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Talking Transformation

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Tim Nolan has seen about enough of incremental change. Sustainable industrial development lead for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Nolan was this week's featured presenter for IonE's Frontiers in the Environment speaker series. Just as the series seeks to go beyond your usual lecture series, Nolan was happy to go beyond platitudes.

Speaking on "Harnessing Sustainability and the Green Economy for Market Transformation," Nolan began by outlining his views of what the green economy and the sustainability movement are all about, then presented what he sees as the "grand challenge": transforming the marketplace. Green is not just about carbon or energy, he pointed out, but many challenges: material, waste, water, toxics, land use, economic disparity , human health and more. The need to deal with all of these things simultaneously, he said, "will ultimately transform marketplace and the way we do business."

Trends that are driving clean and green today, Nolan said, include a push to go beyond clean-ups and remediation to prevention; a growing need for "green" skill sets in fields from engineering to architecture; and new corporate thinking that embeds sustainability into strategy and operations, where it becomes a source of competitive strength. He offered three examples of such new thinking: GE's Ecomagination, which is growing revenues at double the rate of GE as a whole; Tennant Co., where sustainability is central to operations and a source of growth even in a down economy; and the community of Silver Bay, Minn., which is collaborating with the University of Minnesota Duluth's Center for Sustainable Community Development on a a synergistic system for producing food and energy in a closed-loop system.

"We have to look at how to change organizations and institutions to do business differently," Nolan urged.

Want to learn more? Watch Nolan's talk and other archived Frontiers on the Environment presentations here. Then mark your calendar for next week's talk, "The Frugal Future," featuring American Public Media economics guru Chris Farrell. You can catch Frontiers in the Environment Wednesdays at noon during the semester in the IonE Seminar Room on the main floor of the U of M's Learning and Environmental Sciences building, or watch live online at z.umn.edu/ionetalk.

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