“Use your city as a platform,” opened moderator and CSO for the City of Palo Alto Gil Friend.
While local governments have gotten the bad reputation of being slow, bureaucratic animals, the panelists, representing four major cities across the United States — including Los Angeles and New York City- presented the business case for corporations to integrate their sustainability efforts with their cities for the success of shared goals.
Cities are now setting very aggressive sustainability goals as they plan to own their infrastructure for significant periods of time, and are charged with caring for a wide range of stakeholders. Phoenix’s Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) and panelist Mark Hartman aims to reduce his city’s landfill waste by 40 percent by 2020, while Matt Petersen, CSO of Los Angeles, said his water-stricken city plans to reduce their water imports by 50 percent by 2020. According to the panelists, these lofty goals are creating policy shifts, driving innovation, and creating significant cost reductions.
Friend urged the audience to capitalize on these aggressive city sustainability goals and the resulting benefits of city partnerships, which include transparency, access to long-term capital at interest rates as low as two percent, and greater flexibility with grant dollars.
Kazemi of GreeNYC, a citywide data-driven environmental marketing and branding campaign, spoke to the advantages of creatively partnering with both small and large businesses to promote the sustainability messaging. GreeNYC’s now-beloved mascot Birdie has appeared on the doors of small businesses, the back of garbage trucks, as well as attempted to throw the first pitch with the New York Mets’ team mascot, Mr. Met (sadly bird wings aren’t really conducive to baseball). All these partnerships have created awareness for GreeNYC’s goals, and also for the business of their partners.
Finally, Hartman stated passionately that “businesses can benefit from city partnerships as local governments can often pull together several key players and the necessary resources to make things happen.”