Earth Day Challengers: Odd Bedfellows Descend on Dallas

Business as a force for good can show the way: An Earth Day gathering challenges leaders to find common ground.

Our nation and our world are facing profound challenges—but often the only thing we see in the media is bad news piled upon worse, against a backdrop of people screaming at each other. Republicans versus Democrats. Activists versus corporations. Even millennials versus boomers! We desperately need broadly supported solutions to climate change, the plastic junk clogging our oceans, and deforestation, but our beloved nation remains more bitterly divided than at any point in its history since the Civil War.

But we are creating glimmers of hope in an unlikely place. 

Click here to view the EarthX 2018 guide.

This week in Dallas, Texas, on the sidelines of EarthX—the planet’s largest environmental expo, conference, and film festival—[the] organization Future 500 is bringing strange bedfellows together for our next series of conversations that will seek to heal the divides. Democrats will sit down with Republicans (WITHOUT SHOUTING!), and oil company executives will connect with the activists who chain themselves to refinery gates. Our challenge to them all: Find common ground. Prove we can work together to solve challenges and pursue a clean, prosperous future.

Join the challenge April 18-20: At #EarthDay50, a diverse group of about 100 corporate, environmental, academic, and philanthropic leaders will gather in Dallas to take the next steps on a positive path toward a sustainable future.

First, our annual Earth Day 50 Challenge Summit explores shared solutions to marine debris, stable climate, and deforestation in the lead-up to 2020, the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Companies can, and are, leading on all of these issues—designing responsible products and packaging, cleaning up their supply chains, and making ambitious commitments to do good. Environmentalists play crucial roles as allies, issue experts, and advocates, helping businesses recognize the value of sustainability and accelerate the pace of change.

This summit builds on corporate and nonprofit alliances. Earth Day Challengers Coca-Cola and Walmart both partner with Ocean Conservancy—as members of the Trash Free Seas Alliance, they and other companies work together to reduce and reinvent their products to stem the tide of destructive ocean debris and protect marine wildlife. Dow Chemical and The Nature Conservancy have teamed up to build the business case for why companies should place greater value on natural systems. Meanwhile, World Wildlife Fund and McDonald’s are working to improve responsible practices on everything from beef to paper.

Undoubtedly much more needs to be done. The Earth Day 50 Challenge shows that business, as a force for good, can show the way.

Our second gathering, the Bridge Summit, bucks the angry shouting matches that characterize our political discourse, bringing leaders from the right and left to show that a clean environment is a shared vision, not a partisan political football. While we may have disagreements, I believe the best solutions—for the environment and for society—are those that complement the wisdom of political progressives and conservatives.

We each see a piece of the puzzle, and the challenge for us all is to discover how they fit together. We’re proud to partner in this second event with BridgeUSA—a group of inspiring college students who are trying to heal our partisan wounds across our country.

In this time of division and turmoil, these two important gatherings would not be possible without the convening power of EarthX. And I don’t think they could be held anywhere else but in Dallas, Texas—in America’s heartland. I can think of no other venue that brings together “cowboy conservationists” and Greenpeace activists—and everyone between—to protect our natural heritage and safeguard our prosperous future

Whether you’re a lifelong Republican or die-hard Democrat, whether you run a Fortune 500 company or a student organization, I encourage you to visit EarthX at Fair Park this Friday through Sunday, to see how you, too, can help ensure a healthy environment—and do your part to bridge the divides.

This story first appeared on the Bill Shireman blog.

Related: EarthX 2018

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