Sustainability Topic Of Chamber’S Business Buzz

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When monolithic businesses like Walmart leverage their power to reduce packaging, the effects ripple through the marketplace, said Rick Heffernon, a policy analyst for Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

For instance, Walmart demanded that detergent makers produce smaller containers, which resulted in a concentrated product. Advocates point to such changes as examples of sustainability in the marketplace.

“The place we love to hate has made dramatic changes in its supply chain,” Heffernon said. “When Walmart says we’re going to have to reduce packaging waste and use different ingredients, this thing reverberates around the world.”

Arizona-based businesses — Dial Corporation, for instance — have also consciously reduced energy consumption and increased recycling, Heffernon added.

The Pine resident will speak Thursday at the Business Buzz luncheon, along with Nancy Welch, the associate director of the Morrison Institute. The two will discuss sustainability from the statewide and local level. ASU’s Morrison Institute analyzes public policy issues.

The event lasts from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and takes place at Gila Community College in room 301. Cardo’s will cater lunch, which costs $8 for members of the chamber or Northern Gila County Economic Development Corporation, and $10 for the community at-large.

While sustainability has no real agreed-upon meaning, Heffernon says that its marked characteristic is an awareness of how the decisions one makes today, affect life tomorrow.

Ultimately, sustainability will emanate from both the grass-roots upward, and from policy and business downward, he said.

“The whole concept of becoming sustainable is an open question” — and one without a definitive endpoint. “You don’t just get there and say now everything is great.”

However, Heffernon says sustainability is in the best interest of survival.

“It’s really self-evident that that’s the way to behave when you’re stuck on this island ball that’s floating through space. You don’t have any other place to go.”

Heffernon has both a short-term and a long-term vision for sustainability.

More immediately, he hopes that a zeitgeist of consumer awareness coalesces, with a subsequent recognition that change heralds opportunity and not punishment.

In future years, Heffernon imagines a world where recycling opportunities exist for products from steel to polyester. Part of that, he says, includes finding ways to produce products that are easily recycled.

“The long-term vision is that we accomplish these things. That we live our lives without this addictive hyperconsumption,” Heffernon said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer in a lot of ways to think about, ‘Gee, well let’s not pollute.’”

To register, call the chamber at (928) 474-4515.

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