The University of Iowa

UI to Host Second Sustainability Summit Today

February 10th, 2012

By Conrad Swanson, The Daily Iowan

Jon Finley wants businesses to view sustainability efforts as more than just hugging trees.

“The more corporations focus on sustainability, the cheaper it gets,” the 2012 M.B.A. candidate said. “These aren’t tree-hugging people. These are major corporations trying to make money, and this is how business is going to be handled from here forward.”

Finley, a member of the University of Iowa Net Impact chapter, will speak at today’s Sustainability Summit in the IMU alongside representatives from Coca-Cola, UPS, and Iowa-based Kum & Go. The summit is part of an all-day sustainability effort on campus, to be followed by a UI International Programs-produced WorldCanvass sustainability history presentation in the Old Capitol.

Recent technological developments and an uptick in corporate participation has made developing these sustainable efforts cost-effective, Finley said. He cited shortening UPS truck routes as a recent method one business has taken to save millions of gallons of gas, cut time, and reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

“We’re trying to bring awareness to the fact that sustainability really, truly does make business sense and extends beyond being green or recycling,” said Kyle Bogler, UI Net Impact president.

Bogler agreed that cheaper energy-efficient technology has made such efforts more palatable, pointing to an initiative among Kum & Go stores to install more energy-efficient refrigerating units and light bulbs.

Sustainability and environmentalism are different, said UI engineering Assistant Professor and WorldCanvass speaker Craig Just.

“We must understand beyond environmentalism,” he said. “If you want to protect the environment and tell people what they can’t do, it won’t work. We’re a market-based world, that’s not going away. You have to combine market approaches, people approaches, and environmental approaches. It’s not environmentalism, although that is a component of sustainability.”

These approaches can be furthered by expanding the push for sustainable efforts outside the business and academic spheres.

“Defy the disciplines,” Just said. “You can’t solve the biggest problems of today with any one discipline. It takes artists, musicians, engineers, scientists, etc.”

UI WorldCanvass host Joan Kjaer supported simplifying and expanding the delivery of sustainable advocacy.

“You’re learning about something that you have an interest in, hopefully,” she said. “And it’s relaxed in the sense that all the important but fairly esoteric jargon related to the academic fields is left behind.”