implementing the stimulus package.

 

In the upcoming weeks, each of the states in the U.S.  are set to receive approximately two hundred million dollars in the form of grants.  At the conference, the governmental representatives recommended going to local legislatures instead of going to Washington to get this money.  Time is ticking as this monetary aid will only be available for dispersion for roughly a year.  Entities need to have their paperwork in order to receive the grants.  In order for the sustainability package to have the desired effects these applications cannot be left to pile up on a desk.

 

“Project Independence” was America’s first attempt at sustainability; today, government still plays an important role in finding beneficial research projects. I hope this stimulus package will be the catalyst needed to initiate the growth and foster development of better energy technology.  This battle for green energy faces obstacles unseen in other technology revolutions such as the tech-boom. The barriers that exist for the current green energy initiative did not exist for the technology boom; we are now fighting against an industry with entrenched interests opposing the advent of green technology.  The governments reaction to the situation is the stimulus package, I believe the end product will be determined by individuals working together in the private sector.  Technology in the end, will be the answer to sustainability.

 

One of the most poignant concepts from the event was “We need to stop eating strawberries in January”.  As stated at the conference, the environmental impact of these delicious fruits in the winter is enormous.  The obvious, immediate, impacts are the transportation costs from South America, and the pesticides needed to maintain the fruits ripeness.  We have so much individual power by our purchasing… if we waited for the right season to eat our fruit, imagine the impact that could be created by working together.

 

We must avoid the trap of casting blame, and we must work together; the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

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  1. Marilyn Pratt
    First, thank you for your reporting to the community of your participation in this event and surfacing information about Aquinas College. Grand Rapids Michigan seems to have a real leg up on other communities in the US as far as awareness about the importance of Sustainability is concerned and you mention Aquinas College which has the first Sustainability Curriculum.  Saw this very intersting statement on their website.
    “The mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan vowed in 2004 to make Grand Rapids a sustainable city. While these efforts signal good intentions and regional improvements to the quality of life and natural environment, a sustainable city requires a sustainable nation, and a sustainable nation requires a sustainable world. We must begin to approach problems from a whole systems perspective.”
    This reminds me of an opportunity that SAP may uniquely have as an ecosystem partner/broker, motivated to be an exemplar and thought leader in a whole systems (ecosystems) approach to the topic of a sustainable business world.
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    1. David Herrema Post author
      Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences, and expose West Michigan in their actions to become more sustainable.  The mayor’s quote brings sustainability around full scope.  No matter how hard an individual tries, everyone must play a role to effectively make the world more sustainable.

      To this point Grand Valley’s sustainability strategy has been more at an operations position.  Next fall Grand Valley is launching its pilot ‘Sustainable Business Management’ course, luckily I had room in my schedule to enroll in my last semester before graduation.  However, the ‘cool’ thing about sustainability is that none of us (colleges, companies, individuals) are competing against one another, instead we are sharing productive knowledge to make the whole better.

      SAP should be excited about its unique opportunity to share and promote its sustainable ideas and standards, seeing as SAP touches such a broad audience.

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  2. David Burdett
    This is an interesting and thoughtful blog.

    I can think of several ways that we (both individuals and SAP) could potentially take this up as an issue, but it seems to me to boil down to a combination of: “Education”, otherwise why would people buy strawberries in January; “Legislation”, to discourage behaviors that are not sustainable; and “Financial Incentive”, people are more likely to change their behaviors if there is a financial cost/benefit in doing so.

    I think the last point is what the stimulus package is trying to address and is the reason why it’s important. The tech boom happened because too many people saw a huge potential financial upside and couldn’t see, or ignored, the risks of failure that, way too often, actually materialized. Looking for the silver lining around a cloud is normal human behavior. Financial incentive is also the main driver why so many people and businesses oppose green initiatives – they can have a negative financial impact which, at least in the short term, will hurt.

    I don’t think you can fight these fundamental human drivers – you have to recognize them and turn them round so that the upside of being more sustainable is perceived as greater than the downside. Businesses – including companies such as SAP – with their ingenuity in creating new technology solutions and ability to market and promote new ideas, have a key role to play.

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