This event is taking the environmental friendliness of Oregon businesses up a notch

There are numerous strategies to creating a more environmentally-friendly business plan, but there's only one conference that hands out all the research in one place, locally tailored by regional experts.

The GoGreen Conference is coming up next Tuesday, celebrating its 10th anniversary year. The sustainability conference helps organizations heighten eco-friendly best practices with practical takeaways such as energy efficiency optimization, pathways to net zero and using cultural relevancy to reach diverse audiences and drive environmental actions.SUBMITTED: SOCIAL ENTERPRISES - People enjoy networking at last years GoGreen Conference.

GoGreen officially launched in 2008 in partnership with the City of Portland, which served as GoGreen's chief partner and advisor for all 10 years through its Sustainability at Work program in the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

Social Enterprises is a B Corp organization that owns and runs the GoGreen Conference. A team of 10 at Social Enterprises has been working to bring the GoGreen Conference online.

The Business Tribune caught up with Ericka Dickey-Nelson, GoGreen Conference founder and Social Enterprises founder and president, ahead of the event.

"For each topic area speakers are heavily focused on, we really prepare them to share their story and focus on actionable steps the audience can take so it's transferable to different organizations," Dickey-Nelson said. "We will be providing resources at the end of the session in addition to what the speakers are saying — several resources you can go to after the events."

Nearly 60 speakers throughout the day will focus on actionable steps as part of their presentations that attendees can take home into their organizations.

"We do a variety of other types of events all focused on nonprofits typically, and social impact issues," Dickey-Nelson said. "We were doing an event at another space for female-owned retailers back in the early 2000s, and one of our business actually came to me and said we need this type of event — but focused on sustainability, can you pull that together?"

Dickey-Nelson wasn't sure but she pulled together a meeting with the City and made it happen.

"They've been in a partnership with us since then," Dickey-Nelson said.

Other key partners include Prosper Portland, Metro and Multnomah County. Nonprofit partners, listed on its website, will also host programming and additional support for the event throughout the year.SUBMITTED: SOCIAL ENTERPRISES - Dickey-Nelson

The event runs in multiple cities including Seattle with different focuses on unique regions. While there's a concentration of businesses in the metro area, GoGreen still has a statewide focus in Oregon.

"In Portland in particular ... we highlight case studies from the state of Oregon," Dickey-Nelson said. "We really handpick and culminate proposals for our program from a statewide audience in private and public sectors, really making sure those speakers you see are from the state of Oregon or have a heavy regional focus."

She expects 400 attendees this year, including decision-makers from the public and private sector.

GoGreen 2017

This year, many of the speakers from the original 2008 conference will speak at the opening plenary "to really hear from these business and public-sector leaders that have been here from the beginning, what's changed over the past 10 years: where are we going and what does our future hold?" Dickey-Nelson said. "For the first time ever, we're also doing a leadership innovation to advance leadership and partnerships to advance equity."

This year, the program has a 50-50 split representation between the public and private sector, and diversity among business size and industry. In the early years, the conference was heavier on the private side — which is still an included focus.

"The GoGreen conference really is a collaborative venture between the private and public sectors," Dickey-Nelson said. "At first, we were very heavily focused on the private sector, but we have really merged into having decision-makers also from the public sector, so we have really good, true representation at our GoGreen Conference series, so they get an opportunity to learn from each other and collaborate and work together — hopefully, from being introduced to various initiative programs introduced at our event."SUBMITTED: SOCIAL ENTERPRISES - Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is one of the featured keynotes specifically chosen for a tailored regional perspective.

Social Enterprises takes pains to ensure the keynotes on stage are the best in their industries and categories.

"We make sure in addition to business leaders and case studies in the program, there's always a public sector point of view on every session if we can find it to make sure there are two voices weighing in on every topic. In addition, we also go cross-industry and cross-business," Dickey-Nelson said. "We feature case studies from all industries, all business sides. We really want the audience to see themselves on stage — an example they'd relate to on stage."

In Portland, a large proportion of local and regional businesses classify as small.

"We're making sure we have representatives from them (small businesses) in our program because they're going to be heavy in our audience," Dickey-Nelson said.

The handpicked speakers are also prized for heavy local and regional focuses.

"That kind of accounts for who's in the program, in addition to diversity and equity being a major focus for the last four or five years," Dickey-Nelson said. "That really comes from the experts and there being a huge focus — one of the only regions that has done so for a long period of time — on social justice, equity and major topic areas we cover. There's a complete track of content dedicated to that in addition to several of our programs and often keynotes who will be addressing those issues."

To continue the mood beyond the conference's closing leadership plenary, the itineraary includes an after-party at Deschutes Brewery.

"It's a really cool beginning and end at the 10-year, starting with retrospective and ending with something we've never done before, and recognizing leaders and partners focusing on equity practices," Dickey-Nelson said. "Those two things are pretty exciting to me. I really want to hear what these leaders who were involved in the first event have to say on what the future holds for them in particular."

By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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