Greenbiz Forum 2014: Millennials, Valuing Natural Capital & Employee Engagement

March 17, 2014

I recently attended the annual Greenbiz Forum, which was held in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona this year. Note: word from the Forum is that it will be held there going forward.

As with most leading sustainability gatherings, there were the expected topics: reporting, NGO partnerships, and the growing need for emissions reductions. Those are all needed and important but my ear is out for new issues. New issues that emerge in multiple ways and start to form a new signal.  Here are the three that coalesced over the three day event:

1.) Valuing Natural Capital - This was the primary topic that kept emerging during keynotes and panels, across vendors pitches at their booths, and among lunch conversations. Four key points that I scratched down in my notebook include:

    * Price Volatility: Commodities are 3x more volatile (price) today than just 10 years ago

    * Commodity Mapping Reduces Supply Chain Risk: The key to reducing risk in your supply     chain -- do a mapping and hot spot analysis of all input resources for all source countries/regions

    * “Free Commodities”: Every business needs to be cartographers; you need to map “what we are relying on but not paying for” to fully address risk mitigation

    * New Hub: The Corporate Eco Forum announced the launch of the “Natural Capital Business Hub” -- an open and collaborative platform to demonstrate the business value of nature, galvanize urgently-needed action, and drive increasing levels of investment in natural infrastructure worldwide
2.) Millennials and Meaningful Brands - Millennials are people born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. It seems widely known that Millennials are super green aware and active, but here are the top four new points that I learned about Millennials and sustainability:

    * Declutter the Message: Millennials need to know where to go to act on their interest -- there is a need to declutter it for them and make it a human connection.

    * Make the Message Quick: We have an engagement crisis (mainly with millennials) -- you have to get the message across quickly!

    * Gamification is Hot: Turning engagement with Millennials into games is proving successful. The keys to gamification: feedback, friends, fun.

    * Prime Gamification Example: Domino’s Pizza Hero app -- now generates $1M/week in new revenue (and 25K resumes submitted)

3.) Employee Engagement -- True, employee engagement could be lumped in the bucket of “heard at every sustainability conference” along with  reporting and NGOs.  Here are three new points that I learned on employee engagement at the Forum:

    * Recommendations: Get out of employee engagement programs that are old and ‘nice to have’, there must be an ongoing vetting process to prove every program’s value add.

    * Tangible Results: One company stated that “shared values” employees that they have hired stay longer and they help recruit more Net Impact MBAs. They claim this is worth $5-10M in value over past ten years to their company.

    * Tagline: In response to the question of how important is employee engagement, one speaker stated “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast”.  Probably the best tagline or phrase heard during my time at Greenbiz.

In summary, the Forum was well attended and offered a good amount of new topics and new voices in the sustainability community. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a top event to attend for learning networking in 2015.




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