How Social Sustainability Can Change the Industry

by Laura Rote
May 3, 2018 10:10 AM ET

Diversifying the industry. “I was a sustainability officer in the early ’90s in Texas—I was in an oil state practicing sustainability. And I was the only African-American at Greenbuild at that time in regular attendance. [Rick Fedrizzi] said I was a rebel because at every meeting I would stand up and say, ‘Can we get more diversity?’ So now to be able to see that come full circle and see not just nationality-based diversity or diversity of talent and diversity of thought, but also diversity of people interacting. It’s students, it’s faculty, it’s staff, it’s designers, it’s people in urban communities, and it’s global.”

Social impact. “People are talking about the social sustainability aspect, which was a component people were uncomfortable with at first because it’s a soft skill. Businesses weren’t really adept at pulling that in. The business world has begun to see that these types of things mean something to not just the business but to the consumer and the customer.”

Young people: Your jobs haven’t been created yet. “The sustainability position I inherited—it was the first one. There was no training module, no definition, we wrote the job description. One thing I tell young professionals is don’t look for a company that’s already practicing sustainability because all the fruit’s gone. Look for a company struggling with sustainability so you can get in and become a leader in a different way.”

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