Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sustainability Practice Network Panel Discussion - Sustainability in Underserved Communities

The panel took place on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at the NYU Center for Global Affairs (15 Barclay St., NYC) from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Panel Description: "Sustainability and environmentalism have often been portrayed as benefiting affluent sectors of society while not addressing the real unmet needs of low-income communities. Compared to other challenges such as poverty, health and crime, creating sustainable communities has not been a high priority in our cities.
On this panel, we will seek to move beyond this false trade-off to discuss how sustainability is being integrated into the fields of community development and environmental justice. Examples include the creation of affordable and supportive green housing, healthy foods funds for people living in food deserts, and green job training in low-income neighborhoods. Participants will include community development practitioners as well as philanthropic, private and public investors who are supporting initiatives which improve both standards of living and environmental quality."

The Panel

Moderator: Steve Godeke (Principle Godeke Consulting, founding member SPN)
  • It is people and the planet, not People vs. Planet
  • Sustainability = social, environmental, and economic

Henry Lenere
(Forsite Street Advisors, background in community economic development)
  • The fastest and cheapest way to deal with the energy crisis is to retrofit (using private capital) 
  • We should create a new energy efficiency credit to attract private capital 

Penny Fujiko Willgerodt (Executive Director of the Prospect Hill Foundation)
  • Works for the Gulf Coast Fund for Community and Ecological Health (established after Katrina)
    • Regional grant making institution that gives money to local groups - their resources are directed by gulf coast people

Abbie Westbrook
(Forsight Street Advisors)
  • There is a cooperative component to community development

Judith Kende
(director NY Region for Low Income Investment Fund, background in transit oriented development)
  • There should not be a trade off between sustainability and poverty - sustainability is fundamental to poverty aleviation
  • Low Income Investment Fund is a CDFI, non-profit bank for lending

James Patchett
(Goldman Sachs)
  • Part of the (25 person) urban investment group at Goldman - working on urban revitalization projects
  • The mission component of their group is very important, but they are still looking for a return on investment
  • They work on comprehensive community development, not just housing

James and Judith are both working on the New York Healthy Food and Healthy Community Fund.

Questions for Consideration:
  1. Does there have to be a trade off between sustainability and poverty alleviation? 
  2. How do you measure success in these something as abstract as poverty alleviation and sustainability? 
    1. Henry: retrofits are successful if they save money
    2. Penny: more esoteric - making new partnerships, etc.
    3. Abby: small goals to keep growing on the bigger ones, money, employees
    4. Judith: Square footage, number of jobs created by her projects
    5. James: Square footage, jobs, funding 
  3. How will the President's budget cuts influence the environment and sustainability sector? 

Sustainability Practice Network: "Established in 2004, the Sustainability Practice Network (SPN) is a New York-based interdisciplinary community of professionals who seek to learn and share knowledge to advance sustainable development across sectors and disciplines. We mobilize our members to practice sustainability in their lives and work. Our mission is to raise awareness of the importance of individual and corporate sustainability and thereby create a more stable and equitable world." More about SPN

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