July 12, 2022

Meet Joel Makower, Closing Keynote Speaker at PSX 2022

Joel Makower is the chairman and co-founder of GreenBiz Group, a media and events company focused on the intersection of business, technology, and sustainability. For more than 30 years, Makower’s writing, speaking, and leadership has helped companies align pressing environmental and social issues with business success. In 2012, he was awarded the Hutchens Medal by the American Society for Quality, citing “his ability to tell compelling stories that both inform and inspire business leaders toward profitable action,” and in 2014, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals.

Makower will be the closing keynote speaker at PSX 2022, which will take place October 18–20, in Louisville, Kentucky. In this blog post, he answers questions related to his upcoming keynote presentation.

What are some of the main points your presentation will cover?

There’s a revolution taking place in business, as companies align their products, processes, and policies with society’s changing expectations for sustainability—as well as the boundaries of a livable planet. Some of this revolution is simply part of the natural order of business—adapting, evolving, and innovating—but something else is going on as well. And as much as companies talk about “doing the right thing” or “doing well by doing good,” their motivations often boil down to risk mitigation.

In my presentation, I’ll talk about the “what” and “why” of the new era of sustainable business: what’s driving it, how companies are responding, and how all of this is changing companies, value chains, markets, and, ultimately, the global economy.

What do you hope for the audience to walk away with?

Hope, to start with, but also deeper appreciation of what companies are doing to implement sustainable practices, what’s driving them, and what it takes to catalyze change, particularly in large companies and in both business-to-business and consumer-facing spheres. Much of what I talk about, and what I’ve covered as a journalist and analyst for more than 30 years, is flying under the general public’s radar. Even when it is covered in the media, it’s usually done superficially and cynically. I will help the PSX audience understand the real story of where we are now and where we’re headed regarding sustainability in business.

Why do you think that good environmental policies and approaches can be good for businesses?

There are a lot of reasons, starting with mitigating risk—including financial risk, reputational risk, physical risk, supply-chain risk, social license to operate, and other risks. Beyond that, companies that are leaders in environmental and sustainable practices and policies tend to be better run and to do better at attracting and retaining talent, especially among the younger generation of emerging professionals. They often experience increased customer loyalty—again, whether following business-to-business or business-to-consumer models. Sustainability initiatives can also reduce costs, inspire innovation, and attract capital.

Of course, there’s also the reputational element. I always list this last because, in my experience, most people assume that the Number One driver of companies’ sustainability initiatives is to “green up their reputation.” In fact, most companies are walking more than they’re talking—that is, doing more for sustainability than they’re saying—simply because this is tough to communicate, especially in the world of social media where oversimplification and overreaction are common. It’s easier to do the work, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, than to crow about it.

What role do you think product stewards will play, or can play, in this?

The convergence of resource constraints, sustainability mandates, and market economics is driving the transition to a circular economy in many industries. That puts product stewards front and center as they support the responsible design, development, and management of products throughout their lifecycle. Even the idea that products have an “end of life” is up for grabs as companies begin to see their products as assets, even after they sell them, with remaining value that can be recaptured and put back into productive use.

It’s not just about recycling or “closing the loop.” It’s also about product longevity, product utilization, and bio-based and renewable inputs. To do this effectively means designing out toxics and other problematic materials and designing in modularity, repairability, and other factors. In some cases, it may even mean rethinking a company’s core business model.

Want to learn more about Makower and his presentation on how businesses can change the world? Register today for PSX 2022 and join us in Louisville, October 18-20, 2022.


There are no submissions.

Add a Comment