CEF members gather for the opening town hall discussion at the 2011 Annual Meeting

With all that’s happened in the last few months, I haven’t had the chance to formally introduce the full-time position I landed with Corporate Eco Forum (CEF) after many months of searching for work. CEF is a membership organization intended to be a safe space for executives at large companies to share insights and best practices from their environmental sustainability efforts. Most meetings and discussions are conducted under the Chatham House Rule, which states that, “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” The idea is to create a comfort zone in which individuals with huge amounts of responsibility at leading global enterprises feel free to speak candidly about what has worked, what doesn’t, and share their vision of the future state of corporate sustainability.

My relationship with CEF started back in March 2010, just after I had been let go from IBM. At the time, I assisted with research that later became the basis for a report on member accomplishments, as well as the Member Center, a secure website with resources and networking enablers for representative of the companies. In the following fall, I rejoined with CEF as a formal affiliate, under its C.K. Prahalad Research Fellowship. Over the course of a few months, it became clear that the ambitions of CEF were not going to be fully realized with its hardworking but limited crew of founder, chair and handful of part-time help. I discussed with CEF Chair P.J. Simmons the plans he and founder MR Rangaswami wanted to lay for the organization, as well as my ideas about what kind of additional staff roles would be needed to bring that to fruition.

A few interviews (not to mention a new baby) later, I became the CEF Director of Programs. When I started this past March, CEF was already at the height of preparations for its annual member meeting, to be held in Washington, DC in June. With a full-time staff of three (and several wonderful helpers), preparing for a two day conference with over 30 sessions and 250 participants was no mean feat. Now that the meeting has concluded successfully and we are making headway on capturing all of the great conversations that happened, I will get the chance to turn to the long term strategy for expanding and enriching CEF’s impact.

Prolonged unemployment does tend to wear one over time, and I certainly felt stronger and stronger urges to settle for anything I could manage to find. Though the job search road was bumpy and unclear, I am so very glad that I persisted in waiting for an opportunity to do the kind of work that really interested me. At CEF, not only am I now able to completely marinate in environmental sustainability subject areas, but the nimbleness of our small organization and strong support from our members give us the freedom to take risks and propose creative approaches to issues of greatest importance for the world’s relationship with its stuff. Here’s to being stubborn!

Preparing to send P.J. into the lions' den

Preparing to send P.J. into the lions’ den

MR addresses the crowd before the first plenary discussion

MR addresses the crowd before the first plenary discussion

Which session are you going to?

Which session are you going to?

George Haddad, recent Yale graduate and our indefatigable helper

George Haddad, recent Yale graduate and our indefatigable helper

Mike Harrison, Timberland's Chief Brand Officer, discusses engaging consumers on the topic of sustainability

Mike Harrison, Timberland’s Chief Brand Officer, discusses engaging consumers on the topic of sustainability

P.J. signs a copy of his new book, "The Green to Gold Business Playbook"

P.J. signs a copy of his new book, “The Green to Gold Business Playbook”

MR and P.J. after a night of well deserved sleep

MR and P.J. after a night of well deserved sleep

Taking Amtrak Acela back to New York

Taking Amtrak Acela back to New York