At this year’s Sustainable Brands and South by Southwest Eco Conferences, speakers shared their words of wisdom on how society can begin to think sustainably.
“Start with what’s sacred,” is the advice from Raphael Bemporad, Principal and Chief Strategy Officer of BBMG (www.bbmg.com). During his keynote presentation at the 2012 Sustainable Brands Conference (www.sustainablebrands.com), he defined the sacred as “the hopes, needs and aspirations of our shared humanity” and believes that leaders can use it to inspire people to “work together to function better as a team.” Raphael suggests that society is “yearning for a new way to do business and people are looking for new opportunities for engaging life to connect with one another and heal together.” He believes that “decisions should be led by integrity and humanity; we change behaviors by following the sacredness and by sharing our stories.”
Stories about Stuff
Attendees at this past South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco Conference (www.sxsweco.com) heard many stories from Annie Leonard, Co-Director of The Story of Stuff Project. Annie started her keynote presentation by sharing her personal story, describing how she investigated global environmental health and justice issues for almost two decades. She traveled to dozens of countries, visiting countless factories and trash dumps, learning what was happening at the beginning and end of various product lifecycles. “As Annie witnessed first-hand the horrendous impacts of both over- and under- consumption around the world, she became fiercely dedicated to reclaiming and transforming our industrial and economic systems, so they serve, rather than destroy, ecological sustainability and social equity” (www.storyofstuff.com). These experiences motivated her to create and share a series of stories, starting with “The Story of Stuff” and then producing other videos including, “The Story of Cosmetics,” “The Story of Bottled Water” and “The Story of Electronics” (www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all).
Annie clearly conveyed her underlining message that happiness does not come from how much stuff one has but from how one participates in society, stating “Engaging our social connections and working together with a sense of purpose and meaning in life feeds our souls.”
“We have altruism in our souls,” advised Tim Mohin, Director of Corporate Responsibility at AMD, during the SXSW Eco Conference. While speaking about the importance of being mindful of how we treat the workers that manufacture our products, he described entering a factory, which his company utilized, and noticing that most of the employees were between 17 to 22 years old. “Those young people put their education on hold in order to work,” he stated. As a result, his company setup classrooms in the factory so the workers could continue their education. When Tim returned to visit the factory, he was greeted by 30 to 40 employees who had completed some classes; they ran to him, hugged him and said “Thank you!” Tim professed, “That was the most rewarding experience in my life!”
You’ve got Power
“Society is facing a deep moral challenge,” declared Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of 350.Org (www.350.org) at the SXSW Eco Conference. Discussing energy consumption and climate change, he cautioned, “The decisions we make now will determine what life is like for 10 billion people, the next 30 and 40 billion to follow and all of creation.” Bill went on to state that we should think of alternative currencies, such as “the currency of compassion, the currency of science and the currency of reason.” Similarly, attendees at the 2012 NYC Green Festival (www.greenfestivals.org) heard how they could make a change through their purchasing power. “The marketplace is a democracy,” stated John Perkins, author, activist and economist (www.johnperkins.org), “Every time you purchase or not purchase something, you vote, you cast a ballot; I don’t know what your passions are but you have talents to create a sustainable, just and peaceful world…you have the power.”
Written by Professor Shireen Musa
Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York