Eight hot sustainability conferences in the US this year

by Shannon Houde

Professional development and in-person networking are paramount to making a successful career move in the sustainability and impact space. Conferences can be great opportunities for developing new relationships and broadening business networks, plus they can be fun ways to get new ideas.  But, as you probably know, there are so many to choose from and attendance comes with a hefty price tag. Therefore, it is important to prioritize events that offer something that specifically interests you.

To help you narrow it down, we’ve put together a short list of some of the top US conferences for aspiring or current CSR professions to serve as a starting point. You’ll still need to do some research. Take a look at panel discussions, breakout sessions and speakers to get a feel for the underlying themes of each conference. Consider, What types of organizations will be represented?, Are any of your LinkedIn connections speaking whom you could reach out to in advance?,and Is there a way to volunteer or speak at it to avoid the costs?  All of this will help you narrow down and target your precious time and budget most effectively.

November 1-3, 2016 – New York, New York
The BSR Conference brings together sustainability leaders and practitioners to build the business of a better world. Now entering its 23rd year, the BSR Conference is one of the world’s most influential sustainability events. Past 2015 speakers included Pam Gill Alabaster, Vice President, Global Corporate Responsibility at Estée Lauder; Daniel T. Bross, Senior Director, Global Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft; Dannielle Campos, Senior Vice President, Philanthropy Director, Global Corporate Social Responsibility at Bank of America; and Shana Ruffus, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility – Environment at Anheuser-Busch, among many others. 


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March 28-30, 2016 – New York, New York
The 15th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship is organized around the themes of building, integrating, sustaining and leading employee engagement. Crosscutting topics to be discussed include building high-impact volunteer programs, increasing involvement in workplace giving, engaging employees in sustainability, creating effective communications, measuring results, and building the business case for future investment. Charities@Work is an alliance of four nonprofit organizations – America’s Charities, Community Health Charities, EarthShare and Global Impact – that collectively represent more than 2,500 of the most respected and effective international, national and local nonprofits. These four networks exist to facilitate interaction and partnerships between charities, companies and their employees for meaningful outcomes and impact for all parties.

Corporate Citizenship
March 20-22, 2016 – Atlanta, Georgia
During the 2016 International Corporate Citizenship Conference experts from around the world will share the innovative new programs, partnerships, and solutions that are driving positive change across the globe—one community at a time. Hundreds of CSR professionals join each year to explore the environmental, social and governance aspects of business. The event uniquely tailored to corporate citizenship and CSR business professionals.

Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference
June 6, 2016 – Cleveland, Ohio
For seven years, the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference has attracted thousands of people from across the country—business, community and elected leaders, union members, environmentalists and opinion makers—for the leading forum for sharing ideas and strategies on how to build a green economy that creates good jobs and preserves our economic and environmental security. Conference goers will hear environmental leaders on the importance of the clean economy, from union members and leaders on job creating opportunities, from corporate leaders on how their companies are becoming more efficient and producing greener products, and elected officials who are charged with implementing policies that will drive forward the green economy in their region.

February 23-25, 2016 – Phoenix, Arizona
The eight annual GreenBiz Conference defines the trends, challenges and opportunities in sustainable business now. Programming is created around six specific tracks, including Sustainable Supply Chains, Purpose & Leadership, The New Energy Landscape, Design & the Circular Economy, Engagement & Storytelling and Materiality & Metrics. 

Net Impact
November 2016 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Net Impact Conference is the leading forum for students and professionals who want to tackle the world’s toughest social and environmental problems. It helps to helps empower a new generation to work within and beyond business for a sustainable future. Audience is predominantly aspiring MBAs and current business professionals.  The line up of speakers and workshop leaders range from Chelsea Clinton of the Clinton Foundation to the CEOs of REI and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plus leaders from Levis, Starbucks and LinkedIn.  See last year’s speakers here.

September 13-16 – San Francisco, California
SOCAP is the world’s leading conference on impact investing and social enterprise. It unites innovators in business, tech, the sharing economy, health, philanthropy, and more to advance environmental and social causes. 

Sustainable Brands
June 6-9, 2016 – San Diego, California
Learn to successfully innovate your brand for sustainability. Brand, sustainability & design leaders find inspiration, tools and partnerships to drive business success and positive impact. Join the assembly of global thought leaders and practitioners to explore detail-rich case studies, acquire practical know-how and learn specific implementation tips to accelerate your business success. Market leaders will share insight, breakthrough research, and disruptive new practices in brand strategy, communication, design and sustainability.

Remember, many of these events blog and live stream sessions before, during and after conference. You still have a lot to gain from following them even if you can’t attend in person. I’d love to hear how it goes! If you’d like some bespoke networking advice or help on your elevator pitch or networking strategy, please contact me.

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