Value Recovery | "There Are Two Kinds of People – There Are Good People"

By Carol Baroudi
May 23, 2016 12:00 PM ET

“And there are those who do not yet know that they are good.” This quote is from Mandar Apte, one of the panelists on my “Building Substantive and Collaborative Networks” panel at Sustainatopia in San Francisco earlier this month. In his years at Shell Oil at the intersection of Sustainability and Innovation, Mandar learned that you never know where solutions will come from, and you never know ahead of time who the person with the breakthrough idea will be. His advice: “Make a new friend every day.” And for those tackling climate change, make sure you’re addressing not just the external climate, but also “the climate within.” Your authenticity and your integrity are what make collaboration possible.

My second panelist, Melissa Owen, has been practicing environmental law in Latin America for more than 20 years. She highlighted the need to tailor your networking style to particular audiences. “Not all cultures are as ‘to the point’ as Americans,” she said. She’s found that in Mexico, much more can be accomplished over “tequilita lunches” – a little tequila, a little sangria over a long lunch can be much more fruitful than a phone call or email. In other countries, she adds, the relationship between regulators and regulated communities are often more collaborative than in the U.S. – don’t assume a divide where there may be none. Make friends with the gatekeepers. The people between you and the person you want to reach can either aid you greatly or thwart you completely. She adds, “Sponsor young talent.” In this context she emphasized the wealth of talent in young foreign students who are the future leaders in their countries. I note that sponsoring young talent of all nationalities is in all our best interests.

Speaking of sponsoring young talent, some 17 years ago, I met Carrie Norton, panelist number 3, when keynoting at an ecommerce conference at Thunderbird University, where she was a graduate student. She asked if she could intern with me, and did, and all these years later at Sustainatopia, she brought a unique perspective to our conversation. “Nonprofits,” she said, “need to learn to collaborate. You don’t see the M&A activity you seen in the for-profit world, yet nonprofits compete.” They compete for grants, for donors’ dollars, and there’s opportunity to work together for better results for everyone.

Change can’t be created strictly top-down, noted Matt Bogoshian, panelist number 4 and former Obama administration senior adviser at the US EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.Collaboration has to happen at every level, and for sustainability to happen, it has to happen at the grass-roots level as well. That’s his focus at REV, where he hopes to drive change bottom-up.

I owe my connection to the Green Electronics Council and Jonas Allen, my fifth panelist, to Sustainatopia founder John Rosser. Back in 2014 John invited me to speak at Sustainatopia in Miami, and also invited my now-good friend Sarah O’Brien, director of Strategic Partnerships at the Green Electronics Council. Although Sarah and I had spoken on numerous occasions, it was that face-to-face meeting that sparked real collaboration. And through Sarah, I came to know Jonas, and got involved with Emerging Green.

Jonas had a critical message. You need to learn to collaborate with your competition. The work the Green Electronics Council does, for example, requires that competing manufacturers work together on standards that will apply to all of them. It’s challenging work and it requires an understanding that a greater good can only be had by putting aside traditional differences.

Here in Arrow’s Value Recovery business, I rely on my network to expand my knowledge, identify experts and solutions, and provide critical feedback. And in my experience, I’ve found Sustainatopia a great place to engage with new people. Sustainatopia October 2016 in Boston is already on my calendar. The call for speakers is open, so nominate yourself or someone you admire, or drop me a line at I’m happy to introduce you, and I look forward to welcoming you in Boston in the fall.

Carol Baroudi works for Arrow’s Value Recovery business promoting sustainability awareness and action. She is the lead author of Green IT For Dummies. Her particular focus is on electronics in the Circular Economy, with an emphasis on the IT asset disposition stage, e-waste, and everything connected. Follow her on Twitter @carol_baroudi and connect with her on LinkedIn at