To make the most impactful progress on green builders’ climate goals, our designs, techniques, and technologies need to be equitably distributed, so that all members of our communities are empowered to contribute to the greater good of our planet. Yet, sustainable initiatives have for decades disproportionately benefited non-diverse communities. From renewable technology that’s been primarily made available to affluent consumers, to commercial building projects concentrated in high-rent city regions, the benefits of green building have, to date, remained more exclusive than inclusive. This year, the U.S. government is aiming to renew the push for greater equity in environmental preservation by way of the Biden Administration’s proposed Sustainable Infrastructure and Equitable Clean Energy Plan. Yet, there are also tremendous opportunities for individual leaders to bring greater parity and purpose into their own work – in sustainability and beyond. Those opportunities have certainly been leveraged to the fullest by the three groundbreaking women leaders who will be delivering keynote addresses at this year’s Greenbuild Summits. Let’s take a brief look at who they are, the industry goals they’ve impacted, and why you won’t want to miss what they have to say.
Leah Thomas, Climate Justice Activist; Founder, Intersectional Environmentalist
Leah Thomas may not have set out to be an influential voice for social justice in global environmentalism, but she’s more than proven that she has what it takes to lead the push for greater climate equity and accountability. In 2020, Thomas wrote a post on Instagram, with the intention of bringing social justice to the forefront of environmentalist conversations. In it, she called for the community to pledge their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with Black, Indigenous + POC communities impacted daily by both social and environmental injustice. Not only did that single post reach more than one million people, but it also became the guiding principle of a powerful, grassroots movement to dismantle the existing systems of oppression in environmentalism. A week after her Instagram post published, Thomas and her group of co-founders launched the Intersectional Environmentalist online platform, which is filled with resources, information, and action steps aimed at building a more equitable, just, and intersectional future for everyone on the planet. As the keynote speaker at Greenbuild’s Resilience Summit on August 26, Thomas will be discussing the role social justice can – and should – play in the resilience equation.
Dr. Martine Rothblatt, Chairperson & CEO of United Therapeutics
If we could all harness just a fraction of the energy Dr. Martine Rothblatt has personally exhibited and invested in her body of work, the world’s power crisis would no longer be an issue. For starters, her remarkable career spans multiple, highly impressive fields of expertise – including filmmaking, biotechnology, law, medical ethics, aviation, and sustainable building, just to name a few. Dr. Rothblatt also happens to be the creator of Sirius XM and the Founder, Chairperson, and CEO of United Therapeutics, a company she started to save the life of one of her daughters. Her patented inventions cover aspects of satellite communication, medicinal biochemistry, cognitive software, and electric aviation. In fact, she designed the world’s first electric helicopter – and personally piloted it to a Guinness world record for speed, altitude, and flight duration. As if that weren’t enough, in 2004, Dr. Rothblatt founded the Terasem Movement, a transhumanist school of thought focused on promoting joy, diversity, and the prospect of technological immortality. Still, it is her passion for green construction that attendees at Greenbuild’s Global Health and Wellness Summit on September 9th may find even more inspiring: In September 2018, Dr. Rothblatt led efforts to design Unisphere – the world's largest site net-zero office building.
Image via United Therapeutics.
Now serving as United Therapeutics’ Silver Spring, MD, corporate headquarters, the 210,000 square foot space is completely powered, heated, and cooled from state-of-the-art on-site sustainable energy technologies. The building is also capable of graphically communicating its net energy status in real-time to its occupants and operators.
Carol Cone, Founder and CEO, Carol Cone On Purpose
While Dr. Rothblatt’s and Ms. Thomas’s work has largely been shaped by the use of technology (in both its scientific and social media applications), Carol Cone has built her career by focusing on a more human-centric construct: purpose. For more than 35 years, Cone has embraced a steadfast commitment to leading the purpose movement. Her work in areas that include ESG strategies, stakeholder engagement, nonprofit positioning, and corporate citizenship/CSR has earned her international recognition as “The Purpose Queen,” (from the BBC) as well as inclusion on PRWeek’s Power List as, “arguably the most powerful and visible figure in the world of Cause Branding.” She has also been called one of the world’s 7 pioneers in brand sustainability (Sustainable Brands). Through her award-winning enterprise, Carol Cone On Purpose – a social purpose agency she founded in 1983 – she and her team activate and advocate for the value of intentionality by educating, inspiring, and accelerating purpose strategy, programs, and impacts around the globe. As the keynote speaker for the Green Business Summit on August 12, expect Cone to showcase some of her firm’s most successful initiatives – like My Special Aflac Duck: a “smart” robot companion that was created to comfort pediatric cancer patients during their 1,000 days of treatments. The program was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2018 and won Best in Show at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, as well as two Cannes Lions.
To hear and learn more from these sustainability pioneers – and others – don’t miss the 2021 Greenbuild Summits series. And, while you’re at it, why not attend all three by registering for an all-access pass to our signature live event, Greenbuild Expo 2021?
About the author Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at Informa Connect. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow Jodi on Twitter @Joderama.