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“It shouldn’t be up to consumers to figure out what products are safe for…the environment”

What’s the role of business in addressing the degrading environment and pushing towards more sustainability in society? In the opinion of Jenny Ahlen of the Environmental Defense Fund, plenty. “We need proactive business leadership,” she told Techonomy, “with the ambition and speed required to avert the worst impacts of climate change and build a more sustainable and resilient future.”

Ahlen spends all her time on such issues. She is senior director for EDF+Business, based in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Even during the pandemic” says Ahlen, “we’re seeing more people shopping for sustainable products, from the food they put on their plates to the products they put on their bodies. Companies have a responsibility to create a safer, more sustainable marketplace because it shouldn’t be up to consumers to figure out what products are safe for their families or the environment.”

EDF works to help convince companies this is good business, without taking money from any of those companies. (EDF is funded by non-corporate donors, but it stands out in the environmental movement for the degree it attempts to help business do the right thing.) “Businesses can leverage their influence,” she says, “to set ambitious climate goals and drive change at the scale needed to get us closer to a more sustainable, resilient and equitable future. We believe by working with companies, we can transform business as usual and raise the bar on corporate climate leadership.”

On Friday Oct. 23, Ahlen joined us to discuss this further in a Techonomy roundtable called “What is Sustainability in a Pandemic-Ridden World?” Also speaking was be Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership, and David Rosenberg, CEO of Aerofarms, the world’s largest indoor “vertical farm.”

We discussed:

  • Is environmental responsibility growing or diminishing in the pandemic-altered world?
  • What are some examples of companies doing the right thing?
  • What will go wrong for the environment if companies don’t step up?
  • Why are some materials far better than others in our everyday products?
  • How can we, as consumers, avoid using the most harmful products?  

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