2016 Sustainability Summit

2016 Sustainability Summit

This past Friday on tax day was the 2016 MIT Sustainability Summit. The organizing team spent the last five months (toiling) organizing for the one day event and we were extremely happy with the outcome. The sun was out on a non-cloudy and not too chilly Boston day to make for a energetic event. Over 250 people showed up to the 6th and 7th floors of E52 at MIT to hear the latest on Sustainability-Oriented Innovation, the theme of the conference.

The morning started with a lively introduction from the one and only Professor John Sterman and then a great tripod keynote on sustainability at MIT. The sustainability leadership panel followed with powerful testimonies from a few chief sustainability officers, and then we headed into structured networking. As co-director of the content team, I was particularly pleased with the structured networking event. The idea came from the MIT Stex conference in December where tables were set with topics for people of like interests to mingle. We adopted the idea for the summit and it was a hit. Many people spoke about it afterwards. It is a great session for any type of conference.

Vegetarian lunch proceeded and then we headed into the afternoon panels. I had organized the three Finance Track panels, which included one on alternatives to venture capital funding, one on metrics of SOI investment, and one on policy levers. I was very happy with all three. The discussion and content was rich for all of them, and the moderators made each its own unique experience. It was also nice to reconnect with familiar faces since many of the panelists were interviewees for my masters thesis. The last panel was my favorite and Sterman had everyone in the room howling again. Dave Miller of CEVG also brought up a good point that a carbon tax should be called a “carbon fee” or a revenue-neutral price on carbon as a way to find bipartisan support. After months of email correspondence my three hours of product delivered and it was fantastic.

The summit finished with a solid keynote from Professor Esty of Yale University. One controversial comment was whether humans can suppress the need for consumption and dematerialize our economy. Esty argued that it was not at all possible and ran head on with Sterman’s philosophy that it is absolutely necessary. It was an interesting point to consider because the morning session alluded to the leverage points necessary to make a sustainable economy, including dematerialization, decarbonization, and decentralization, with each preceding the next. Maybe the chain could work the other way around starting with decentralization but either way it was a significant sustainability point to consider.

Overall the summit organizing and final day experience was well worth the effort. It was a pleasure to work with amazing colleagues throughout the process. My content team was head over heels spectacular and the summit organizing team was one of the funnest groups I have worked with. It was an experience worth remembering, and I will never forget the 3D printed Jason Jay chia pets we made to top off the decorations. It was a beautiful touch to a beautiful conference.