Ms. Evans and a group of four Eco Reps attended the See Change Virtual Conference over the Spring Break. The conference gave students the opportunity to participate in a variety of sessions related to climate action, sustainable entrepreneurship, and sustainable initiatives. In addition, students connected with various industry leaders through conversations and discussions. Below, students share their reflections from their experience.
Yongjin Park ’22
Over the Spring Break, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the See Change Conference – Session #01, which was hosted virtually through Hopin Ltd. from March 24 to March 25. During this conference, I was able to listen to and learn from CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, and many more people about sustainable entrepreneurship, sustainable initiatives, and climate action. Some of the most notable speakers included Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, and Donna Carpenter, the owner and chair of the board of Burton Skateboards.
Throughout the conference, I was especially moved by two specific talks on sustainable finance and B Corp companies. I felt that these topics combined the importance of environmental stewardship with aspects of casual life and professional careers.
In the session titled “Impact Where You Least Expect It”, Kate Williams, the CEO of 1% for the Planet, and three professionals from the banking industry discussed the importance of choosing the right bank that handles your money in a sustainable manner. For example, Ravi Mikkelsen, the Co-Founder & CEO of Atmos, is utilizing the money deposited by his clients to invest in and support eco-friendly policies while avoiding those that threaten the environment. The main reason I felt this opportunity was incredibly relevant is that it addresses the main problem people face when trying to focus on environmental and sustainable initiatives: inconvenience. Frankly, many people are not willing to spend extra time, effort, or money to actively help the world become a cleaner place. However, Atmos and other banks like it removes this obstacle for people. The only action people have to take is to leave money in their bank account, which could be used to generate tangible positive change, providing an easy way for everyone to be a part of the movement.
Another talk that provided me with a new perspective was “The Branding of a B Corp — Lessons from Taos Ski Valley.” When people often think of businesses and corporations, there is a general belief that many of them create negative effects on the environment. However, B Corporations show how companies can use their influence and wealth to contribute to social and environmental aspects of the world. Instead of being the focus of criticism, B Corp companies can now be at the forefront of the change, setting themselves as examples for others to follow.
The See Change Sessions not only educated me on how people around the world are contributing to sustainability and environmental stewardship in unique ways, but it also further motivated me to learn more about these topics and be more engaged in solving the current issues.
B Corporation: https://bcorporation.net/
1% for the Planet Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCucazXVHtQ
Megan Ng ’23
We constantly hear about needing to reverse our climate damaging actions by 2050, so listening to how companies are taking initiatives to combat climate change made me feel a lot more optimistic about our future!
Two talks in particular stood out to me. “The Circular Economy”, which included speakers from The North Face as well as Patagonia talked about our economy transitioning from a linear to a circular model. North Face’s “Close the Loop” program and Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” are examples of redistributing, reconstructing, and recovering textiles in the clothing industry that are encouraging circularity among the entire economy.
Another talk, “Impact Where You Least Expect It”, really surprised me. As the name suggests, the talk revealed how the banking industry actually has a huge potential for change. I never realized that using the wrong bank could mean your money being invested in climate-damaging projects, or that using a bank conscious of the environmental footprint of their investments could make a huge impact benefiting the environment.
Joe Morsman ’23
This past March, along with three other Deerfield students, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the online See Change Conference. The event spanned two days, focusing on sustainability in the winter sports industry, and featuring speakers from companies, coalitions, and organizations such as Patagonia, The North Face, One Percent for the Planet, Renoun, and more. I had the fortunate chance to listen to several icons of the winter sports world–namely Jeremy Jones, the snowboarder and founder of both Protect Our Winters and Jones Snowboards, his brother Todd Jones, founder of Teton Gravity Research, and Yvon Chouinard, the founder and CEO of Patagonia–as they discussed the changing climate and its implications for business within the winter sports industry, and for their livelihoods. All in all, the summit was an inspiring, informative, perspective-shifting experience, one I’d gladly repeat.
A key, leading topic of discussion at the See Change event was circularity. I’d had no prior experience with the concept, nor had I understood the term, but I quickly learned that to achieve a circular economic model, companies such as Burton and The North Face are striving to cultivate systems where none of the products they manufacture end up in landfills, instead reentering the clothing industry as a secondhand garment, or as a material broken down and patched into new clothing. Ironically, the winter sports world is a significant detriment to the environment, the very thing on which the industry relies, and the production of clothing and equipment are a large part of that. As I picked up during a circularity-specific conversation, many brands’ production processes churn out large quantities of waste along with their products, which is why major companies are aiming towards the achievement of fully circular production models in the coming decades.
Another key concept presented in the conference was climate activism–even general activism–through business. In a conversation with Kate Williams, CEO of One Percent for the Planet, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard revealed the beauty, morality, and tactical wit behind activism through business. He recalled several instances where he, often with the assistance of his staffers, elected to donate profits to charitable, activism-oriented causes. He referenced one particular Black Friday sale where all profits–amounting to millions of dollars–were directed away from Patagonia and into the hands of responsible activist organizations. Though on the surface, he said, his decision may not have been prudent, Patagonia’s decision made headlines and the company’s profits skyrocketed in the following months. Chouinard’s tale articulated to me the good that activism can bring to business, contrary to the beliefs and policies of a wide swath of companies and organizations throughout the US.
On the whole, the conference was an eye-opening experience. Each speaker session taught me more about the effects of climate change on the winter sports economy, and the power businesses and corporations have to instigate change when it comes to political and social climate policy. To those Deerfield students and faculty who read this, I highly recommend future sessions of See Change. I guarantee you’ll leave the conference with new knowledge and inspiration.
Kendal Duff ’21
Over the spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2021 See Change Environmental conference on behalf of the Deerfield Eco-Reps. While it is unfortunate that the conference had to be held online, it was exciting to have the opportunity to attend where I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. The online setting gave me the chance to easily hop from one panel to the next without the hassle of running back and forth through a convention center. It was a pleasant surprise to see how business-focused the conference was as it showed the efforts that entrepreneurs are making for sustainable development within the corporate space.
My favorite discussion was the one with the owner and founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. While I had always known Patagonia was a sustainable brand, I was not aware of how truly dedicated they were to environmentalism. During the discussion, Yvon detailed one of his most successful business decisions. In 2019, the company announced that they would donate all of Patagonia’s Black Friday revenue to environmental causes. Where they would normally make around $2 million during Black Friday, they ended up making $10 million that year and have been just as successful since. “We could have spent 5 million on a few seconds during the Super Bowl and it would have been a waste of money”.
A critique that I had of the See Change conference was the lack of POC voices on environmental issues. Low-income and minorities around the world are the most impacted by issues of climate change and pollution yet the event gave no room to have such discussions. I would have liked to see the presence of more non-profits and individuals working in these kinds of environments rather than the influx of ski-resort panels. I was also disappointed with the lack of agro-business representatives and discussion around food. Considering the fact that animal agriculture contributes as much greenhouse gases as all transportation you would think a conference of this size would be having these conversations. While I had a great experience, I hope that in the future the organizers will take the opportunity to diversify their panel.