By Joel Makower, Greenbiz.com
"What conferences should I go to?"
That's a question I've been getting regularly from corporate environmental professionals for years, as they look ahead to the growing calendar of events -- and their shrinking travel budgets -- to discern which events are, for lack of a better term, "worth it."
And while I hate to respond with the decidedly ambiguous phrase "It depends," the truth is -- well, it depends. What is your interest -- environmental issues or the larger world of sustainability and corporate responsibility? What is your level of knowledge -- are you just starting out or a veteran in the field? How deep do you want to go -- are you more interested in scoping broad trends or a deep dive into specific topics? Who do you want to meet -- potential customers, business partners, employers, mentors or colleagues?
I think you get my drift: There's no one-size-fits-all answer. As it turns out: It depends.
GreenBiz.com's Events Calendar provides a terrific means of keeping track of the entire field of events. (If yours isn't listed, let us know or, better yet, add it yourself.) Beyond that, it's largely a matter of asking around. Our 21,000-member Green Business Professionals LinkedIn group is one good resource for surveying your peers.
So, what do I attend? That's another question I frequently get. I speak at 20-25 events a year, though many are private company events, or conferences held by trade groups, economic development offices, universities, or professional groups. But I also attend others as a civilian. Here is my personal list of can't-miss conferences -- in chronological order for 2011:
Clean-Tech Investor Summit (Jan 19-20, Palm Springs, Calif.), a high-level conclave of 500 or so leading investors, Fortune 500 executives, and thought leaders to discuss the latest trends, innovations, and hot companies. (It's co-produced by Clean Edge, of which I am co-founder.)
State of Green Business Forums (Feb. 2-3, San Francisco; Feb. 9-10, Chicago; Feb. 16-17, Washington, D.C.), our own flagship events, celebrating the launch of our annual "State of Green Business" report through interviews, presentations, hands-on workshops, and world-class networking with green business professionals.
Fortune Brainstorm: Green (April 4-6, Laguna Nigel, Calif.) is one of the best-produced events you'll ever attend, held in a spectacular location with an audience in which pretty much anyone qualifies to be on stage. This year, I'll be hosting a plenary panel on green marketing.
Ceres Conference 2011 (May 11-12, Oakland, Calif.), bringing together a rich gumbo of companies, NGOs, socially responsible investors, labor unions, and others. We're especially excited that the 2011 event will be held about three blocks from the GreenBiz.com corporate headquarters.
GreenBiz Innovation Forum (spring; date and city TBD), the follow-on to 2010's debut event, will bring together sustainability and innovation professionals to help both ramp up their understanding of sustainable innovation inside companies, leading to greener products, processes and business models.
Greenbuild (Oct. 5-7, Toronto), the massive green building expo, increasingly expands its boundaries beyond the built environment. At the 2010 show, for example, there were more than a few vehicle-charging stations on display, as well as electric vehicles themselves. A little something for everyone (and too much for some).
BSR Conference (Nov. 2-4, San Francisco) has been a mainstay for me for almost 20 years. One reason: the breadth of people, topics, and events related to the full spectrum of corporate responsibility, giving me a chance to expand my horizons beyond the environmental realm in which I spend most of my time.
Behind these are other favorites, albeit ones I less frequently attend: SRI in the Rockies (Oct. 2-5, New Orleans - I'll be keynoting in 2011); Social Venture Network (Oct. 27-30, Philadelphia); and Net Impact (Oct. 28-29, Portland, Ore.).
Originally published in Green Buzz, on November 19, 2010.
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