September 28, 2012

CGI Meeting: Cooperation and Partnership Key to Sustainable Change

From September 23 to 25, Nick Sonntag, Westport Executive Vice President of Corporate Development and New Partnerships, attended the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting to announce the Westport Commitment to Action.

Nick gives us his thoughts about this significant meeting of minds, and some of the highlights:

It was an amazing meeting and I felt truly privileged to be there. The exceptionally positive energy of the meeting, the high quality of the people attending and the vast range and scope of the commitments made by hundreds of organizations were all, in a word, 'astounding.’ President Clinton is an exceptional human being and is clearly using his remarkable network, charisma, intelligence and clarity of message to great advantage to mobilize change towards a sustainable future in all economic sectors, within all social groups and across all developed and developing economies.

It was an overwhelming three days with not a moment to spare for those who wanted to extract value from the presentations and available participants. CGI has a very clear focus on resolving poverty, assisting the underprivileged and promoting sustainable development. Between the annual meetings, there are a range of CGI forums covering topics from energy, technology, education, and communication, to share information and meet via conference call, and sometimes face to face.

This year’s theme was 'Design for Impact' and the workshops and panels concentrated on how to take specific projects up to scale to have a much larger impact as quickly as possible. You couldn’t help being impressed by what has been done within these commitments and the literally hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people who have received some benefit from the projects since CGI began six years ago.

One of the most impressive was how Coca Cola worked with the government of Tanzania to effectively build an efficient supply chain (from scratch) to distribute critical medicines across the country. Did you know that Coca Cola has over 20 million 'official' points of sale globally that are visited at least once a week by a Coca Cola delivery service?

Another highlighted commitment was Proctor & Gamble, who are distributing their water purifying 'packets' globally at such a rate that they are committed to saving one life per hour due to drinking contaminated water for as long as P&G is in business. I couldn't help but relate and support these objectives, and be totally impressed with the range of commitments – money, people and facilities - being made by corporations, NGOs and governments.

I have been in the sustainability 'realm' for some time and what I saw here was a realization that sustainable change was not the result of a philanthropic contribution – although it can often be the trigger – but rather what is needed is a clear systems approach that leverages technologies, processes, policies, partners, money, etc. towards a sustainable outcome. The overriding mantra at the meeting was that through cooperation and partnership across all scales, sectors and groups, almost anything can be accomplished.

A very memorable meeting.

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