Posts Tagged ‘sustainable industries’

2015: A Year of Sustainability and Social Cause

December 30, 2015

SE Team Photo 2015.pngOur team has kept busy this year with a variety of events geared at advancing sustainability and social cause. Combined, over 4,000 attendees and change-makers came together to champion the green movement through our 14 events in 2015.

We are thankful for our continued partnerships and were elated to work on several new events in 2015. Here are some highlights:

The Green Sports Alliance brought us to Chicago this year for their annual Summit. Along with keynotes, breakout sessions and workshops, the event had venue tours, a special performance by spoken-word artist Prince EA, and a reception that kicked-off with a Chicago Bears drum line!

We got to B the Change at B’Corporation’s B Inspired event in October. As a registered B Corporation, it was an honor to share the organization’s values with over 1,000 attendees through TED-style talks, an outdoor festival at Pioneer Square, and a concert at the historic Crystal Ballroom. B Inspired’s motto was: sometimes to make a change you have to throw a party. We couldn’t agree more. Attendees from all over the world got a true slice of Portlandia: tasting beer & ice cream floats, jamming out to Ural  Thomas and the Pain and even getting to stop by our own Social Enterprises booth for a game of cornhole!


So what’s next? We are looking forward to a full schedule for 2016.

Check out some of the 2016 events we have lined up:

Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference | February  4-5, 2016

Oregon Wine Symposium | February 23-24, 2016

GoGreen Seattle |  March 30, 2016

Living Future |  May 11-13, 2016

Oregon Wildlife Dinner and Auction | June 11, 2016

Green Sports Alliance Summit | June 28-30, 2016

EV Roadmap 9  | July 20-21, 2016

Oregon BEST FEST | September 2016

Rewards NW | September 13, 2016

Getting to Zero National Forum | October 12-14, 2016

Cheers to 2016 from the Social Enterprises, Inc. team and we hope to see you at some of our upcoming events!

SIEF Santa Monica 2011 Recap

February 22, 2011

Last week we wrapped up the last of the 2010-2011 Sustainable Industries Economic Forums Series‘ in gorgeous Santa Monica—and we’re biased, but we’d say the series went out with a bang!

Keynote Speaker + Humanitarian Architecture All-star Cameron Sinclair was in fine form—fluctuating flawlessly between serious dialogue on the real state of sustainability and social issues, and his signature hopeful optimism.

And just in case you missed the event —or were there, but want to learn more about Cameron and Architecture For Humanity’s work—we’ve rounded up a whole bevy of resources for you to follow up with; pictures from the day to reminisce on and links to some recaps.

The Inside Scoop: Links and the like…

Architecture For Humanity
Cameron Sinclair on Huffington Post
Open Architecture Network
FIFA Football For Hope Centers
Homeless World Cup Legacy Center
Skatistan Center
BBMG Collective Prize

Your Digital Scrapbook: Shots from the day…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Recaps From Your Peers: Articles on SIEF Santa Monica 2011

Santa Monica Mirror Article
BBMG Award Recap
Triple Pundit Article

A big thanks to all who attended, sponsored and supported this year’s SIEF series. Special thanks goes to:

Pepperdine University—Graziadio School of Business Mangement
City of Santa Monica
Interface FLOR
USGBC Los Angeles
Santa Monica Mirror
Green Biz

We’ll see you next year for another great round of sustainable business events!

Last Chance: Join Us 2/16 At SIEF For Cameron Sinclair

February 14, 2011

We’re pretty excited about this week—mostly because we’re headed down to (hopefully) sunny Southern California for what has become one of our favorite events: Sustainable Industries Economic Forum. This year’s series has featured the dynamic and fiery Cameron Sinclair, CEO (that’s Chief Eternal Optimist, mind you) and Co-Founder of Architecture For Humanity and Winner of the 2006 TED Prize. He’s back for the final chapter in Santa Monica this Wednesday and we can say with confidence that if you’re in the area, you do NOT want to miss it!

We’ve heard Cameron three times already and we can’t wait for the fourth. Not just because we greatly respect his mission to find architectural solutions to humanitarian crisis and bring professional design services to communities in need; but also because his honest, frank dialogue about what really matters in the world of sustainable efforts, how to start doing rather than just talking, and why partnerships and collaboration are just as important as energy efficiency is refreshing, entertaining and always the epitome of “keepin’ it real.”

So if you’re in the Los Angeles area or know someone who is—and needs to go!—here are the details. There are still a few seats available—though it’s first come, first serve.

Sustainable Industries Economic Forum Santa Monica
Keynote: Cameron Sinclair, CEO, Architecture For Humanity
Date: February 16, 2011
Time: 8:30a-11:30a
Location: Sheraton Delfina Hotel, Santa Monica
Cost: $75 ea./$975 per table of 10

Sneak Peek: The Scoop On Sustainability From Architecture For Humanity’s Cameron Sinclair

August 5, 2010

Cameron SinclairDesign Like You Give A Damn—the apropos tagline for Cameron Sinclair’s company (Architecture For Humanity), a book co-authored with partner Kate Stohr and a telling statement to ponder if you want to know what the 2006 TED Prize Winner is all about. Cameron not only designs like he gives a damn, but has the uncanny knack for getting others to care as well. Whether you’re talking structural design for a community center in India or sustainable best practices for a start up in Seattle—it’s this idea of caring beyond profit margins that permeates Cameron’s philosophy + that we’ll hear more of in his keynotes at the Sustainable Industries Economic Forums. For now, here’s a teaser on the ideas Cameron will be discussing at the forums. Hope to see you in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle or Santa Monica for the main event!

SE: It seems like there have been some pretty big developments recently in the conversation on sustainability. How have you seen the conversation over the past three years or so?
Massively. I think the easiest way to answer that is to quote Eric Corey Freed, who runs organicARCHITECT. I saw him speak at a conference and he started his talk by saying, “Look, all this conversation about whether the green movement has made it or not—we won. Ok? Everyone get over it. We won the argument. When Middle America understands the need to be more sustainable, not only environmentally, but economically, we’ve won. So can we stop arguing about whether this debate is worthy or not? Let’s get to the next level.”

I actually do think we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve come out on top from a huge uphill battle to change the mindset of what being sustainable was from this kind of guilt-driven, tree-hugging paradigm into something that is much more business focused. That’s happened. The question now is, what is our role globally? What effect are we having? We’re beginning to look at the secondary and tertiary effects of sustainability as opposed to the primary ones, such as, “does this improve and protect the environment?” Now we’re looking at culture and society.

SE: Does the argument that sustainability involves not only environmental focus, but also social responsibility, get broken out into two separate issues to the detriment of people and planet? What is your take on that situation?
I tend to be a bit cheeky. I tend to think that the environment is a part of social responsibility, not the other way around. Ethics is the overall framework and within that is the environment. When you start saying that the environment is the main issue–and that social justice and social responsibility are secondary, I think you lose sight that social responsibility takes into consideration a whole array of things. So whether it’s access to education or access to health care, rights of employment, rights of citizenship or rights of the environment—all of these things fall under that umbrella of society. It’s what I call the “ethical footprint.”

SE: What topics do you think we need to focus on in order to get to that next level of well being for people and planet?
I think we have to be pragmatic. We can’t have a conversation at this series without talking about the environment and the politics involved in trying to push any of these things forward. We tend to take an idealistic or altruistic view on the environment. We don’t always look at the economic aspect. And if people don’t have jobs, if they don’t have security, then they can’t begin to think about looking beyond themselves. People become selfish when they become needy. So we have to think about how we make sure that our business models are sustainable economically, as well as environmentally. I think it’s important to talk about that.

SE: Beyond the challenges that have come with a global recession, what other issues are you seeing as businesses move into more sustainability 2.0 or 3.0 that are different than the basic challenges like making sure the return on investment is within five years or not?
I think a big thing for businesses to look at is the quality of life for their employees. Do you have people that are happy to work for you? Can you stand behind that? We’ve got people who are constantly on the road because of travel. The quality of their lives are being restricted by this unending growth. I think people want to return to a simpler way of working, but you can only tout your green credentials so far.
I have a big issue with a lot of the building that’s happening in the Middle East. Because a lot of it is “green.” They’re saying that they’re building “carbon-free cities.” But they’re using essentially slavery to build them. We’ve got to think about the entire food chain when we’re talking about doing a project. If you’re thinking about doing green T-shirts and you say, well it’s low impact dyes and we’re using organic cotton, but the people who are putting those T-shirts together are working under labor practices that you would probably not be proud to talk about, then maybe your product isn’t so green and maybe your employees are not as happy as you think they should be.

With these subjects, there’s a layering affect. We have to look at a holistic approach to business models. We need to realign the way we think about success. There’s a big conversation that needs to be had on how to define success and sustainability for the next generation.

SE:  What are some of the key things to remember as business owners and stakeholders start taking those conversations forward?
First off, you’ve got to make sure that you’re hiring people with the right skill set. And by that I don’t mean what college they went to, but what is their passion? If you have people who are not passionate about the model, then it’s really hard to keep morale going.

The other thing is making sure that your people have access to opportunities like sabbaticals. We have two members of staff that came in this year and were so inspired by our work that they’re going to architecture school to get their degrees. And we let them go off to follow their vision and when they come back there will be a seat for them. Letting your staff know that they can take a one or two-year sabbatical and come back is huge. I want to have the most educated, passionate people working in the company. And I believe that being less rigid about the way you hire and lead people can yield great results.

SE: What kinds of issues are you seeing developing nations tackle and what can we learn from their successes and solutions?
I was in Cambodia this weekend and what struck me was the resistance to poorly built westernized homes—which is the concrete block, metal roofed structures that dot Asia and Africa. There was a respect for the indigenous architecture. A lot of the local architects and engineers in Cambodia were resisting Westernized architecture and trying to utilize local materials and construction techniques—but using thatching and bamboo in ways that never have been done before.

What we can bring back from that is a focus on looking at the building materials that are indigenous to our own continents. For instance, most of our work on Native American reservations involves natural building materials. Most of the tribal groups we work with are huge proponents—because it’s part of the culture—for integrating natural building materials using new ways of using these resources.

In the Western world, we’ve become big proponents of globalization. We ship our fuel from overseas. We bring our materials in from China. A return to the homegrown is needed and I think it’s a growing trend. Look at the craft industry in America. The word craft was pretty much created in the United States and you look at companies like Etsy where people are desperate to create hand-made crafts. I think hopefully, we can begin to explore that phenomenon and see it as a positive thing and not a hindrance to progress.

SE: How do you see the concept of “design thinking” and more thoughtful planning acting as game changers in architecture and beyond? How can they help us meet our goals of being a more sustainable society?
I think people have forgotten the idea of the designer as the leader—and that’s leader with a little “l” not a large “L.” We don’t need a dictatorial form of decision-making here. It’s the idea that the designer acts as a guide within a project and helps negotiate stakeholders to come together to find common ground. For instance, in the Lower 9th in New Orleans, most of the design solutions we came up with happened in the collaboration phase between all these stakeholders. It was not a situation where we flew in, presented a design and hoped the community would like it. I think that collaborative design process is really what’s leading the new thinking, not the cape-wearing architects that people imagine.

SE: What topics and ideas will you be speaking on at the Sustainable Industries Economic Forums? And what is the value in the dialogue being had at these events?
I’ll be talking about several topics. First I want to talk about new models of giving and aid. We spend billions of dollars in taxpayer money on aid and yet we don’t have adequate levels of transparency and sustainability for that.

The other thing I want to talk about—which ties into the first topic—is what are the economic advantages of doing good. We’ve talked about the environmental and social good that can come out of this way of thinking, but there are people making money and being profitable at doing this—and there’s nothing wrong with making money. If you aren’t economically sustainable, you can’t be environmentally sustainable. That’s just a fact.
So, I want to have a conversation on how we find new models and encourage young entrepreneurs to have these business ideals integrated into their companies, as opposed to having to learn them and add them in as they progress. So that ethical, sustainable business practices are part of the incubation period, not the growth period. Right now, it often happens that you get a business model, make money and then worry about sustainability. I think we need to flip that equation.

Cameron Sinclair is the Co-Founder of Architecture For Humanity and winner of the 2006 TED Prize. He’s also the keynote speaker the 2010-2011 Sustainable Industries Economic Forums Series. The Sustainable Industries Economic Forums will take place in four cities across the West this year—Santa Monica, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. For more information and to register, please visit:

Founder + Publisher Brian Back Gives The Scoop on 2010 Sustainable Industries Economic Forums

July 7, 2010

Sustainable Media, Inc. aims to re-inspire the intrepid early adopters of sustainable business practices. With President + Owner Brian Back at the helm, the Sustainable Industries Economic Forums sprang up as a way to bring everyone under the same roof and elevate the conversations around sustainability and economic development to the next level. In our interview, Brian shares his vision for the Economic Forums and the role they play in getting business done with a decidedly deep green twist.

SE: What is the inspiration behind Sustainable Industries Economic Forums?
The forums have been around since 2004 in Portland and Seattle. Over the years the event has evolved quite a bit, but the original intent was to provide and foster local economic development discussions around sustainability, because at the time hardly anybody was talking about it—especially not in an event format. We used to have economists come and talk about the hard data that existed around what we now define as sustainable industry. Back then it was kind of new frontier. It was really interesting to look at whether this was all a bunch of woo-ha or whether there was real economic potential there.

That was back in 2004-2005. Now we’ve spread to new cities, attracted more high-profile speakers and we’re still talking a lot about the economic impact of sustainability—and having frank discussions around that—but the real mission of the Economic Forums today is to re-inspire the inspired.

We usually have a higher-than-average level of dialogue at these events. They aren’t Sustainability 101 forums; they’re for people who have been carrying the torch for a while. They’re meant to let those people be re-inspired through hearing great speakers talk about the more sophisticated aspects of sustainability 2.0. We want to engage these people—that’s also kind of the whole purpose of Sustainable Industries at large—and to re-inspire them, connect them to each other and help them continue to get business done, so they can so the great work that they do.

SE: Who are some of the standout speakers leading the conversation for this year’s attendees?
Last year we changed up the format in that we now try to have an anchor keynote for the whole series, backed up by local, sustainable business leaders speaking on their respective expertise. Last year we had Paul Hawken, the noted author and sustainability thinker. We’ve also had Arianna Huffington, Ray Anderson and Van Jones in the past.

This year we’re bringing in a new and exciting speaker that many people haven’t heard much about and that’s Cameron Sinclair of Architecture For Humanity. We’ve connected with him quite a bit in the past few years and he’s a very inspirational person. He does a lot of innovative work through design around the world, helping places that have been struck by tragedy—like Haiti—and bringing sustainable business to these regions with a deeper social integration. This year, we’re looking more at the social aspect of business and sustainability, and we’re really excited to have Cameron with us to lead that conversation.

SE: What does Sustainable Industries hope will happen as a result of these forums in the communities where they’re taking place?
It really goes back to our mission of re-inspiring the inspired and connecting people to get business done. We want to have a big impact. This event series is very different from anything out there. And I’m obviously a little biased in terms of my support and appreciation of it, but I still believe it’s a really valuable and unique event.

A lot of Business-to-Business (B2B) breakfasts or half day events are now trying to discuss sustainability. And unfortunately a lot of them are really mundane. They’re not inspired events. They’re not thinking of the next level of sustainable enterprise and a new B2B experience for sustainability.

Something that’s really rewarding about our event is the energy charge in the room. It’s always present and it infects the dialogue and gets people ramped up about the topics we’re discussing. It feels like it’s an efficient use of time, which is important in today’s world. Plus the networking is very high-caliber and it’s a classy event. People get amped up on the coffee and get really charged on the connectivity they can tap into.

SE: Why is it so crucial for people doing business with sustainability in mind to have access to these conversations?
These events are regional and you get to have very localized conversations. That gives you an advantage in that you’re reaching people who are very apt to get business done plus they’re here with their peers. The value is that these conversations are going beyond what we’ve heard before. You know, taking the “how do I “go green?” or “how do I get LEED certification?” to the next level and inspiring new thought and innovation. And there needs to be a place for that kind of thinking.

It’s important to have a forum for those who have carried the torch for a while and are innovating to find ways to keep challenging themselves to go further and do greater work. It’s not hard in the green business arena to get burnt out, with the ways things have transpired in the last decade regarding green-washing and consumer attitudes towards sustainable business. There’s sometimes a feeling of being in an insular bubble of those who are working really hard on it. But there’s so much activity and excitement around it still and just being able to elevate the dialogue and the thoughts of what’s possible helps to spur sustainable business further.

SE: How do the Economic Forums fit into Sustainable Industries’ role as a journalistic enterprise?
Our mission is to create a new B2B media experience for sustainable business leaders and thought leaders. So this is a great extension of what we do. It’s the second highest source of business activity for the company in terms of revenue and that’s because it’s the one flagship program where we can actually bring our audience into one room in each of the different cities. And for that it’s wonderful.

In this new B2B media experience, we want to connect people; we want to help them get business done; we want to create a community at the local and regional levels. This is a direct manifestation of that. We have a print and digital magazine, a website, we host webinars and do custom media, we have a whole suite of industry newsletters, podcasts, etc. But this is the one live event where everyone can come together and experience the conversation in the same room in person.

SE: Can you give an example of how somebody who can’t make it to a forum could still participate in those conversations?
Definitely. The trends and ideas we’re talking about at the forums are all a part of the content that we’re serving up on all of our different channels. There’s going to be a good amount of online discussion.

There’s a lot happening with Sustainable Industries this fall. In September, we’re doing the first three forums in this year’s series and in August we’re launching a new web platform that will take our entire media experience to the next level.
With that we’re doing a whole rebrand of the magazine and changing its frequency in September alongside these events. So if you attend an event in Seattle, San Francisco or Portland in September, you’ll get a copy of the newly re-branded magazine with Cameron Sinclair on the cover and nice, in-depth Q&A article with him discussing many of the things he’ll address in his keynote. That way, even if you aren’t at an event, you can share some of that experience with our keynote speaker.

Of course, we’ll also posting content online on our blogs, and then we’ll post the video on our site after the events. Finally, for each event, we have a local LinkedIn community where both attendees and non-attendees can group up and discuss these ideas.

Brian Back is President and Founder of Sustainable Media, Inc. The Sustainable Industries Economic Forums will take place in four cities across the West this year—Santa Monica, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. For more information and to register, please visit: