event recap: the power of innovative partnerships

sustainable brands, san diego 2016

At Sustainable Brands 2016, our CEO Jonathan Hanwit hosted a panel that looked at San Diego’s innovative Climate Action Plan. For those not familiar with the plan, it is a legally binding contract announced at the end of 2015 that will cut emissions in half over the next two decades, making San Diego the first city in the country with a pledge of this kind.

Since San Diego is our home, we (obviously) have an interest in the plan for personal reasons. However, we are also interested in the plan as a it pertains to business and sustainability – things we deal with at thinkPARALLAX on a daily basis. Achieving the ambitious goals of the San Diego Climate Action Plan will require a great deal of collaboration between the public and private sectors. And this made a great discussion with our Sustainable Brands panelists.

The Power of Innovative Partnerships

Cody Hooven, Sustainability Manager, Economic Development for the City of San Diego explained that the idea of a climate plan had been in the works for a few years prior to its December 2015 adoption. When the plan was finally voted upon by the City of San Diego, its approval was unanimous. As a relatively conservative city, the Climate Action Plan was an impressive win for sustainability in San Diego. But, as Cody pointed out, clean energy is becoming increasingly popular as concerned citizens and companies are beginning to acknowledge that human activity does have an effect on the environment. Cody went on to explain that the plan contains standards for many different things – from urban tree canopy protection to recycling programs to processes that examine and help choose environmentally friendly vendors for city projects.

Pedro Villegas, Director of Regional Public Affairs, San Diego Gas & Electric focused on how the plan goes a long way to establish partnerships that are crucial for the future of our city. A partnership between the City of San Diego and SDGE will create the infrastructure to supply energy to future San Diegans and businesses. Investing in the future is in the best interests of both the organization and San Diego: figuring out how to manage extra stress on the grid from electric vehicles, a growing supply of solar energy, and other factors that will shape the course of the future. Innovation was a reoccurring theme throughout the conversation with him (as it was with all of the panelists).

Brendan Reed, Environmental Sustainability Program Manager, Environmental Affairs, San Diego Airport talked about planning for the future while acknowledging unknowns. San Diego already has the busiest single-runway airport in the country – and the demands of people, cars and flights that go through the airport are increasing all the time. According to Brendan, forward-thinking, innovative ideas are the only solutions capable of solving the environmental issues that are core to the airport. The San Diego Airport recently hosted a Smart Cities hackthon to come up with such ideas. And in May of 2016, the airport collaborated with the City of San Diego (another hackathon!), this time with a group of technologist to help brainstorm ideas for the Climate Plan.

While innovative ideas, collaboration, and great partnerships are a great start, the legally binding Climate Action Plan needs traction and movement if it is to become a reality. Both Cody and Brendan mentioned that they experienced difficulty communicating their efforts to residents. If the plan is to succeed, it is crucial that residents, business owners, and city employees have a good understanding of what’s about to happen, why it is so important, and how they can support change. Without this information, behaviors likely won’t change – and we at thinkPARALLAX, a sustainability communications agency, would leap at the opportunity to collaborate with them. However, we also realize that it’s not ultimately up to us, or any other single partner, to bring the Climate Action Plan to life. It’s up to all of the panelist to tell the Climate Action Plan’s story and get everyone onboard.