EVENTS: "Sustainability in Fire Protection" Conference - Day 2

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

This morning I gave my presentation on "Understanding and Advertising in the Green Market." Whew -- it is always a pleasure to get my talk over with so that I can relax and focus on the rest of the speakers.

One of my other tasks for the Coalition for Responsible Fire Protection (host of this event, and on whose Board I sit) is to gather feedback from participants that we can use on the Coalition blog to extend the value of the conference proceedings. So at every break, I've been running around with my little flip camera and asking people to answer one of three questions:

1. Why are you a member of the Coalition?
2. What about the Coalition's work are you most excited about?
3. What is the most important take-away for you from what you've seen so far?

You can check out the Coalition's blog over the next few weeks to see the actual video clips as we post them with links back to particular presentations, but let me give you a sneak peek at what I'm hearing:

Theme #1: Lifecycle Thinking Is Critical

The Coalition has made it a priority to look at the issue of sustainability in fire protection from a lifecycle perspective. Rather than looking at a narrow set of issues (like end-of-life reclamation/disposal or emissions during accidental discharge), the Coalition is committed to promoting the role of lifecycle analysis to ensure that the industry can focus its attention in a strategic way on the most important issues. Participants are unanimous in their support for this approach.

Theme #2: Sustainability Is More Than Being "Green"

The fire protection industry will pursue sustainability when it makes good business sense, but economic realities make it difficult to pursue "green" strategies that are not grounded in specific business reasons--whether tax incentives, green building code requirements, compliance with regulation, or an opportunity to manufacture systems more efficiently. Participants are keen to understand how to better make the business case within their organizations and to their customers.

Theme #3: Business Is Leading, Government Is Lagging

We have seen presentations on climate legislation and regulation, FTC rules on green marketing, EPA's role in regulating fire fighting chemicals, and others. In those talks and in the subsequent discussions, a recurring theme is that government is generally lagging in promoting sustainability and that business is instead (at least in the United States) leading the way in promoting sustainable practices in their own operations and throughout their supply chains.

Tomorrow is the final day of the conference, and I'm already dreading the moment when I have to check out of my fantastic hotel room and leave Park City. Fortunately, my trip is only just beginning, and starting on Friday I'll be on my way to Portland, Oregon to attend the ISSP Conference for sustainability professionals. I'm curious to see how many of these themes are repeated in this next event!