Are We Truly Engaged in Sustainability? This and Other Questions Heard at the ISSP Conference

By: Alexandra Kueller

In mid-November, I had the opportunity to attend the annual ISSP conference in Denver. ISSP, or the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, annually holds a conference to allow sustainability professionals from all around the world to come together to discuss, network, and learn from one another. Those two days were filled a variety of speakers covering a wide range of topics relating to sustainability. And as much as I would have liked to have attended each and every breakout session, it just was not possible!

But for every session I was able to go to, many questions were asked. Some of the questions were rhetorical, others made us sit and think long and hard about what we could do to solve that question. Some of the questions were sector-specific, others were more general questions. Throughout my two days in Denver, I took note of some of the questions that really stayed with me, and here are those questions:

  • What are we actually gaining from our consumption? We consume – a lot. After all, we are only human. But what are we gaining from all that consumption? With all the new clothes, products, and tech gadgets we are always buying, are we actually getting anything in the long run?
  • Just because something might be legal, does it make it right? In business we are always make choices, and while they are legal choices, are they the ethical choice? Are they just short-term solutions to long-term problems? We need to start examining why we make the choices we do.
  • How do we engage others in sustainability? As sustainability is growing not only throughout businesses, but our everyday lives as well, how do we make sure that we are not just doing, but rather becoming a model for others?
  • Are we aware of our true power and influence? Being sustainability professionals, we can draw from years of experience and education to influence others, but are we maximizing our power?
  • How do we change existing price structures to help maximize efficiency? Some states have their utilities set up so that the more a customer consumes, the cheaper it is for the customer. How can we change an existing structure so that it’s still beneficial to the customer, but also efficient?
  • Who is asking for transparency? Many companies are now publishing annual sustainability reports, but who is the target audience? Often times the audience are the people, the groups asking for that transparency. Be aware who the audience is when writing your report.
  • How are companies integrating sustainability? Companies list sustainability initiatives on their website and in their reports, but what are they doing to make sure sustainability is actually being integrated into the business?
  • How does a company instill its values into the company so people take it seriously? Company values are important, but what are the companies doing to make sure their employees know the values are important? How does a company make sure that the values are being followed and adhered to?
  • What trends are we not anticipating? As sustainability professionals, we cannot become complacent with the trends that are facing us – we need go forward and start expecting the unexpected.
  • Are we truly engaged in sustainability? We all face sustainability in our daily lives (after all, it is our profession!), but what are we doing to make sure we’re not just “going through the motions”? Whether it is personal or professional, what are the steps we should be taking to make sure we are engaged with our sustainability actions?

What questions do you find yourself asking about sustainability? Let us know in the comments below!