Businesses on the VERGE of Sustainability

Sustainability remains a potentially loaded term in some circles. Some managers or clients remain nervous about considering the idea of a triple (financial/social/environmental) bottom line: one line will do for them nicely, thank you very much.

However, sustainable business has undergone a revolution over the last 10 years, and after my discussions at VERGE, a conference put on by the lovely people over at GreenBiz to bring together people interested in sustainable business and policy, I came away with the undeniable impression that businesses are investing in sustainable strategy with unprecedented vigour. Here are a couple reasons we all should be attending more sustainable business conferences.

##Reason 1: You're Invited to the Party Concerned that your business isn't working towards a more sustainable future? I was too, despite my history as an assiduous recycler.

Kalamuna provides its web development and strategy services for a wide range of clients. Although we're not helping Chevron redesign its site, most of these clients aren't folks who are creating a cleaner combustion engine or helping design longer-lasting buildings (although our clients Pinnacle Engines and Computer Structures Inc. are doing just that).

People come from so many different backgrounds that it’s ok not being an expert at most (or any) of the conference topics

Fortunately, people come from so many different backgrounds that it's ok not being an expert at most (or any) of the conference topics. A cross-section of the attendees I met included...

  • MBAs and other graduate students looking for job opportunities
  • Owners of businesses who specialize in clean energy, data collection/analysis, facilities management, supply chain analysis, name it
  • Dyed-in-the-wool academics
  • Non-profit sector movers-and-shakers
  • Government people
  • Consultants of every guild, creed and persuasion
  • People who managed to trick their finance officer into paying for a ticket

It's a very diverse event, more so than the technology conferences I'm accustom to, which normally have a homogenous crowd of technology providers/vendors clustered around the event topic. Just make sure you come ready to fill up your noggin with a new vocabulary and mental map.

##Reason 2: You Can Start Participating Now Technology is fun because almost anyone with access to a computer, intelligence, and drive can pick-up the essentials to start a new business with little capital. The demand for technology services is so high, it's typically easy to find those first clients.

I think this is less true for many of the businesses I spoke to at VERGE. After-all, it's hard to create a sustainable power company without a substantial investment in education about electrical engineering, knowledge of utility policies, and access to a reasonable amount of capital for equipment.

However, many of these services are so new, if you have modicum of experience you can easily become a competitor. At VERGE, I met quite a few people who were leveraging the fast-growing demand for sustainable services and consulting to grow businesses or find a new career without making huge investments or taking unwarranted risks.

I met quite a few people who were leveraging the fast-growing demand for sustainable services and consulting to grow businesses or find a new career

One gentleman I met had a high school degree and 5 years of tinkering on natural gas engines; this made him a lead engineer at a leading maker of bio-fuel generators. Another woman years experience as a project manager, some time behind the wheel as a Lyft driver, and the insight that low-income communities are being excluded from new transportation solutions like Lyft and Uber. This makes her a contender in the ridesharing space to create new solutions for this underserved market. Exploration of what sustainability means and how to achieve it is nascent. Despite heavy investment by some large companies, there's plenty of real estate left for you to establish a presence and create new solutions in.

##Reason 3: You Want to Solve Big Problems, Right? We all do it. Corralled in our industries, our focus is often on the day-to-day. Making sure employees are tracking time correctly, taking care of something for a client, putting receipts in a shoebox to ward away auditors: these are the problems we solve.

If you read the news, you probably feel like solving these immediate day-to-day issues is having little impact on the world's greater problems. Hunger. Inequality. Disease. People generally being shitty to each other and not having a good time here on planet Earth. What progress are we making against these planetary El Guapos in our own businesses?

Our El Guapo is a Plethora of Global Maladies

VERGE was chock-full of people helping solve these problems, many of them doing so not only for societal good but for a profit as well. The day-to-day issues never go away, but wouldn't you rather solve HR issues while also creating power from grape pomace?

###Note For roughly a year my colleagues and I have been working with the Greener Media Group, the promoters of VERGE, on their main web property. Earlier this week my colleagues and I at Kalamuna were proud to launch (opens new window). A huge thanks and congratulations goes out to my partner Andrew Mallis, who headed the project and our partners at Greenbiz, Hugh Byrne and Krys Freeman. I came to technology to solve problems, I've stayed because I like the people I solve problems for.