11 Conferences to Inspire Your Sustainability Efforts in 2011

by Rebecca Smith Hurd on January 13, 2011
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So you’ve resolved to make your enterprise more sustainable this year. Now what? Greening your small business and planning for its financial success will require some work, but you can simplify your efforts by establishing helpful new contacts, gathering data, and seeking out working examples and inspiration.

Professional conferences offer an opportunity to do all three at once, maximizing your time and investment. Scores of sustainability-related events — many priced under $400 — are scheduled across the U.S. Here are 11 suggested conferences to consider attending for 2011.

  1. Compostmodern, January 22-23, San Francisco. Compostmodern provides entrepreneurs and sustainability professionals with insight into transforming products, industries, and communities through design, plus the chance to meet, interact, and collaborate with colleagues. Speakers include (RED), GoodGuide IDEO, and Stanford’s d.school personnel. Tickets: $99-$249.
  2. Good Jobs, Green Jobs, February 8-10, Washington, D.C. This national conference convenes union members, environmentalists, and business and community leaders for a “forum for building a new, green economy that creates good jobs while preserving America’s economic and environmental security.” Workforce training, leveraging government contracts, and reaping the business benefits of going green are among the many workshop topics. Registration: $175.
  3. The Duke Conference on Sustainable Business and Social Impact, February 9, Durham, North Carolina. The Fuqua School of Business invites all Research Triangle-area students and professionals to this event, which will tackle topics like financial inclusion, social enterprise marketing, socially responsible investing, renewable energy, design innovation, and climate change consulting. The day-long agenda comprises keynotes, panels, and networking sessions. Admission: Free to $25.
  4. Investing in a Sustainable Future, March 9, New York. The Financial Times and the Social Investment Forum co-host this event designed to help investors and corporate social responsibility execs grapple with how sustainability efforts can be quantified (i.e., measured in financial terms). Think valuation, profit and loss, risk assessment, and risk management. Organizers welcome not only CSRs, but also consultants and sustainability officers from any size organization. Registration: $395 to $1,295.
  5. Go Green Conference, April 6, Austin, Texas. The Go Green Conferences, which are also held in Seattle and Portland, afford attendees an opportunity to connect with other business leaders and “eco-entrepreneurs.” In Austin, more than 60 speakers from sustainability experts to forward-thinking executives — will offer information and tools for making businesses more sustainable. Registration: $125.
  6. Green Festival, May 14-15, Chicago. In its tenth year, this series of environmentally focused festivals takes place in five cities between April and November. Each one will include entrepreneurial workshops about financing, marketing, and partnering under the umbrella Green Business Seminars, as well as networking opportunities. Tickets: Free-$15.
  7. Living Economies 2011: Place Matters, June 14-17, Bellingham, Washington. This four-day conference targets business pioneers, elected officials, philanthropists, economic-development specialists, and leaders from the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies working to shape the new economy at the grassroots level. Some 80 speakers and 24 breakout sessions will address “innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to growing healthy, resilient local economies.” Registration: $595.
  8. Social Venture Institute, September 14-18, British Columbia, Canada. This “alternative business school” gathers mission-based entrepreneurs — CEOs and leaders of small companies and nonprofit organizations — in a supportive setting to share ideas and experiences, hone business strategies, get feedback, and network with peers and mentors. Participation is limited, and pre-approval is required prior to registration. Tuition: $650 CDN.
  9. Sustainable Business Conference and Expo, October 20-22, Seminole, Florida. The Greater Area Seminole Chamber of Commerce hosts this event for business owners and local government officials from across the country. The workshops and presentations will cover topics such as business sustainability management, improving performance in existing buildings, energy and water efficiency, and policies and regulations. Dozens of exhibitors will display state-of-the-art sustainable solutions. Full conference pass: $399.
  10. 2011 Net Impact Conference, October 28-29, Portland, Oregon. This conference explores cutting-edge ideas, tools, and careers that use business to achieve social and environmental good in keynotes, panels, case studies, simulations, and special events. Organizers bring together professionals and students to “expand their vision of possibility in the world of business.” Registration fee TBD.
  11. Opportunity Green, November 9-11, Los Angeles. Co-founders Karen Solomon and Mike Flynn started this event to bring together thought leaders and inspire them to develop and implement sustainable business solutions. They’re all about balancing the triple bottom line (i.e., people, planet, profit) — and exploring innovative approaches to sustainability that are “bankable and exciting.” Ticket price TBD.
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