On Sept 23rd, Net Impact members and other Penn State students had the honor of listening to a world renowned sustainability expert, Hunter lovins. Hunter had previously been named the “Hero of the Planet”, by Time Magazine as well as a “Green business Icon” by Newsweek. She’s had a tremendous impact on environmental policy, speaking before the U.S. Congress as well as the United Nations. Her insight helped all of us grasp the environmental and sustainability practices we are challenged with now and in the future.
Hunter has started a “Natural Capitalism” movement of environmental and economic change through business. Her own business, Natural Capitalism Solutions, and book Natural Capitalism also serve as a testament to her knowledge. On September 21, she stood alongside CEO’s in the Climate March, located in New York City. This march was symbolic of a new era of responsibility we have to the environment. An estimated 400,000 people attended the event in New York, marching in the street to demand change on the climate crisis.
Hunter believes that we are the first generation to see the actual results of climate change and also the ones that will need to act against it. She explained, “What we do in the next ten years is more important than what humanity will do in the next ten thousand”. This process can be reversed through the progression of business and the environment working in harmony with one another. She claimed, the “Global Weirding” effect has brought problematic strains on resources and detrimental environmental change to the entire world. No business is immune to it.
Optimistically, there was a notion of hope in what she was expressing to us, which uplifted the audience. The power to stop the adverse effects of climate change can is in our power. We have the resources, capital, and know-how to pull it off. The only thing lacking is the “societal push” to be successful. This push can first come from leading companies in the United States as well as other countries to lead the efforts.
Top companies that report carbon emissions and are transparent about their sustainability practices have a higher return on equity than companies that don’t. This means by being more transparent and aware of the impact on the environment, businesses and the space in which they operate could be more successful. Similarly, Hunter discussed that S&P 500 companies that build sustainability into their everyday practices outperform ones that don’t. Wouldn’t it make sense that they would? Just by shutting off lights, reducing electricity bills and CO2 levels, these companies could be saving upwards of $600k-$700k annually. These companies can make a huge impact on a global environmental scale.
Lastly, Hunter touched on different renewable energy sources that will most likely dominate future practices. Increasing the use of solar energy has made it more affordable and more effective. Other practices like; cold fusion, wind, and alternative fueling will also pave the way for a more sustainable future.
To create a profitable but sustainable future, we must calculate environmental investments as part of normal business practices. She summed this up as the “Integrated bottom line”, combining business profitability and progressive environmental change. Hunter was a powerful but humble speaker. She gave a synopsis of the environmental challenges we face today and useful ways that we can use capitalism as a means to stop what is occurring. We were glad to host such an inspiring individual who gave insight into impacting the environment and business world in a positive way.