Sustainability experts from the local community gathered in Donahue Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 21 to join in an extensive panel discussion during a sustainability forum hosted by the Boler School of Business and the KPMG Professorship in Accountancy. Panelists included Maureen Brennan, environmental attorney at Baker & Hostetier; Barbara Brown, co-owner of BrownFlynn; Carol Dietz, John Carroll University’s associate vice president of facilities and sustainability coordinator; Mark Rabkin, co-owner of Deconstruction Management; Christopher Rhodes, sustainability manager at Swagelok; R. Scott Thomas, sustainability officer at Sherwin-Williams, and Dennis Wolcott, sustainability director at Parker-Hannifin.
The forum began with each panelist discussing his or her enterprise, including its history, mission, products, services and evolution. The panelists described their continually evolving journeys with sustainability. “We’ve always valued conservation,” Thomas said of Sherwin-Williams’ mission.
Dietz welcomed visitors to JCU’s campus and provided a brief history of the University. Later in the forum, she explained John Carroll’s commitment to sustainability and preserving the earth in harmony with its Jesuit mission. She described the various ways in which JCU staff members and students have addressed sustainability by hosting energy workshops and offering classes with an environmental focus.
She also discussed how the University’s carbon footprint, including gas and energy use, has reduced in size over the past few years. Dietz said she believes sustainability is evolving on campus. “It’s got a lot of momentum behind it,” she said.
Dietz said the University also plans to incorporate sustainability into this summer’s Murphy Hall renovation by reusing some of the building’s original materials and preserving many of its architectural features. According to Dietz, the residence hall meets the requirements to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.
The panelists offered their own definitions of sustainability. “It is about people, planet and prosperity,” said Brown.
Wolcott offered another description. “It’s difficult. It’s challenging,” he said. He explained that sustainability’s definition varies from company to company. He said for Parker-Hannifin, sustainability is “the capacity to sustain the business for the next 100 years.”
Brown, a JCU graduate with a background in communications, detailed her company’s mission to help people with sustainability practices and the resulting benefits they have reaped.
“In the end, they’re finding that they’re saving money,” she said of companies who actively pursue sustainability.
“It’s exciting to watch and embrace this,” she said.
Rabkin explained how his company, Deconstruction Management, preserves materials of buildings that are past their useful life and redirects this material for uses other than landfills. He described a recent success story that the company experienced when they took down a deteriorating church building and recovered some of its materials. In the process, they discovered a time capsule (that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill) filled with news articles, coins dating back to 1915 and a document from the church’s original pastor.
Rhodes discussed how the products a company creates can help customers become more sustainable. He emphasized the promotion of energy efficiency and the traditional mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle. He also advised that companies view sustainability as the right thing to do, rather than as an extra responsibility.
After this discussion, Brown presented a Global Reporting Initiative brief. The forum ended by involving the audience in a question-and-answer segment.
Senior Charlie Trouba explained that he worked with Robert Bloom, a professor of accountancy, to network and bring the panelists to the forum. “They all came out to benefit the community free of charge,” he said.
Trouba stressed the importance of the forum to the business school. “It shows how Boler is engaging and diverse and extends across a variety of academic departments,” he said.
Several accounting students, including sophomore Vincent Sgro, were in attendance at the forum to hear what the experts had to say. “I’m a part of the accounting association and I thought it would be a good learning experience,” he said.
Sgro said he found the discussion on renewable energy particularly interesting. “I liked how they mentioned that going green can actually save money,” he said.
Senior Christina Pintenich said she found it interesting that sustainability is such a significant initiative in the accounting firm.
“It’s like a whole new phenomenon in the business world,” she said.