Integrated Conversations at Sustainatopia

Right before Thanksgiving I attended Sustainatopia. It was the first time the conference was held in Boston (it started in Florida and has also been held in California). It’s a really broad group of people and discussion tracks including impact investment, smart cities, LOHAS (lifestyle of health and sustainability), sustainable strategies and innovation, empowering women and millennials.

I was on a panel with Dr. Stephen Jones, President of Antioch University New England. The Sustainatopia organizers chose the title of our session: Integrative Systems Thinking and Innovation. I have to admit I wasn’t sure if anyone would come (it’s a pretty esoteric title:). But we ended up with a few dozen people who were extremely engaged, including corporate sustainability officers who struggle with building bridges across their organizations.

Steve spoke eloquently about how nature is a wonderful guide to systems thinking. His view was a great companion to my explanations of the integrated thinking/reporting movement. The idea of the capitals is a great bridge to talk about the components of the ecosystems companies build.

The conversation got really interesting when we started talking about innovation. I shared the research my firm did a number of years ago that showed that while most innovation efforts are focused on creating processes, these processes often trip on structural barriers involving missing/mismatched capitals (the right people, culture, connections etc). We had a great group in the room and had a lot of input and questions from the participants. It’s clear that the audience saw the link between innovation and integrated thinking. It’s a good reminder to those of us who talk about integrated reporting that the integrated thinking behind it has far-reaching influence.

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