The BSR Conference 2017 will serve as the centerpiece of our 25th anniversary celebration. So much has changed since BSR launched in 1992. Our very first Conference, in Washington, D.C. in 1993, brought to the plenary stage a new president in his first year: Bill Clinton. President Clinton embraced a view of business that would make a meaningful difference in enabling people to reach their potential, of businesses that knew that a healthy environment was central to their success. He also knew that global trade could—done right—lift billions of people out of poverty.
While the view from Washington looks different in 2017, there is no doubt that in the previous quarter-century, we have developed an amazing ecosystem of sustainability leaders. I am exceptionally proud of the role BSR has played in building a real movement of changemakers in business.
At our 25th annual Conference this year, we certainly will celebrate what we have accomplished, in collaboration with our great network of member companies and other partners. But even more, we will take the opportunity this October to look resolutely to the future.
This year’s event will create the opportunities for networking and learning that so many have come to expect from the BSR Conference.
In keeping with our approach to the 25th anniversary, we are taking the opportunity to redefine sustainable business—and the Conference as well. The venue itself will provide new opportunities for informal interaction in an inspiring beach-side setting. We have built an agenda that will take full advantage of the natural environment—from our opening night reception and dinner by the ocean to our closing 25th anniversary celebration overlooking Huntington Beach.
The theme for the Conference is “How Business Leads.” At this moment in history, business leadership is essential. More and more, sustainability leadership is crucial to successful business. Sustainability presents unique opportunities for innovation and value creation. Businesses lead through powerful collaborations that are fit for a world of distributed assets and diverse perspectives. And in today’s climate, the voice of business is crucially important, as other sectors often abdicate their leadership responsibilities.
We have shaped a Conference agenda that will look to the future. This comes at a time when technology, economics, and politics are rewriting the sustainability playbook. We have dedicated a special track, “FastForward 25,” to sessions that will project the kinds of changes that business can create to make good on the promise of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Fitting with our location in California, from where so much innovation comes, we also will have multiple speakers looking at new business models, new collaborations, and new ways of engaging consumers.
BSR’s first Conference brought together a small but mighty band of believers who had a vision of a new way of doing business. Today, our numbers are greater, and the vision remains just as powerful as it once was. The scope of our opportunity is just as powerful, too.
Every year, I am excited by the prospect of being with many great leaders whom I consider to be friends and partners. This year, at the intersection of BSR’s 25th anniversary, serious disruptions affecting business, and the need for business leadership and voice, the question I have found myself asking is: “How will we meet this unique moment?”
Come to BSR17 to shape the answer: Our shared future depends on it.