For more than two decades, sustainability has gained currency as a broad organizing principle for efforts to develop and use energy, natural resources, and the environment in ways that allow society to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. More recently, sustainability has been embraced by businesses across multiple sectors as part of a broader movement of corporate social responsibility. Hardly a day goes by without news of another corporate initiative on sustainability. Much of the enthusiasm for sustainability in the business community has been centered in “new economy” sectors and among retail giants such as Wal-Mart. Much of it has likewise been motivated by the realization that companies can actually save money by embracing more sustainable practices.
In the traditional natural resources industries, there is an increasing recognition of the considerable challenges facing efforts to operationalize this broad concept in the context of resource extraction and development. In the long run, the promise of sustainability will depend on the natural resource industries—those that provide energy, water, fiber, and raw materials for a growing population—translating this concept into action.
This conference draws together people from different disciplines and backgrounds to discuss the specific challenges confronting efforts to operationalize sustainability in the context of natural resource industries broadly understood. The symposium will discuss the idea of sustainability and how it is taking shape in particular places and sectors; rigorously explore current efforts to re-organize certain business practices under the rubric of sustainability; and endeavor to identify practical, meaningful actions to deepen ongoing efforts to make sustainability a central tenet of our economic, social, and environmental future.