On August 28, sustainability-minded San Franicscans from all over the City gathered at the California Academy of Sciences for the latest sf.citi event, Corporate Greening: Building Sustainable Companies. Greeted by The Academy’s tyrannosaurus rex lobby display, guests mingled beneath the energy-efficient lighting of The Academy’s piazza and toured the BigPicture Natural World Photography exhibit. Showcasing the salt flats of Argentina, the underwater wonders of the Galápagos, and the serene gaze of a gorilla in the Congo, the exhibit served as a powerful segway into our discussion about the importance of corporate sustainability.
ALL-WOMEN PANEL DISCUSSES SUSTAINABILITY
Moving from the piazza into “African Hall,” we had the opposite of a “manel” (all-male panel) to lead our sustainability-themed discussion. sf.citi Executive Director, Jennifer Stojkovic, introduced the evening’s moderator and The Academy’s very own Director of Sustainability, Dr. Elizabeth Bagley. She was joined on stage by three other sustainability experts: Christina Nicholson, Director of Environmental Impact at Gap, Inc., Laura Franceschini, Global Sustainability Strategy and Operations at Google, and Debbie Raphael, Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.
“The place we want to get to is about community-powered solutions.”
— Dr. Elizabeth Bagley, California Academy of Sciences
Against a backdrop resembling the Serengeti, these four thought leaders explored how sustainability initiatives can have far-reaching impacts for people of all backgrounds — even those living in affordable housing — and how to communicate that impact in the corporate world.
“Sustainability needs to move faster, which means that we have to have more investment, and we have to have more money. It needs to be in the top three priorities.”
— Christina Nicholson, Gap, Inc.
FUN SUSTAINABILITY FACTS
Throughout the evening, we learned a lot of fun facts about San Francisco’s efforts to combat climate change, companies (and sf.citi members) leading on sustainability, and more. We’ve highlighted a few below:
- Recycled materials in San Francisco actually get…well…recycled. Much of the world’s waste has historically been shipped off to China to be recycled. Until 2018, that is. This is when the Chinese government concluded that recycling other countries’ materials was both expensive and harmful to the environment, and imposed a ban on many foreign recyclables—especially plastics. The United States has struggled to rebound from China’s recycling ban with several American cities forgoing recycling altogether. Debbie Raphael, however, had good news for our San Francisco-based audience. Thanks to the City’s green-minded residents and our robust Recology waste management center, San Francisco recyclables have far less contamination than other cities. This means they can still be sold and repurposed elsewhere. Glass, aluminum, and tin, meanwhile, are all recycled at mills right here in the Bay Area.
- Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. Laura Franceschini shared how sf.citi member Google is leading the way on sourcing renewable energy. The company began procuring renewable energy in 2010 and pioneered the concept of “corporate power purchase agreements (PPA)” to expand that effort. Google has now matched 100 percent of its electricity with renewable energy.
- One Old Navy (an umbrella company of Gap, Inc.) employee sparked company-wide action on recycling hangers. Over 250 million Old Navy clothing hangers are sent to landfill every year. Gap, Inc.’s Christina Nicholson shared the story of one employee who brought this issue to the attention of Old Navy’s leadership, prompting the company to immediately begin recycling hangers in 500 of its stores. The company is now looking to bring reusable hangers to all Old Navy stores.
TAKEAWAYS ON TURNING YOUR COMPANY GREEN
Near the end of our discussion, Dr. Bagley asked our panelists what advice they would give attendees on championing sustainability in their own lives and companies.
“Compost,” said SF Environment’s Debbie Raphael. She encouraged all San Francisco residents and employees to “religiously use your green bin” (and remember to put your pizza boxes in there!).
Laura Franceschini of Google encouraged audience members to become sustainability champions at work. She explained, “We can’t do the work that we do without having champions across the company.”
On a similar note, Christina Nicholson of Gap, Inc. reminded the crowd, “Each and every one of you are leaders, so speak up and be a leader.”
Dr. Bagley herself weighed in, saying, “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” She told attendees about San Francisco’s Business Council on Climate Change, which is an invaluable resource allowing people to work together on climate change solutions.
While climate change can be a heavy topic of discussion, particularly in the current context, we were inspired by the many action items presented at Corporate Greening. Our incredible evening would not have been possible without the help of our co-hosts at The Hive, the Academy’s young professional group. We certainly hope our attendees and member companies alike feel more empowered to champion sustainability wherever they are.
MORE CORPORATE GREENING PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS
All photos courtesy of Daniel Bahmani.