The “Sustainable City Finance” event January 7 by the New York Academy of Sciences and UrbanAge was a different kind of sustainability conference. Rather than trying to drive awareness or raise alarms about current and future disasters, speakers focused on action steps to benefit from a new and necessary reality. Was it the theme of finance (i.e. money) that self-selected this group to share their getting-it-done experiences? Whatever the reason, the takeaways were many:
Transformation – The speaker from Waste Management noted that their traditional trash collection and transfer business is declining rapidly. Today, green collection, green energy production, recycling, and similar services comprise half their business. Instead of an economic victim of ecological concerns, WM is coming out at the top of the heap.
Alignment – The best results are possible when people who can make a difference receive the benefits for doing the right thing. But motivation might not always need to be financial. A speaker from ZeroFootprint discussed how tenants in a NYC property changed behaviors to become more energy efficient, even though the cost savings went to the owner, after a competition was created by posting electricity usage by floor of tenant.
Complexity – This was also a conference of realists. Amid the stories of seizing opportunities, speakers throughout the day acknowledged the intellectual challenges of solving one problem only to find two more.
In a follow-up post, I’ll discuss two more themes that made me think of parallels in Jones Lang LaSalle’s business. A special thanks to Gordon Feller, CEO of Urban Age Institute for putting together such a terrific program. Our firm was proud to be a sponsor.