Top 10 Fall Events for Sustainability Pros, Plus 2 Comms Conferences

Top 10 Fall Events for Sustainability Pros, Plus 2 Comms Conferences

A few years back, I learned a lesson about the airline business: ticket prices are a bargain in the fall. 

Once kids and teachers are back in the classroom, and parents of school-age children are busy packing PB&Js and overseeing homework, there’s a small window where travel lags. 

With the exception of a spike in air travel around the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 13-15) and Yom Kippur (Sept. 22-23), booking a flight from late September to mid-November can yield hundreds of dollars in savings. 

In 2009, JetBlue even offered a fall “All You Can Jet” pass for $499 to fill seats. Sadly, the promotion didn’t make an appearance this year.

Fortunately, for those of us who work in corporate social responsibility and sustainability, some of the best events of the year take place in the fall.  None of these conferences are free to attend. So pitching the boss on the idea of letting you leave the office can be much more successful if you can keep travel costs under control.

Here are my suggestions for 10 fall 2015 events that can educate and inspire sustainability communicators in search of the next big idea:

  • SXSW Eco, Oct. 5-7 in Austin, Texas, has a decidedly sci-fi bent this year.  Keynoters include Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, the firm working on tube trains that could travel up to 800 mph, and Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources.  A badge for SXSW Eco is $375.
  • 2015 Corporate Citizenship Conference, Oct. 5-7 in Washington, combines the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s annual thought leadership event with its Citizens Awards.  Presentations focus on helping businesses align local impact to global strategy.  Attendance runs $1,095, with savings for chamber members.
  • New Metrics ’15, Oct. 6-8 in Boston, is put on by Sustainable Brands, to address the numbers underlying sustainability programs. Sessions focus on setting KPIs, understanding accounting standards, and other left-brain pursuits. A pass will set you back $2,195.
  • SOCAP, Oct. 6-9 in San Francisco, caters to the impact investing crowd, which increasingly includes representation from big banks, too.  Entrepreneurs will be on the stage alongside BlackRock, Bain Capital and Ashoka.  The cost of attending is $1,395.
  • Renewable Energy Markets 2015, Oct. 18-20 in Washington, is the most important conference of the year for participants in the renewable energy marketplace, including project developers, resellers, marketers, utilities, corporate purchasers, policymakers, and regional players. It also hosts the annual Green Power Leadership Awards, co-sponsored by the U.S. EPA. Tickets run $1,100.
  • CommitForum, Oct. 21-22 in New York City, is the annual gathering of members of the Corporate Responsibility Association.  The call to action for attendees is to “commit to a responsible culture and supply chain,” and the speaker list includes CSR execs from dozens of Fortune 100 consumer and B2B companies.  Nonprofits pay $1,100 to attend while corporate rates range from $1,675 to $2,175.
  • Verge, Oct. 25-29 in San Jose, is orchestrated by GreenBiz Group to focus on issues like the power grid, green cities, food technology, transportation and water.  An all-access pass runs $2,395.
  • The BSR Conference, Nov. 3-5 in San Francisco, is entering its 23rd year as a gathering for sustainability leaders and practitioners, run by the nonprofit Business for Social Responsibility.  Speakers include C-suite execs from Campbell Soup, AXA and the Rockefeller Foundation. Rates span from $1,250 for NGOs to $3,150 for corporations that are not BSR members.
  • Global Engagement Forum, Nov. 10-12 in Washington, celebrates the 25th anniversary of Pyxera Global, a nonprofit that connects public, private, and social interests converge to address global challenges. One track will focus on best practices in communications, a topic near and dear to the clients of 3BL Media.  The cost of attendance is $750.
  • Social Innovation Summit, Nov. 17-18 in Redwood City, Calif., is run by Landmark Ventures and targets “black swans and wayward thinkers.” If your LinkedIn profile doesn’t include those adjectives, the speaker list should guide your decision to go or not.  Execs from JetBlue, Medtronic and the Aspen Institute are among the presenters – on topics ranging from the importance of reading to rats that detect landmines.  Tickets cost $1,495.

I’ve been a member of the Public Relations Society of America since the early ‘90s. PRSA holds its annual conference in November, but there’s no track dedicated to CSR, sustainability or social impact.  The CEO of KIND Health Snacks, Daniel Lubetzky, is a keynoter.  Since KIND built its brand around corporate citizenship and social impact, any sustainability communicator who chooses to hone PR skills rather than diving into CSR content during fall conference season should be sure to attend Lubetzky’s presentation in Atlanta on Nov. 9. Rates range from $1,195 to $1,495.

Also worth mentioning is Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Sept. 8-11; for comms professionals who want to gain a better understanding of the practice of producing and distributing “owned” content, using paid channels, and analyzing engagement around digital content.  Comedian John Cleese is keynoting and Barenaked Ladies are performing.  How to tie that back to your CSR program?  Can’t really help you there.  Cost: $2,395.

(Photo shows Robert Hammond, executive director of Friends of the High Line, at the BSR Conference 2014. Photo credit: BSR / Vincent Breton )