The Tempe Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Sustainability Summit, part of the Emerging Issues Forum sponsored by SRP, was an hour packed with informative and influential speakers who discussed emerging sustainability issues and solutions for Tempe businesses.
The first part of the summit was an interview with Chuck Chaitovitz, the Vice President for Environmental Affairs and Sustainability at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Jen Coyne, CEO, and Co-Founder of the organizational development firm The PEAK Fleet and co-chair of the Tempe Chamber of Sustainability Committee, spoke with Chaitovitz about the Biden Administration’s focus on climate and infrastructure. They also discussed key policies that can help the business community in building resilience and how clean energy can impact employment challenges.
Chaitovitz described several national and state initiatives that businesses need to pay attention to going forward. These include the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement, which are the efforts of each country working to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change; the Build by the Fourth of July Campaign, which is a coalition of more than 300 businesses, environmental, and labor organizations, including the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, calling for Congress to enact broad infrastructure legislation; the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan, which is a broad climate and infrastructure proposal meant to start a conversation with stakeholders; and new innovative approaches that relate to energy and climate.
Coyne went on to ask Chaitovitz about key policies that will help the business community in building resilience and reducing climate risks. First, it is important to understand the concept of resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from shocks. As Chaitovitz explained, without resilience, the natural resources and infrastructure that support sustainable businesses and communities would be at risk. The key point here is pre-disaster mitigation to address climate issues before the next crisis.
Chaitovitz closed his discussion by stressing the importance of approaching sustainability through a systems lens, because every sector is important and interconnected. He explained that in creating an environment of collaboration and communication, “you can achieve almost anything.” Going forward it is vital that we all work together, listen to our partners, and pay attention to detail.
The second part of the summit was a panel led by Dr. Braden Kay, Director of Sustainability for the City of Tempe, which expounded on the importance of partnerships and collaboration. Dr. Kay spoke with three experts, Tracee Sutton, Emma Viera, and Lauren Withycombe-Keeler, to help businesses better understand potential partnerships and opportunities for sustainable development.
Tracee Sutton, U.S. Congressman Stanton’s Legislative Director and Deputy Chief of Staff, discussed climate action, investments, and projects currently underway in Arizona.
Emma Viera is the Executive Director of Unlimited Potential, a local non-profit that works to strengthen the South Phoenix community through literacy, education, and self-empowerment. She detailed how businesses can partner with nonprofits and the importance of social responsibility.
Lauren Withycombe-Keeler, an Arizona State University professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, explained how universities and students can partner with businesses on sustainability projects.
It is important for businesses to play a role in the City of Tempe’s Climate Action Plan because, no matter what, climate action and decarbonization is imminent, Withycombe-Keeler said. Business engagement in climate action is about defining how that action can serve an individual business and the business ecosystem. “How we take advantage of the investments in decarbonization will determine how we as a community thrive in the future,” Withycombe-Keeler explained.
The main takeaway from this summit is that Tempe businesses are not alone. As Dr. Kay explained, you have partners in your elected officials, you have partners in your non-profit community that can help you decide the right types of partnerships for your business, and you have ASU as a partner to help you determine how to make investments and define climate action and sustainability for your business. You also have the city of Tempe and the Tempe Chamber of Commerce.
Over the next several months, the City and the Chamber are partnering to host multiple climate action sessions. As Dr. Kay said, “We are defining what climate action is for us and making sure it works for the Tempe business community.”