GreenBlue staff recently returned from our 2014 SPC Spring Conference. Having Seattle as our host city set the stage for one of our most successful conferences to-date. With its progressive sustainability initiatives , Seattle provided the perfect venue to allow us to develop an agenda full of tours and sessions that explored some of the most innovative sustainability projects in the country. Over 300 sustainability professionals representing all aspects of the packaging supply chain attended the Conference. The breakdown of participating organizations included brand owners, retailers, material manufacturers, converters, government organizations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and consultants.
The conference kicked off with a number of tours that demonstrated the city’s sustainability leadership, especially when it comes to managing waste. Tours included visits to the University of Washington Food Service Expo and Cedar Grove’s Everett composting facility, one of the country’s most advanced industrial composting facilities; Microsoft’s Envisioning Center and Smart Buildings, where attendees were introduced to energy savings technologies and Microsoft’s future environments; Waste Management’s Cascade Recycling Center for a look at a local material recovery facility (MRF); and Safeco Field for an overview on how the Mariners operation has taken on event waste management and reduction.
The tours were outstanding, providing attendees with concrete examples of how organizations are effectively tackling sustainability issues – models that can be used to help inform sustainability efforts in their own companies and organizations.
With Joel Makower as keynote, sessions opened with a look at the general state of corporate sustainability. According to GreenBiz’s annual State of Green Business, more companies are taking on bigger and bigger sustainability challenges, yet the overall reduction in negative global impacts from these efforts seems to have plateaued. As companies move from sustainability walkers to talkers many are stalled in the transition, continuing to conduct “random acts of greenness,” as opposed to strategic, more effective actions. Makower also discussed the increasing need for collaboration and partnerships, a clear theme of the conference, echoed by several of the speakers.
The conference featured discussion panels with some of the SPC’s core Seattle companies, Microsoft, REI and Starbucks, exploring their enterprise sustainability agendas and how those translate into packaging sustainability goals. With the Pacific Northwest leading in resource recovery in so many ways, local city and state waste management authorities were also featured prominently. Other topics ranged from how to leverage consumer insights to developing science-based solutions to marine debris. One of the more popular sessions was a discussion cafe on solving the big, hairy sustainability challenges that keep packaging people up at night. The attendee engagement and interaction offered many creative solutions which table leaders shared in a follow-up, report-out session.
In addition to the Tuesday tours, attendees were able to explore the city through a pub-crawl, dinner and dialogue sessions, and a wine tasting trip out to Vessel Wines in Washington’s Woodinville wine country. By all accounts (including the conference evaluation forms) the Seattle event was one of the SPC’s best ever.
Planning for the Fall Meeting in Minneapolis, September 9 – 11, 2014 is well underway. Minnesota-based members, NatureWorks, Target, General Mills, and 3M are already collaborating with staff to create another can’t-miss event, full of actionable sustainability lessons. Keep an eye out for registration to open soon.