At the 2018 GLOBE Forum, I got the full sustainability conference experience, complete with David Suzuki spilling his latte on my foot (don’t worry, it was an accident). On a more serious note, attending the GLOBE Forum in Vancouver gave me the chance to chat with influential figures like Dr. Suzuki and to gain significant insights from a wide range of business and sustainability leaders from around the world.
Leading up to GLOBE, I had taken two courses with Dr. Lisa Papania (a Beedie marketing professor who puts sustainability at the core of her classes), attended SFU’s Sustainable Communities Conference, and interacted with the David Suzuki Foundation through CaseIT 2018. These experiences motivated me to gain a greater understanding of sustainability and how business can play a role in creating a more sustainable world.
I was struck by the wide range of sectors represented at GLOBE; the speakers and fellow delegates came from backgrounds in finance, energy and natural resources, technology, government, academic, and non-profit sectors. Over the course of three days, I attended thirteen different sessions covering a wide range of sustainability-related topics. Here are three themes I found particularly interesting:
As environmentalist Tzeporah Berman put it, fostering environmental literacy is about more than “spewing facts at people”. Michael Crothers, President of Shell Canada emphasized that it is crucial for businesses and communities to establish real trust in order to make progress on important issues.
The conference ended off with a heartfelt tribute to the late Peter MacConnachie, former sustainability specialist for Suncor Energy. He was hailed as a “quintessential collaborator in a field of polarization” and it was clear that he set a strong example of creating constructive dialogue about sustainability.
2) Data-Driven Decisions
In a talk on Innovative and Resilient Infrastructure, Brenna Berman, Managing Director of UILabs in Chicago, asked the question of whether we have enough data to make “deep urban planning decisions”. She talked about augmented infrastructure and using the Internet of Things to measure the effectiveness of green infrastructure in Chicago. Clean air sensors are now being deployed around the world, including 400 in New Delhi (where I experienced firsthand the air pollution issues in October).
One panel stressed the importance of analyzing data to make cities resilient against natural disasters, while another explored the “Internet of Water“, using systems intelligence to gain better and more efficient control over water resources. Given my interest in city building, these three sessions particularly caught my interest.
Sustainability is about living responsibly, not about removing things that make life more productive or meaningful. This means developing new solutions that are both sustainable and highly effective. Speakers were especially enthusiastic about clean energy, with Chrysalix Energy CEO Wal van Lierop remarking that “traditional energy has been out-innovated in the past four years”. Shell Canada president Michael Crothers and Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr both emphasized the importance of leveraging fossil fuels to fund clean tech innovation.
As part of a panel on foreign direct investment, Beedie School of Business professor Elicia Maine, recently named one of BC’s most influential women, highlighted the importance of embracing uncertainty in innovation.
These insights from GLOBE taught me that we must find ways to come together to solve the massive sustainability issues our generation faces, leveraging existing and emerging knowledge to create innovative solutions. Other talks highlighted a variety of emerging technologies and ideas, including forest cities, Antarctic expeditions, urban resilience, and using blockchain for plastic recycling. As an up-and-coming businessperson, GLOBE Forum gave me important new knowledge and insights on sustainable business, which I believe will make me a more effective problem solver.
Daniel Breedveld is a BBA Candidate and Beedie Ambassador in his final year at the Beedie School of Business. Concentrating in Marketing & Management Information Systems (MIS), Daniel is eager to develop innovative solutions for important problems our generation faces. Highlights of his time at Beedie include two co-op internships with the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, serving as Director of Sponsorship Strategy for CaseIT 2018, and serving as Director of External Relations for the Beedie Urban Development Program. Connect with Daniel on LinkedIn.