Sustaining Profits: The Environment and Its Challenges Are Driving Business Success

by RaeAnne Marsh

From an overabundance of sun to an underabundance of water, the natural environment has become the elephant in the room for the business community. But many see it as big opportunity.

“Like many regions in the Southwest, Greater Phoenix is addressing environmental issues from water and drought to urban heat,” says Chris Camacho, president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Economic Council, following this dismal observation with the confident assessment, “However, proactive policies have given Greater Phoenix an advantageous position over cities like Reno, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. In 2016 the Phoenix City Council adopted eight 2050 Environmental Sustainability goals that articulate the community’s desired long-term environmental outcomes. These fall under the categories of transportation, waste, water, building and land use, parks, air quality, and food systems. Phoenix also employs many sustainability officers and employees, including the new position of heat officer.”

 This represents a change in focus that Carrie Kelly, executive director of Arizona Association for Economic Development, puts into perspective: “For a long time, the measure of a strong economy in Arizona has been jobs, jobs, jobs. As unemployment rates have declined and we have seen an influx of new companies to Arizona, there is a shift taking place in economic development as well.” That shift has raised the importance of such factors as how economic progress is measured and what nourishes the quality of life in communities. “Just a few years ago, subjects like housing, workforce development, and sustainability were not a large focus of economic developers. The shift we have seen is to a more holistic approach to economic development and one that encompasses things like workforce development, housing, equity, creative industries, and sustainability.

Kelly has seen a concurrent shift in the priorities of companies. “Those entering the market in Arizona understand the landscape and the need to be sustainable. Those companies coming to Arizona are also carrying values of sustainability, and they come with the expectation that Arizona also holds those values.” She believes the competitiveness of Arizona also depends on our ability to establish clear and concise sustainability goals and share those goals across the state with development partners. 

And a business’s environmental choices impact its success, from growth and revenue to employment. “The perception of consumers in regard to sustainable business practices is positive and leads to more loyal customers,” Camacho says, citing a Maryville University study that found 63% of Americans want corporations to drive social and environmental change in the absence of government action, and 70 to 80 percent of Americans make purchasing decisions based on whether or not a business represents their values. “Environmental sustainability also affects businesses’ ability to attract and retain talent,” he adds. “IBM found that 67% of prospective employees were more willing to apply for and accept positions from environmentally sustainable companies.”

Camacho shares that many of the largest companies in Greater Phoenix have reported savings by switching to sustainable practices, with the most common savings coming from the reduction of facility costs by switching to renewable energy sources. According to the consulting firm McKinsey, a strong environmental and sustainable plan correlates with higher equity returns, a reduction in risk, lower loan and credit default swap spreads and higher credit ratings.

“All GPEC member communities have similar sustainable goals,” Camacho says. And he credits local universities as a valuable resource in this arena, continually researching and implementing new sustainability solutions. Arizona State University, for instance, incorporates eight overarching sustainability goals: circular resources, climate positive, collaborative action, community success, food reconnection, optimized water, personal action, and resilience. These goals are implemented in all ASU operations and advocated for at the local, state and national levels. “Additionally,” Camacho shares, “ASU’s School of Sustainability has the goal of educating over 1,000 students in its programs and advocating for sustainable practices in all facets of life. Grand Canyon University’s rapidly expanding campus also adheres to sustainable practices when new buildings are constructed and offers a bachelor’s degree in environmental science.”

Commercial real estate company JLL has taken the position that climate change offers opportunity. JLL’s research found that companies have reported opportunities arising from the low-carbon transition to be worth $2.1 trillion compared to around $1 trillion of downside risk, according to CDP. And The World Bank released an estimate in 2019 that investing in new resilience infrastructure generates around $4 in benefit for every $1 invested. Also informing JLL’s approach is the institutional investor survey Morrow Sodali released in 2020, which found investors are also interested, with 100% of institutional investors considering ESG risks and opportunities in their decision making in the past year. 

Helping to build opportunity, JLL became a founding partner of Bloomberg Green, the first global media brand for the climate change era. And JLL Global CEO Christian Ulbrich is a member of the World Economic Forum Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a group of CEOs committed to actively engaging in global efforts to create market opportunities for tackling climate change.

Now Is a Shining Time for Solar

Solar power is one of the biggest pieces in sustainability efforts here. Solar panels are a common sight on roofs of businesses and homes as well as many a parking lot.

“My company, American Solar & Roofing, has been in business for more than 21 years, installing thousands of solar systems on Arizona homes,” says President and CEO Joy Seitz. “With every solar system we install, our state becomes less reliant on fossil fuels to power our energy grid, which in turn reduces our state’s overall carbon output, all while adding resiliency in a world increasingly prone to supply chain and price shocks.” According to Seitz, solar accounted for 7,346 jobs in Arizona last year, all while generating about 9.16% of our state’s electricity. 

Research from the Solar Energy Industries Association places Arizona fifth last year in the nation for solar. “This is a good start and only the beginning, we have more potential to grow, especially if we are focused on meeting our climate goals,” Seitz says.

Business Opportunity in Enabling

As innovation opens up new economic markets, it goes hand in hand with opportunity for new businesses and expansion of existing businesses.

In an interview that underscored his passion for this topic and the tremendous technology opportunity it offers, Arizona Technology Council President and CEO Steve Zylstra pointed to Footprint as one example of an enabler, making products available to other businesses. “Footprint is one of the big companies in town. All products are green and made from recycled materials.”

Li-Cycle is another business finding opportunity in making a difference for other businesses. Noting that batteries need to be recycled, Zylstra describes Li-Cycle’s operation in Gilbert that takes everything from a lithium-ion hearing aid battery to a 700-kilowatt battery from one of the Nikola trucks, sends it up a conveyor belt, breaks it down into its constituent materials, sends it to a foundry, breaks 100% of it down to its original materials – Nickle, Cobalt, Magnesium, Lithium– for reuse. “These are rare earth materials that are harsh on the environment to mine. Also, a lot of them are processed in China, and our relationship with China is not getting better. So, it’s important from that standpoint, too. It allows us to create an electric transportation system that is part of a circular economy — take all the original materials and you reuse them.” 

Making big news recently is KORE Power’s announcement that the coming months will see the company break ground on the KOREPlex, its 12 gigawatt-hour lithium-ion battery cell production facility near Phoenix, which is designed to be the first net-zero carbon U.S. gigafactory producing cells in multiple formats and chemistries. It will also deploy the first Nomad Transportable Power Systems and will unveil a portfolio of new products for the EV and ESS markets. The KOREPlex is expected to come to Buckeye and be the anchor to the development of the Sustainable Valley by the end of 2024. 

“At KORE Power, we believe environmental stewardship is central to business, not an impediment to it. We are committed to making the KOREPlex the world’s first net-zero gigafactory, using strategic partnerships and on-site solar energy plus storage. We are working to bring additional businesses to the area to create a full-life ecosystem for battery cells, from supply chain materials to end-user and through recycling,” says Lindsay Gorrill, CEO and co-founder. “And our vision of sustainability includes building a workplace culture that offers training and opportunities for advancement, so we can attract and keep employees. 

“The battery cells that we manufacture power clean transportation and bring grid reliability and stability as renewables become a larger part of our energy mix. Advancing a strong economy and a healthier planet is central to everything we do,” Gorrill says.

Business Opportunity in Adopting

Real estate accounts for a significant percentage of total carbon emission; figures range from 33 to 49 percent.

JLL reports that just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and a mere 25 corporations and state-owned entities were responsible for more than half of global industrial emissions in the last three decades, according to CDP. In JLL’s view, with businesses bearing responsibility for the majority of our world’s carbon footprint, they represent both the problem and the solution for the climate crisis. 

Sustainability, then, is one of five macro-trends framing JLL’s long-term growth strategy. The company believes its sustainability efforts will benefit from stakeholders’ increased focus on purpose, and through greater awareness of the fragility of our society and ecosystem. JLL is committed to partnering with its clients to create and implement solutions and shares many of the same goals: They want to enhance the value of their real estate assets and drive operational efficiencies and cost savings. Clients also seek to attract and retain a productive, healthy and diverse workforce, and achieve positive impacts in their communities. And, like JLL, many of its clients have their own sustainability goals and are seeking partners who can help them achieve their objectives.

Barry Chasse, founder of CHASSE Building Team, says his company is always looking to identify sustainable opportunities within construction, navigating clients through the process, and educating everyone involved how sustainability can be affordable. “We pride ourselves on being leaders in innovation when it comes to green and other environmentally friendly solutions, as well as dedicated advocates of green building across Arizona. In fact, our team has created an industry-wide standard.”

Among the projects CHASSE has completed in recent years are two LEED Platinum multi-family housing projects, Urban Living on 2nd Avenue and Stepping Stone Place, two LEED Silver facilities for the Boys & Girls Club of the East Valley and ICAN, and the first LEED Certified Walgreens in the state of Arizona. “Additionally, we have retrofitted multiple K12 campuses with Energy Management Systems for optimal energy usage and decreased costs, along with installing solar panels on over 15 educational campuses. We’re always looking to partner with organizations focused on sustainable solutions,” Chasse says. 

CHASSE’s energy efficiency elements include high-efficiency mechanical units. “Our mechanical system is a Variable Refrigerant Flow system. Through the use of one main compressor working multiple indoor cassette units, we are able to achieve an extremely high SEER rating and offer our team ultimate zone control. This reduced our energy consumption by over 30% when compared to typical split mechanical equipment.” And in environmental impact, “We achieved our goal of diverting 75% of our construction waste from the landfill.”

One of the local businesses setting an example in its adoption of sustainability measures is Harrah’s Ak-Chin. Among those measures are Harrah’s investment in and implementation of environmentally efficient technologies and processes that mitigate the property’s impact by increasing energy efficiency, water conservation, and reducing waste and recycling. “We acknowledge the science behind human-induced climate crisis and combat its effects with science-based targets and strategies that reduce our greenhouse gas emissions within our own operations and through our value chain,” says April Stovall, director of surveillance and facilities at Caesars Entertainment, Inc., Greater Phoenix Area. It’s a long-term view of what Stovall considers a facet of the new pathways to economic success. “Economic growth and environmental sustainability must go hand in hand. Thinking outside the box along with embracing technology and diversity is key to our success,” she says.

“There are a number of examples of Greater Phoenix businesses developing environmental sustainability policies that are impacting the region in a major way,” affirms Camacho, who, as president and CEO of Metro Phoenix’s most impactful economic development organization, has both a broad view and detailed knowledge of business activity here. He notes that businesses invest in regions where they can meet sustainability goals, and believes the policies put in place by industry leaders in this market today will allow for a reliable grid that can support future growth.

Three examples he shares of businesses whose environmental sustainability policies are reverberating through our community and economy are Banner Health, Intel and SRP.

Banner Health sustainably procures supplies for its staff and patients, sourcing PPE gowns and masks from local providers — cutting down on transportation emissions and protecting them from supply chain slowdowns. Over the last decade, Banner Health has saved $3.8 million and more than 14 million kilowatt-hours annually by maximizing energy conservation at its 25 hospital facilities.

Intel’s 2030 RISE commitment takes a four-pronged approach to sustainability, focusing on water, energy, waste and climate. This includes achieving net positive water by 2030 by conserving 60 billion gallons of water and funding external water restoration projects, achieving 100% renewable electricity use across all global operations and conserving 4 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity by 2030. Intel is also working to achieve zero waste to landfills and implement circular economy strategies for at least 60% of its manufacturing waste streams by 2030 in collaboration with its suppliers.

SRP has created a 2035 Sustainability Program aimed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt-hour 65% from 2005 levels by 2035. SRP has an additional goal to cut carbon dioxide megawatt-hour by 90% by the fiscal year 2050. Additionally, the company has pledged to reduce carbon emissions from facilities and fleet vehicles by 30%. SRP is working to reduce water use at its facilities by 45% on a mass basis, achieve a lost and unaccounted for water rate of less than 5%, and store 1 million acre-feet of water supplies underground.

And the utility is working to enable its customers to achieve savings of their own. Kelly Barr, chief sustainability executive at SRP, explains SRP’s commercial energy efficiency programs range from offering common facility upgrades to customized solutions with review of customer projects for potential energy-efficient upgrades unique to their facilities and operations. 

Zylstra notes that all the big tech companies that have recently moved here in the last 10 years — Meta, Google in Mesa, Microsoft with three data centers on the west side — are requiring the utilities provide them clean energy only, only from clean sources. “So, the utilities must dedicate a certain amount of their solar or hydro or nuclear (a lot of people consider nuclear clean because it doesn’t create any carbon emissions). All the utilities have had to accelerate their movement toward clean energy because of the demand that’s being created by these massive companies.” 

SRP continues to improve the ongoing development of its renewable program through strategic, research-based partnerships with organizations and coalitions, such as the Electric Power Research Institute, which are pushing the envelope in low-carbon resource technologies. 

As an example, Barr relates that a recent commercial renewable energy program SRP offered is now delivering solar energy to 33 large companies and municipalities across 19 diverse industries. The first phase of the offering was initially announced in 2018, and since then, three 100-MW solar plants have been constructed under this program that deliver clean energy benefits to these customers. At peak production, the combined energy from these facilities is enough to power approximately 67,500 average homes. The three solar facilities will jointly create a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by about 1.6 million tons, which is equivalent to the amount produced by more than 300,000 passenger cars driven in a year.

SRP recently began reporting to The Climate Registry, which is North America’s largest voluntary registry for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Any company can report into this compliance-reporting organization that designs and operates voluntary and compliance GHG reporting programs globally. These assist organizations in measuring, reporting and verifying the carbon in their operations in order to manage and reduce it. 

A lot of AzTC members that have data centers have stakes in the ground to become zero carbon in short periods of time, like 2023, 2025, 2030, Zylstra reports. “AmEx, PayPal, onsemi are all companies that have been around for a long time and they’re going to be a zero-carbon impact — which is a big deal because the biggest consumers of energy, period, in the world today are data centers. And we are second only to Virginia in total number of data centers.” 

“With our net-zero 2040 commitment, we are driving towards 100% renewable energy by 2040. We are in the process of developing near-term goals to ensure interim progress towards these longer-term goals,” says Kim Luu, senior director and head of Sustainability and Environmental Social Governance at onsemi. This, of course, throws the ball into the court of energy providers like SRP and APS.

In addition to making an impact on the supply chain serving it, the company is making an impact on the supply chain it serves. “Onsemi is driving disruptive innovations to help build a better future,” Luu says, explaining that, with a focus on automotive and industrial end-markets, the company is accelerating change in megatrends such as vehicle electrification and safety, sustainable energy grids, industrial automation, and 5G and cloud infrastructure. “Our intelligent power technologies enable energy efficient solutions across all applications by providing improved power factor, enhanced active-mode efficiency and reduced standbymode power consumptions. Our intelligent sensing technologies support the next generation of industry allowing for smarter factories and buildings while also enhancing the automotive mobility experience with imaging and depth sensing that make advanced vehicle safety and automated driving systems possible.”

Luu believes businesses are in a unique position to be able to drive new product development and market solutions that help solve problems. “As an engineering and technology company, that is what onsemi does. The climate and environmental crisis presents to us a calling to drive disruptive innovations to help build a better future.” 

And onsemi can claim success in the more traditional business markers: In 2021, onsemi had more than $5.011 billion in sustainable product revenue. Its total revenue in 2021 was $6.7 billion. At the core of onsemi’s marketecture is the sustainable ecosystem that drives growth in the industrial, automotive and 5G and cloud power markets; driving innovation with intelligent power and sensing technologies to solve the most challenging customer problems in key applications that extend from charging, energy infrastructure, factory automation through to advanced vehicle safety and electric vehicles. 

The Burgeoning Electric Vehicle Sector 

Issues of energy, sustainability, innovation and business opportunity come together in electric vehicles. Another plus for our economy: It also has big employment potential. 

“Arizona has probably the biggest economic development opportunity in a generation with EVs,” says Joel Levin, executive director of Plug In America, a nonprofit, supporter-driven advocacy group that Levin describes as a cross between a consumer organization and an environmental group. As an economic opportunity for business and entrepreneurs, “EVs have the potential to bring tens of thousands of jobs to the Arizona area.” 

Levin notes that, when a company sets up shop to do automotive manufacturing, it has a huge impact on the surrounding area. As an example, he points to how the Tesla factory outside Reno has completely reshaped the economic landscape there. “Tesla set up there, and then all their suppliers had to set up there as well. The whole economics of northern Nevada — it’s just exploded economically.” He believes Arizona could easily experience that result. 

“Opportunities in Arizona are tremendous,” Levin stresses, pointing out that three big electric vehicle manufacturers — Lucid, Nikola and ElectraMeccanica — are already here.

“Lucid, in Casa Grande, requires hundreds of different parts for their cars that they don’t build themselves. They’re going to buy them from someone , and the people who are going to supply them will probably set up smaller plants within a short drive of the assembly plant,” Levin explains. “It drives a tremendous amount of economic activity aside from the plant itself. In the auto industry, when you have an assembly plant, you outsource all kinds of the smaller pieces of the car, and the people who are going to build those tend to set up shop near the assembly plant.”

SRP has also been helping advance the electric vehicle market here. In fact, due to the success of many of SRP’s EV incentive programs that help encourage EV adoption and EV infrastructure growth, SRP recently surpassed its goal to have 23,000 EVs in the SRP service territory by the end of its fiscal year 2022, with a total of more than 29,200 EVs leased or purchased within the area as of April 30, 2022, according to Barr. “This brings an estimated carbon reduction savings of more than 101,000 tons of carbon dioxide,” she says. “The program helps business customers learn more about the benefits of electric vehicles, supports employee EV adoption, accelerates the transition of corporate vehicle fleets, and helps companies meet corporate sustainability goals.” On the transportation electrification end, Barr notes SRP’s Business Electric Vehicle Charging program offers commercial, multifamily and fleet-owning customers rebates and services to support the installation of networked EV charging infrastructure at their facilities. 

The charging infrastructure promises to be another big employment generator. And Camacho relates that, in early June this year, the Phoenix City Council unanimously passed the Transportation Electrification Action Plan, known as the “EV Roadmap.” “The goal of the project is to place 280,000 city electric vehicles on the streets over the next eight years by installing 500 public charging stations, converting some city vehicles to electric and more.” According to Camacho, EVs made up more than 5% of all cars purchased in Phoenix in the past year and EVs’ share of North American vehicles is accelerating. 

Zylstra notes we also have the bipartisan infrastructure package, which Congress passed last November, and much of that federal money will be administered by ADOT, “particularly around recharging infrastructure — all the highways and the rural areas.” Zylstra foresees all this funding coming our way will create massive numbers of jobs for electricians and construction workers as well as, of course, “enable us to recharge electric vehicles throughout Arizona.” But one factor he sees that will have to be addressed is interoperability, so that anybody can charge from anywhere.

Although observing that jobs created in the building out of electric charging stations tend to be high-paying ones, Levin cautions that at least for now “The limitation is they can’t find enough electricians.”

There’s another side to the growth of the electric vehicle industry, which is in terms of people driving EVs. “When people in Arizona drive gasoline cars, you have to bring that gasoline from somewhere else,” Levin says. Since Arizona is a net energy importer, “that’s all billions of dollars that flows out of your economy.” But instead of buying gasoline, if people bought electricity instead, that all by and large comes from within the state.” Money spent on electricity, he points out, stays locally and it spends on energy production like solar and wind and building out the electric grid and building out charging infrastructure. “It’s much more jobs-intensive and it’s much more located where the demand is. So, instead of sending those billions of dollars out of state buying petroleum from other states and from other countries, that money would be staying inside the state. It would be, basically, building out the electric grid. So, there’s a real economic benefit there as well.” 

Water: Asset or Investment?

“In the Southwest, long-term economic success will be driven to a large degree by solutions to water scarcity,” says Sean Hood, a litigator and water lawyer. Speaking from 20 years’ experience advising Fortune 500 companies and other businesses on a broad range of disputes involving water rights, the Fennemore director observes, “We’re in the midst of a significant long-term drought, and no one knows when or if Mother Nature will ease our water crunch. Development and growth are already being stifled in myriad ways.” Hood believes the answer to water scarcity is both water conservation and water augmentation. 

From his perspective as associate vice president of research advancement and knowledge enterprise and director of the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation at Arizona State University, Dave White observes, “It’s critically important for us in Arizona and in the Southwest more generally to be looking at a variety of different solutions to address issues related to the drought, our water supply shortage and just the general water scarcity in the region as well as the issues that will be increasingly affecting our region as a result of climate change.”

White believes that, for water in particular, business innovation and technology development will yield some of the solutions. “It’s important for us in the Southwest to look at this as an opportunity where we can develop new technology and new innovations,” he says, looking at the global opportunity for innovators here to “potentially create solutions that could be economic development activity and/or export those solutions to other arid regions around the world. 

Intel set the bar high when it announced last month that its operations in the United States, Costa Rica and India are officially net positive on water use — meaning Intel restores more freshwater than it takes in. In Arizona, fifteen Intel-funded projects helped restore 890 million gallons to the watershed in 2021. For instance, one of the projects Intel funded incentivized farmers near the Verde River to switch out crops that require heavy irrigation in the summer months for barley, which is harvested earlier in the year and requires less water. As part of the project, an investment in a local malt house lowered the transaction costs involved in malting barley, which can then be sold to local breweries that previously had to use out-of-state suppliers.

“Intel was one of the first tech companies to make a public commitment around water restoration, but we’re not alone in this. In the years since we announced our water commitment, we’ve had conversations with other companies who have come to us for help or advice with setting their own water stewardship goals,” says Fawn Bergen, corporate sustainability manager at Intel. “Although water challenges are local, the partnerships, collective actions and investments are global.” 

White sees global opportunity for local efforts, describing Arizona’s current water crisis as an innovation moment. “We at the University are trying to help develop and, in partnership with other corporate entities and other folks across the region and the state, trying to help position Arizona as an international hub for water technology and water conservation innovation,” he says. 

“I’m very excited about the work that is being done in industrial water conservation,” White shares. He cites Intel as among the industry leaders working to reduce the total water demand necessary for each unit of production. “Intel and other corporate leaders are looking to determine how can they become more and more efficient to reduce the total water demand necessary to produce each chip. And also to figure out how they can be more efficient at recycling and reusing the water that they draw on for that activity.” Noting that water is a critical element of the production process for semiconductors and for microchips, White observes, “Anything they can do to become more efficient in the use of that resource will help lower their input costs for their products. So, it’s an important business op for them.”

White points to similar efforts in agricultural water conservation, with exciting innovations to reduce the total water consumed per unit of output. This is happening in conventional agriculture, such using more drip irrigation technology and different ways to reduce the water demand. Efforts are also being directed to developing alternative forms of agriculture like vertical farming, and pinpointing targeted water-consuming approaches to agriculture. 

And White is excited about a new company being spun out from ASU is SOURCE. “SOURCE is creating hydro panels, essentially combining the power of solar panels with technology to help draw water out of the atmosphere. Create water from air.” It’s a distributed technology, with small installations that use renewable energy to help extract water from the atmosphere. “It’s a modest amount of water, not enough to offset the needs of a whole farm or a city, but in distributed areas like rural areas, tribal communities in remote parts of the state, other remote rural communities, these technologies may be a part of a set of solutions,” White says. 

SRP sees partnerships as the key to ensuring a successful sustainable future, which must also translate to finding collaborative ways to remain water resilient across the state. One example Barr offers is the underground water facilities SRP manages on behalf of nine Valley cities. The Granite Reef Underground Storage Project and the New River Agua Fria Underground Storage Project has recharged more than 1 million acre-feet of water since 1994. The water storage projects have become an instrumental component of SRP’s water resource management tool kit and a real-life, working example of how SRP and Arizona have been preparing for drought.

“Arizona’s water history is distinguished by the impact of strategic water infrastructure partnerships that remains true today,” Barr says. “The seven reservoirs and dams built over the last 120 years are just a few examples of the forward-thinking planning on an infrastructure that continues to provide affordable and reliable water to the Phoenix metropolitan area.”

White suggests we consider water as an investment. Posing the question, “What is the best value that we can get from that?” he says it’s not always economic. There are environmental values that are critically important to think about — protecting aquatic and riparian ecosystems are really important. And social benefits — water provides recreation opportunities and other amenities like public parks and gathering places. And then economic activity, to provide the most jobs; the best, highest paying jobs; and the jobs that have the best quality of life for the residents. Says White, “If we’re going to say we have a limited amount of water supply, we have lots of different benefits that we’re trying to produce, then we need to be very thoughtful about how we invest that water to get the best return across environment, economy, and society.”

But he emphasizes again the goal of being able to use the challenges we face being in an arid environment, a water-stressed environment, as an opportunity. After all, he notes, we are not alone. “Some the largest and fastest-growing cities in the world are in arid environments, and, as climate changes continues to impact communities around the world, there will be more communities that are facing the similar kinds of challenges that Arizona is facing now,” White says. “So, the faster that we can develop solutions to these, the more that we can be of benefit to other communities around the world — and that’s actually an economic benefit to the state as well.” 

Where Are We Going from Here?

“There’s so much going on in this space right now, it’s just mind-boggling,” Zylstra says. He foresees it creating tens of thousands of jobs, among other benefits to our community and economy. “At least once a year, I go to Washington and meet with a congressional delegation. I did that in May of this year. Lots of issues to talk with them about, but one of them I did talk to all of them about was the importance of accelerating our transition to clean energy.”

Kelly points to the Green Metrics study that the International Economic Development Council published in 2017. These metrics included categories such as equitable growth, sustainable workforce, local and small business growth, and transportation. Metrics included electric vehicle charging stations, broadband access, workforce training programs, retail leakage, and transit-oriented development. “You can easily look across Arizona and see where there has been a focused effort on these issues,” she says.

“What is most exciting in the investment in technology and sustainable businesses in Arizona,” Kelly says. “We have passionate leaders and investors that recognize the importance of sustainability to the state and are pouring their heart and soul into making improvements in the quality of life for everyone is incredible. Companies like Footprint that bring the Footprint Sustainability Summit to Phoenix or ASU housing the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation are true investments in the future of a more sustainable Arizona.” 

JLL believes business can take responsibility and make a difference in environmental issues. “There will be increased scrutiny on how companies respond to threats such as climate change. Those companies that are positive stewards of the environment and promote sustainability through their operations will likely outperform businesses that continue along a business-as-usual trajectory,” it says on a website. 

SRP’s Barr suggests that developing a stakeholder review process of a company’s sustainability goals is a more comprehensive and inclusive way to progress forward, and shares the experience at SRP. “After SRP developed its initial 2035 Sustainability Goals, we hosted a public commenting period to solicit feedback from customers to update the goals and ensure they considered all perspectives. This effort generated more than 4,000 comments, many of which were integrated into our updated, outlined initiatives.” 

Continues Barr, “Companies from all industries and of all sizes are also now given many more platforms and opportunities to join interdisciplinary efforts to bring more sustainability to our state which thereby reflects within each participating organization. An example is a new cross-industry initiative called the Transportation Electrification Activator (TE Activator) developed to advance electric transportation in Arizona. SRP is a member among organizations of all sizes and industries. “Those involved have substantial interest in reducing carbon emissions and improving the well-being of Arizonans, and there is ongoing opportunity to join in on this effort.” 

While observing that business is as affected by the fundamental challenges of environmental issues as the everyday population, Camacho sees business being able to make an impact at a larger scale than the individual. Among the benefits, he believes becoming an industry leader in sustainability can give companies an edge over competitor businesses. Furthermore, he says, “Businesses have been responsible for many of the sustainable innovations that have occurred in this market and around the world. Continued dedication and a corporate commitment to sustainable practices will determine whether creating a sustainable environment for future generations succeeds.”

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