[Georgeann Moss]: It is now my great pleasure to introduce our second keynote speaker of the day, Mr. Kevin Wilhelm. Kevin Wilhelm is the CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting, and he is the world's preeminent business consultant and teacher in the field of sustainability. He's having — he has done this in both fields, not just sustainability but sustainability and business and of course the combination of the two. Some of Kevin's corporate clients include Amazon, Nordstrom, Expedia, Whole Foods, REI, Alaska Airlines and Tommy Bahama, and so there are several of my favorite brands in that list. He's taught business and sustainability related courses at over eight different universities including the University of Washington, Washington state which is where he hails from, and he has advised on campus master sustainability plans for the university of Texas and for Macalester college. He's also the author of four books including the acclaimed "Return on Sustainability: How Business Can Increase Profitability and Address Climate Change," and the other book, "Making Sustainability Stick: The Blueprint for Successful Implementation." So, if you guys would please help me welcome Mr. Kevin Wilhelm.
[Kevin Wilhelm]: Thanks, Georgeann. Can you all hear me? Sorry, that was a joke 'cause it's pretty darn loud up front, but in the back you can hear me? Okay good, thank you. Sorry, I'm double mic'd here so I'm gonna really try not to do that too much. First of all before we get going let's give a big round of applause to Georgeann, Sonia and all the volunteers for this incredible summit, and for Marianella for giving us such a great keynote this morning to kick this off. What I'm gonna talk to you about today, and the whole theme of this conference is about using the sustainable development goals and how you can incorporate them into your daily life, if you're a faculty member how you can incorporate them into a classroom, if you're a student how you can take action upon it, and if you're a business how you can do better as a business not just as it's a right thing to do or better for the environment, but to make more money and enhance your brand value, and so that's what I'm gonna be talking about today and I'm gonna make sure I have time for questions at the end but I'm just gonna fly through these and please feel free to just real quick before we get going, as Marianella has said, sustainability's all about connection, so everybody take 30 seconds and introduce yourselves at your table real quick, okay? Everybody introduce yourselves. Okay, now that you've introduced yourselves, and hopefully you don't have anyone like Joe Biden who's giving you their full Ph.D thesis about who they are, but we're gonna jump right into this presentation. I'm gonna move fast but I'm gonna try and make this fun and engaging for you.
So, how sustainability is typically talked about in the media and with businesses is for many many organizations and people they talk about sustainability as something we need to do better on because we need to be doing less bad, we need to care about the polar bears drowning you know because the arctic icecaps, we need to be worried about pollution, we need to be you know thinking about things like climate change, and the reality is this is how most people deal with large social environmental issues. I'll ask you, have any of you had a really in depth conversation with your family about climate change? Just raise your hand. Okay, now have any of you had a really in depth conversation about the Cowboys' lack of offense and what they did on Monday night football? Yes, okay so it's about equal. What I've found is that anytime that I'm starting to talk about sustainability with my family, their eyes roll up and they just go yeah, I know we need to save the planet and all, but did you see you know what happened in the game last night? And so the reality is what we need to be doing, and the focus of conversation in two of my books, is how to make sustainability fun, how to make it exciting, innovative, how you can be talking to people in the business world about how they can do better financially. To you as a student, how you can make more money in your job, how you can be more competitive, how you can land that job and beat out the person who might be sitting at the table. As a faculty member how you can differentiate it, how you can different accreditation — I mean credentials. These are the things that we need to be talking about, we need to make sustainability sexy, fun innovative, and not be Debbie Downers.
So one of the things that as we look at — when you look at the UN SDG's, there's 17 major issues that we have to solve and it's a lot of it just seems way overwhelming, but there are things we can do when you think about it where sustainability can be a way that it can reduce risk, it can be a way that you can make more money, you can enhance your brand, it's a way of being resilient, it's a way of bringing people together and one of the things that we've found — and Georgeann was uber gracious in her intro of me, is that I've found with 140 different companies that I've worked for, some of them as large as one million employees, some as small as two employees, is that sustainability is a way that it brings people together in a way that no other way does because everybody, when you look up at the UN sustainable development goals, there's not a person in the world who doesn't care about at least one of them, and as Marianella was saying this morning, finding that one thing that you care about but more importantly finding out the one thing or two things or three things that the person you're talking to care abouts, and finding a way that you incorporate sustainability into the conversation is the way to do that and I'm gonna talk about how to do that. So, this is where we are right now, we've got a traditional way of doing business and just because we've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid. So, just to homage on that, and Marianella knows this, two years ago just as a life challenge bucket list thing I ran with the bulls in Pamplona, and yes, it was incredibly stupid, I shouldn't have done it and I'll never do it again, but it just — it's a tradition, it's the way they've done things.
So, bringing that back home around sustainability, too often when you talk about climate change, when you talk about how we need to reduce you know or limit our growth in terms of greenhouse gases to 1 1/2 or two degrees centigrade, it's really too you know up in the clouds for most people. But when you start talking to people about extreme weather, has there been anything that's happened recently to catch your attention, everybody around the globe has had something happen to them recently. So, don't talk about climate change, don't talk about carbon initiatives, don't talk about things that just are seem way up. People can understand in Houston now the impacts of hurricanes. When a city like Houston has three, and let me hear that again, three 1,000 in a year floods, but they have three of them in five years, all of a sudden you want to start taking notice. People in North Carolina, you know when you talk to them about, well are you concerned about flood? We have two clients, one in Fort Lauderdale and one in Charlotte, and we were talking to them about climate resiliency, they said eh, we're not really too worried about that. I said what about flooding? They said, we've never had a flood in this area. This November both their headquarters had to be completely evacuated and they — one of them had to put in a $50 million insurance claim because they hadn't thought about what the extreme weather could do. These are the things that are happening all over the globe. Now what does that all mean? When we come back to this — the focus of this conference being about the UN SDG's, and for those of you who are in the back who are trying to take notes on your laptop or something, I've given this PowerPoint to Georgeann and Sonia so they can send it out so you can just you can take it. But it's really hard to see if you're in the back, but up front what we're seeing here is there was a survey done of 1,000 CEOs across the globe, the largest companies in the world, and they asked them, do you see sustainability as part of your future?
Now remember, traditionally when you hear about organizations they talk about maximizing shareholder value, being in a competitive position, selling more goods and services to their consumers, but when they interviewed the CEOs who were at the top 1,000 firms across the globe they found that 93% of them see sustainability as important to the future of their business. It wasn't just a nice thing to do, they see it as a tool for innovation, they see it as a way of gaining competitive advantage and they also believe that business should lead the way. A lot of people have put hope in our legislative process, you know whether it's in the state, whether it's at the federal level or even at the international level, and I think for the most part around climate change we've been let down.
But the good news is is that business has actually stepped in to fill the void, and so building off of Marianella's presentation about what we need to do as individuals, we need to realize that for business, for them to be profitable, for them to be competitive, for them to attract millennials who say they want to work for these type of organizations, they have to engage on the UN sustainable development goals, and I can tell you as someone who's been at this for 15 years, three years ago this was on no one's radar, no one was talking about it even at the conferences around companies for climate change and sustainable brands. In the last I'd say nine months I've had eight Fortune 10 companies come to our company and say we want to understand how our organization plays on these UN sustainable development goals and so it is now picking up a lot of momentum. The reason why it's picking up momentum is that — and I apologize, this does have a laser pointer but I know you can't see it — in terms of business priorities, they're focused on revenue and profitability but they're also focused on brand image, customer satisfaction, reducing risk, growth, innovation, productivity, and when we start talking about sustainability in the context of this language, Marianella finished her talk today by saying, well if she had a chance to talk to Trump.
Well, let's be honest, none of us are gonna get a chance to talk to Trump, but all of us are gonna get a chance to talk to our distant cousin or a relative or a friend or a parent of a friend who doesn't believe in what you all in the room believe around sustainability. But if you engage with them about business and you put it into the context using the words they use and the things they care about, they will then engage, and this happens to me in Seattle which is where I'm from all the time. I know you probably think that because I'm from Seattle and I'm in sustainability that I should be wearing Birkenstocks and hemp and that I drive a Prius and all that kind of stuff, and I don't. I actually drive an electric car so I'm even further on the left than that. But when I go to talk to business audiences I dress like I do, I usually dress up fully in a suit because they're expecting me to come in in Birkenstocks and in hemp clothes and talk about how they all are bad and they all need to become vegan loving Prius drivers. What I do is I ask them, what's most important to them? What are they trying to accomplish with their business? And I really focus the message on that, and by doing that and then sharing, then you have the opportunity to start that conversation about those business priorities, and where it's showing up and one of the reasons why I am 100% hopeful and optimistic that we can solve this, I mean there were reports out two weeks ago that were saying hey, you know what, we only have 'til 2030 to solve this climate change crisis or the entire planet is screwed, okay? So just think about that.
Can anyone remember the year 2006, anyone raise your hand, you know those kind of last midterm elections? Those of you in college are probably like yeah, those are my fifth, sixth, seventh birthday, so we'll give you a pass. But that's what we have, we have about 11-12 years before the whole planet is hosed, and did it get any attention on day two? Not really, and so while our policy makers are slow on this, businesses are leading on this and they're jumping on this and they're jumping on this really fast, and here's how it's happening. You've got organizations that are like big banks, which again, just over 10 years ago they took down the global economy, but they are now requiring all in all of their major infrastructure lending, they're asking companies to proactively answer questions on environmental and social issues, and so they're saying if you want money to build this highway, this next building, this new development, you have to answer these questions.
You've got the Federal Trade Commission has put out new guidelines on how you can talk about sustainability. The equity markets which are much bigger than the debt markets — this is this is the stock market — they've seen that this incredible shift. Everyone's like, well we need to go into social responsible investing, and yes we need to do that, and 10 years ago $1 out of every $10 was invested in a socially responsible business, now it's $1 every $3, so money is moving incredibly fast, and what is that money doing? And this is why I keep coming back to – and believe me, I'm not an economist. I was a history major and I was a Spanish minor you know, and now – and then of course I went and got my MBA, but when I talk about sustainability through the vision of money, everyone kind of thinks from the sustainability world like, oh, you're kind of cheapening it you know, you really need to be talking about the planet and community and social justice, and I absolutely 100% agree. But what I've found is when you hit people in the pocketbook they listen, and when you talk to businesses that can move fast and talk to them about ways they can hear about what's gonna happen to the profitability they listen, and so here's just a quick example.
This organization that's now called the CDP, used to be called the carbon disclosure project, 10 years ago they put out a survey asking the top 500 businesses across the world, what are you doing on climate change? That's all they asked, and then nine years ago they said okay, now we've asked you what are you doing on climate change, how does this impact your business? Well fast forward to today, now they've got 5,000 companies doing it and they've reached out to equity investors and the amount of equity investors that have that have bought onto this and now are requiring companies to answer these questions is over $100 trillion in assets, and I know that sounds like no way is that possible. The entire the entire GDP of the United States is $15 trillion, you add China in there, you're up to about $29 trillion, throw in the EU, you're around $42 trillion, you add Japan you're around $50 trillion.
Money, equity investors, are worth basically double the economies of those countries that I've just mentioned, and they are requiring businesses to take action, and we get called all the time by companies that are saying hey, we have to answer this questionnaire from this organization called CDP, we know nothing about it, but they've told us that they might pull their investments if we don't actually respond to this. And what's happening is organizations like Walmart, AT&T, Microsoft, are now using this as a proxy, that they're telling they want their suppliers to fill it out. And so Walmart has since created its own questionnaire but it sends this one out, too, to 100,000 suppliers and really they are saying, if you do not answer this questionnaire we may cease doing business with you. And you may say, well okay, they're just sending out a questionnaire... but in my hometown in Seattle there's this local dairy farmer called Darigold, and they — you know family run generation, 100 million — or excuse me, have been around about 100 years, did about $100 million in avenue revenue and they sold into Walmart. And they approached our company and said hey, Walmart gave us this questionnaire, can you help us fill it out? So we tried to help them fill it out but they just kept dragging their feet, saying you know, so and so's on vacation, we'll get back to you you know, we're not gonna get to it this week, but you know what, a competitor from Akron, Ohio, came in, answered the questionnaire and took away $50 million worth of business overnight. It would've cost them about $2,500 for us to help them figure out that questionnaire and they lost $50 million in business and the company's never recovered. So, this is a way where business and money is talking and making things happening.
The other way that it's talking — and I'll go back to this because Marianella set that up with Trump and you know, what do you care about in terms of the stock market — when I'm talking to businesses in you know whether they're in the midwest, the deep south, in eastern Washington, and I get them going and I say you know, again they're expecting me coming over from Seattle to be dressed in hemp and driving my Prius over and several times my wife had a Prius and I drove it over. But they were expecting me to come at them. One of the things about sustainability is people expect you to come at them like you're a business, you're doing bad, you need to do better. You know Trane, when they gave the talk this morning they said they've invested $500 million 'cause it's the right thing to do, and they're an outlier because not many organizations do that, but how environmentalists and social justice groups have gone at businesses and said you know, you need to change, you need to do stuff, you're bad bad bad bad bad.
So, when I go over to these businesses and say, do you want to make more money? Do you want to increase your market share? Do you want to give more money to your investors? Do you want to have raises? Do you want to have all these things? Do you want to be able to invest in property, plant and equipment? They say yes and I say okay, well the best way to do that is actually to be either invested or invested in a sustainability index. So, this line which you can't you can't really see the difference between the blue and the red the first couple years, but if you go back to 2006 which is before the crash, coming out of the crash, going up and down and and I apologize, I couldn't get the slide to extend all the way to 2017. But money that was invested in socially responsible investments outperformed traditional money for a period of 12 years.
So, there's this great myth that's been put out there that our our country has been bought into, that if we want to do the right thing and save the planet it's gonna hurt the economy, or we're gonna hurt the stock market. When the reality is companies that have stronger environmental and social policies have actually outperformed the traditional Dow Jones sustainability index — or excuse me, the Dow Jones sustainability index has outperformed the Dow or the S&P 500 for a period of 12 years. And you hear this in the media all the time, we can't you know we don't want to increase environmental regulation because it's gonna hurt business, it's gonna hurt jobs. The reality is it's actually been untrue and been sold that and the data backs that up.
Now do we have any millennials in the room? Can you raise your hand? Okay, let me ask a question. Those of you in the back who are students who are on your phones right now, can you look up for a second? I'm asking, do we have any millennials in the room? Raise your hands please. All right, that table there you get a gold star, the rest of you, you're dead to me for the rest of the presentation.
But basically what you have here is millennials are hot, every company, every business, every organization is freaking out. They want to know, what are we gonna do to attract millennials? Whether it's a government agency that works in science, whether it's Amazon, whether it's a small business, everyone is wondering about how do we attract millennials.
A recent study done by Net Impact showed that 88% of graduating students, whether they're in this room or not, want to factor in a company's corporate social responsibility into their into their plan. Another 50% said that they would actually take a 15% pay cut to work for an organization that they believed in, that shared their values. So, as businesses and organizations are saying, well we want to attract millennials, we're finding all the time companies are coming to us saying, we have a big millennial problem, we want to attract the next generation of talent, how do we do that? We've heard the sustainability thing is kinda hot, can you help us do it? And we show them and, they're again, they're not doing it because they care about the environment, they're doing it to attract the next generation of employees and we've been working with them on that. Now, coming back to, what are the skills and what are those characteristics that line up with the SDG's? These are the skills that employers are looking for, they're looking for people — and these are traditional fields — but but sustainability can be woven into that.
I get asked all the time, oh Kevin, I want I want to be a sustainability consultant or I want to be a sustainability manager, and I say great. For every one job of mine, there's 100 jobs in traditional business or with an organization where you can incorporate sustainability. So, if you're a faculty member and you're wondering about how does this business stuff add in, you can figure out ways to incorporate sustainability into your classes, 'cause we're finding that people want data analytics, big data, they need to understand how to calculate their carbon footprint or look at metrics. They want people who are doing systems thinking. So if you you teach liberal arts or you're a liberal arts major, you don't realize it but you're being taught systems thinking and they're looking for people like that. They want people with good research skills, communication skills, people that have leadership and organizational change, people that can look through an organizational supply chain. So while you may not be taking a class that says this will lead to a job in sustainability, if you're a student here, there are classes where you're being taught these skills that are so important to what you're gonna need to get out in the business world, and one of the things — I apologize, I have a short plug here — was for years people kept coming up to me, saying, what are the skills that that you need? And everyone assumed that people needed these really hard skills you know, like you would go to get an MBA program or you would go to get a graduate degree and they would say, oh, I need these hard skills to be able to get a job in sustainability.
And increasingly it was soft skills. They wanted people who could work in teams, they wanted people who have leadership, they wanted people who could work together with other people and could could research and and think for themselves, and so and I put some business cards on here. So, I got together with 30 other thought leaders from around the country and asked them, what are the questions that you ask people and what are you looking for? And so we wrote a book together collectively called Sustainability Jobs, which is a blueprint for any of you who are trying to think about where to go in the world in sustainability, whether it's in business, whether it's working for an NGO, whether it's working for an environmental group, whether it's working for a social justice group, whether it's working for a peace-based organization, these are the skills and ideas they have, and the
reason we put it together was that you know, I had my thoughts but I was like, who cares what I think? I need to know what the true leadership around the country thinks and let's get their opinions into that. And many of them said these are the skills that we are looking for.
So what does this mean to you? From the point of this this whole talk, if you're a business, sustainability in line with the SDG's is a way to it's an opportunity to make more money or enhance your brand value. If you're in the community, it's a way to engage. Like what Marianella was saying today, if you're a community based organization it's a way to engage with the universities or with all of the different schools that are part of the DCCCD. If you're a faculty member, just finding a way to incorporate some of these words and some of these things into your case studies and your readings, it's an easy way to help your students take what seems like really difficult theory and bring it to the reality. And if you're a student this is a way to really get exposed to real world solutions.
So, I'm just gonna get run through a couple of examples of organizations and how they've tied it to the UN SDG's. Now this is Dupont, Dupont typically throughout the '80s and '90s and any of you who are Gen-Xers like myself, Dupont was — great, there's some hands going up, yes, not a millennial — that's okay, represent all generations here. But Dupont was known as the number one polluter not just in the United States but in the world. They were — you know their ships were the ones that were behind the Exxon Valdez as you know. They had chemicals always going into the meadowlands. Well they weren't going after you know saving the planet, they were looking to be more efficient, and all of these sponsors over here who work in energy efficiency, they help organizations do this, and what Dupont did was they invested in their own energy efficient solutions for their plants and their manufacturing throughout their supply chain and they saved over $3 billion while reducing their emissions. Oh sorry, they grew their business by 30% while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions 72%. So Dupont was an example of, it was able to match up with the UN SDG's on climate action and say we're gonna take action on this, but they did it in a way by investing in energy efficiency and they saved $3 billion. So, anyone who goes to a big organization and says hey, you know what, let's solve climate change and you're gonna make $3 billion, it's a pretty much a no-brainer, right? It's a total win-win situation.
Giving you a smaller business example, Garvey Schubert Barer is a law firm in Seattle, they were extremely worried about their own business resiliency after seeing 9/11 and seeing all the papers come out of the World Trade Towers, and they thought, oh my gosh, we need to have some kind of resiliency, some kind of backup. So, they went and they hired some millennials to come in and scan their documents and basically take everything up onto the cloud, and by doing that they realized they had all these old file cabinets and all these really old rooms just filled with books that they didn't need anymore. And so they got rid of it and put it all on Craigslist, and then they had these offices, and they said, what do we do with these offices? Well, we're in downtown Seattle, this is really prime space, let's rent that out, and so they found a way of addressing paper usage to become more resilient, actually netted them $1 million. So that office manager who came up with that idea got a $50,000 bonus for saving them $1 million. Now this person barely had a GED and got a $50,000 bonus by addressing issues that related to the UN SDG's.
I have a buddy who's an avid biker and he was always blowing out his tubes because, let's be honest, in Seattle you have to go through a lot of areas where there's broken glass and homeless and you end up popping tires all the time in the winter with the rain. And he was like, I'm so frustrated because I have no place to just put my tubes, and so he would take them to a bike shop and the bike shop just had this room in the back where they threw the tubes. He had an idea and he said, I bet someone would pay me to take these away. So, he rented a U-Haul truck for a day and he went around all the bike shops and he said, how much would you pay me to take away all of your bike tubes? And every single one of them started paying him $1 a tube to take away their bike tubes. And then he thought, well now I've got all these bike tubes, could I turn these into things? And he actually started building wallets and backpacks and little belts and little purses out of used bike tubes. So, he took stuff that was going in the landfill that was gonna be in the landfill for hundreds of years, and he went to businesses and they paid him to take this stuff, so he got free raw material, and he turned it into a product that will last practically forever. And so this is a way where you can use sustainability to address these issues up here of consumption but turn it in a positive way. Instead of consuming and throwing out, it's consuming, it's going back into productive use and you can make money from it. Incidentally the guy is 35 years of age, and he just retired for life at 35 by recycling bike tubes, okay?
That's what sustainability can be.
And here's another one. If you ever really wondered, can you turn — sorry, I'm being recorded — if you could ever turn poop to gold? This is a case where you can actually do it. So, this was a farmer who was up in rural areas of eastern Washington, Skagit County. Now he wasn't some farmer that you know or some person that like ran their Mustang into a cow and totaled it you know when he was younger. This was somebody who actually was just trying to think of a way where he wanted to get government regulators off his back. He was a dairy farmer and he was sick of people from the EPA coming out and testing his water because all the cow manure would run into the water streams, and he said, if I'm having this problem I bet others are. So he went around to a whole co-op of farmers and they all had the same problem, they all wanted to get rid of these government regulators who were coming and putting fines on them. So then he had an idea and he said, what if I took away all that cow poop from everybody? I bet people would pay me to do that.
Meanwhile, the state just like Texas had a renewable portfolio standard where the state was trying to get a certain percentage of their electricity from non-fossil fuels, and if he converted cow manure, which emits methane, if he got it into an anaerobic digester, he could sell it back to utility at a premium. And he thought huh, maybe I wonder if I could do this? And then he started talking to outdoor retailers, he talked to REI and REI was trying to lower their carbon emissions, he said, you know what, I've got a carbon offset I could trade to you. And so my buddy Kevin Moss, who's about 42 years of age, found a way that he went around and had people pay him to take the raw material, which was the cow poop, off their land, they all thought he was a god for doing so because he kept the EPA regulators from coming to their forms, then he put it through an anaerobic digester which he made an investment on, took the methane out of the environment to lower the climate impact, converted it to natural gas, sold it back to the utility at a premium and then got REI to pay him a check by claiming an offset. This was a $300,000 investment that netted him $8 million, this is what he turned cow poop into gold. He's done seven of these now and he's retired. And so I'm like, what am I doing up here talking to people about sustainability, I gotta find me a — you know where's that retirement plan. But these are all ways that individuals with some creative thinking, whether they're in business or large organizations or out on farms, are finding ways that they can take meaningful action on the UN SDG goals and make money while doing it and improving the community and society at the same time.
Even Amazon, which anyone ever ordered anything from Amazon? Raise your hand. Okay, thank you for this part of the audience that's there, I've given up on the whole back now, none of them are raising their hands, I know everyone orders stuff from Amazon. But you know we're all we're all kind of sick of how much cardboard you use, right? And and you think of cardboard is what Amazon's biggest impact is because you as a consumer deal with that, but Amazon's biggest impact is actually energy, all the Amazon data services and everything up in the cloud. And so what Amazon had were these huge data centers that would just use so much energy to keep them cool and they would get really hot and so one of our colleagues went over to Amazon and said, you're trying to you're using electricity to pump AC to keep your heat down. What if you just found a way you could just like open a vent and let the heat out? They said that'd be great. And said, what if you could open a vent, let that heat out and get paid for letting that heat out? They thought that'd even be better. So, what Amazon did was they found a way, they put a pipe that went right out of their data centers where they captured the heat that they didn't want, so rather than pumping AC down they just pumped the heat out across the street and it heats the building next door, and so they get paid to do that.
We think, well I'm not an Amazon. Well, there was a small brewpub in Seattle that did the same thing with a yoga studio you know, they have all this energy, and they're heating up the beer as they're they're kind of boiling the hops and making the batches, and they were just off casting the heat. And they just thought, what if we put a pipe up here and took it over to the yoga studio that had Bikram yoga? They need hot they need hot air all the time, they also need something that will wipe out all the sweat from all the hairy men, but this is a way that they were able to go hey, you know what, we're a brewpub, but instead of just going up and heating the planet, we're gonna send it over here to this organization and they can buy our energy which is relatively clean, they'll pay us for it, and then they don't have to use fossil fuel electricity to get it going forward.
So, these are all just ways that organizations have have done that and I'm not gonna go into this because there's so many ways you can engage skeptics, but I just put up here on the slide, and we'll send it around to you, that so often people are stuck in their thought processes, and if you can engage a skeptic, find out what they care about and put the term sustainability into that, you'll be able to understand that.
And so bringing that all back to the students and faculty that are here within this district, you know for a lot of organizations they think, well sustainability's kind of this new up and coming thing, but the reality is it's actually taken off and led by this group called AASHE in the United States, but now there's over — you know there's 4,500 degree granting institutions and over 25% of them in the United States now participate in this program called AASHE Stars, which means that they're evaluating what they're doing on campus in terms of energy, water, waste. What they're doing with their curriculum, and over 670 college and universities have signed onto a president's climate change, which that's not the president of the United States, it's the president of the university signing to make sure that there's a climate protocol.
So, things are happening and just to give you some examples of what's happening at the academic level, because I know if we start just all being about business, I mean you know wanna know what's it like being on campus. Well you know, UTRGV was recognized as a as a Tree Campus USA. And as Marianella was talking this morning, how it got people's attention by saying, you know this is actually by doing this this is actually a $5 million value to the community because we're sequestering carbon, and we're taking care of rainwater and we're preventing flooding and all these different things, we're providing shade — whoops. There's, you know, University of Texas has nine LEED Gold buildings. The UT Dallas, their student center's LEED Platinum. Here on the Richland campus, which y'all need to know, is you know you've hit your zero-waste Gold-Level certification through the city of Dallas. You know you're RecycleMania champions; you're also a Tree Campus USA. You've done a number of amazing things.
Just to, you know, bring it really home to this room right here: You've got initiatives. You know you've got a campus green team, your your president's committed to climate neutrality, you know you've got solar lights that are integrated in the landscaping, and your campus, you have living labs, and so there's opportunity. If you're a student and you're saying how can I get this to put something on my resume? There's things on campus. If you're a faculty member and you're saying, look, my syllabus is already jammed, I can't do anything more, that's not true. There's stuff that's already happening on campus, you don't need to do anything new, you just need to reach out and partner with people and you can start incorporating sustainability in your classes, and one of the things — and I put some uh some fliers on tables because having gone and talked to a number of different universities all around the country, we found that the same things are true at every organization — at every university pretty much. It's kinda like a family you know, every family's got the issues, you just don't know if your family, is it the drunk uncle, is it the middle sister, is it the younger sister who always calls her older sister the 'older sister,' you know what what are the issues that are in the family?
And with universities it's the exact same thing, they all have problems, it's just where are the problems? What we found is that in terms of integrating sustainability one of the key ones is first of all, defining it for the institution. Here you've done a great job of doing that, Marianella's done a great job at UTRGV, at university of Texas A&M Commerce, they've done a great job of defining what sustainability is. But you also need these other things, you need a mandate from leadership, people have to understand how it aligns with their mission. To integrate in the curriculum oftentimes it's as simple as finding case studies for faculty, showing opportunities for students on campus and reinforcing the communication, and this is how you integrate sustainability across an organization at a university level and incorporate the UN SDG's. So I know right about at time and I know a lot of you need to get dessert and there's candy over here, so I'm not gonna be the person that gets away with you. I know, this woman just looked at me like whoa, candy? I'm like, didn't you already O-D from Halloween?
But, bringing it all home, you're here at this summit to make a difference. You've listened to inspiring conversation, you've been in these meetings and you're doing stuff. I want you, just everyone take one second, and for those of you in the back, this is for you too, everyone turn to somebody and say, what is the thing that you're most proud of that you've ever done? And it just it can be something really small like recycle this or do that, either that helped in the community or in your environment. Just turn to one person and say, what is the one thing that I'm most proud of? And just share that real quick. You two need to share, what are the things you're most proud of? If you're sitting by yourself you three can share. And now come back with me here, what's one thing, one simple little change that you could make that you want to make after hearing and seeing that inspirational video this morning? And it could be simple as, I'm not gonna take a straw next time I'm at Starbucks, or you know everyone wants to bring their own bag or something like that or turn off the lights, what's one little simple simple thing that you could do? Share that with your with your group here real quick.
Okay. Let's just hear from you, you said break down the boxes right there, yeah. That would that would save a lot of lot of space. But where I'm going with this is that you might be sitting here thinking, I'm just an individual, what can I do for these climate initiatives, what can I do to address these UN SDG's, and just to remind you that it all starts with you. It can start with a conversation in your next class project, it can start this weekend with a conversation with your friends and family. You know at my firm just to give you an example, I have a small four person team in Seattle, Washington, and I get asked this all the time. What the hell can you do to solve these global problems? You are four people. And what I tell them is, you know what I can do? I can lead, you know, I now teach in a discipline that didn't exist when I was getting my MBA, I now have — when I thought, well what can I do in terms of evangelizing my message, I I teach at these universities and I thought, what if I put them online? What if I license them? What if I license them to India and China? Then all of a sudden instead of having 15 students I could have 15 million students. That's what anyone can do here. I've worked with over 140 companies, like I said, I was a history major and a Spanish minor which meant I was completely completely unemployable, and I figured out how to do this.
Now, we actually have programs on sustainability and you have these opportunities on campus you know, and I our firm, even though we're a four-person firm, we were recognized globally by D Corp as the change maker in the world last year for what we're trying to do. And so you know when someone says, well you know, what are you doing to reduce your climate change, didn't you just fly here from Seattle? And I said, well yeah, I'm not gonna stop my climate emissions by walking, but what did I — what did we — commit to? We committed to reducing 100,000 times our impact globally as to what our impact is. Now you don't need to do that, but maybe if you just work to reduce your impact by 1.5%, if all of us did that we could all make a huge huge impact, and if all of us went and took it back into our jobs and thought, what am I doing? Or for those of you that are gonna go do jobs or internships, who can do that.
So, in closing I just want to leave it that we have this amazing opportunity, you hear all the time about our grandparents being referred to as the greatest generation because they fought in World War II, they defeated fascism. We have an issue that's hiding out there that we know we've got 11 years to fix, so we have an opportunity to be this generation's greatest generation. And I just say, let's all go do that, let's take everything we got from this summit today, let's go out and let's change the world. Thank you so much for your time.