Mar 13, 2024 - News

SXSW Axios House dispatch

Guests at a dinner.

Guests at Axios House's Expert Voices dinner. Photo: Cori Baker/Axios

👋 Asher here.

This week I had the pleasure of co-moderating (with Axios' Hope King) an Expert Voices dinner discussion at Axios House at South by Southwest.

The topic: Governments and corporations are facing a moment of reckoning to prioritize sustainability while supporting the needs of growing populations.

  • We convened leaders who are advancing sustainability efforts to talk about their approaches to reducing waste and promoting a circular economy for a more sustainable future.

Between the lines: Among Texas' Republican leadership, the term "ESG" — environmental-social-corporate governance — has become something of a dirty word, with the state comptroller barring certain banks and other firms who have been deemed insufficiently supportive of energy firms from doing business with the state.

What they're saying: "This ESG taboo nomenclature is really a U.S. thing," said Haley Lowry, the global director of sustainability for Dow. "In the rest of the world, we haven't seen the pushback in the U.S., where it's frankly just been politicized."

  • The rhetoric around ESG "hasn't changed anything we do as a company, hasn't changed the investment strategy we have to build de-carbonization and our circularity efforts. And frankly we call all that sustainability."

The bottom line: Climate change is "on the docket in the C-suite of every business we now work with," said Tim Weiss, the Colorado-based CEO of Optera, a company that helps big-box retailers track the carbon footprint of their products.

  • "I don't have a lot of faith in consumer behavior overall, because you have to convince people to spend money on something that are morality questions, values questions. And typically people don't have a great track record there."

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