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Sharing Leadership in the Green Economy: Emerging models and promising practices

By Luke Hollenkamp

As the Center for Integrative Leadership and the Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy look forward to the Cross-Sector Leadership for the Green Economy conference in late April, I have been reflecting on cross-sector efforts I am currently participating in. As part of my research at the Humphrey Institute, I have been involved in the development of a diverse stakeholder team to discuss the current state of chemical regulation and the emergence of "green chemistry".

To my surprise, regulators, advocacy organizations, and private industry all agree that reform is desperately needed at the federal level, or the state level in its absence. The current federal regulatory structure for chemicals is the remnant of legislation in the 1970's that, while well-intentioned, failed to provide proper oversight of new and existing chemical dangers, lacked funding for effective program implementation, and did not include flexibility to adapt to a changing global marketplace. In the absence of federal regulation, states have stepped in as incubators of innovation, but with differing degrees of success. This fragmented state approach also has harmed industry by creating a myriad of disjointed regulations and laws which present incredible burden to companies which operate nationally. Other areas of the world have taken more aggressive reform steps, notably the European Union, to create new chemical regulation that seeks to find a balance between the interests of consumers, government, and industry while pursuing an end goal that all can agree upon, environmental and health safety.

The process that is beginning to develop in Minnesota is a prime example of the need for diverse interests and perspectives to work together to achieve a common goal. This is a prime case study of how a newly organized system is emerging to tackle a societal program. A primary focus of this group is the discussion of how the use of chemicals in commerce can be safely regulated by reducing ambiguity, risk, and uncertainty for all actors involved.

These are some of the important topics that the Cross-Sector Leadership in the Green Economy conference will address. The two-day event will be a great opportunity for many individuals representing different sectors to come together and explore how to promote a common goal, green commerce, while addressing differing viewpoints through collaborative strategies. I'm excited to hear from others what experiences they have had in cross-sector work as leaders and I look forward to applying what I learn to the topics of chemical regulation and green chemistry.

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