Collaborative Solutions to Sustainability – Winter 2012

The OCSC is proud to announce the launch of our OCSC Sustainability Leadership Dialogue Series.  This is an important new forum in Orange County and the region where Orange County leaders can meet and discuss sustainability success stories to benefit one another and to improve education and interaction among sustainability leaders.

Summary of OCSC’s Inaugural Event




On January 18, 2012, nearly 40 leaders from Orange County industry, communities, non-governmental organizations, academia, and public agencies participated in the Orange County Sustainability Collaborative’s (OCSC) inaugural event, which was held at the University of California Irvine Student Center.


Mr. Eric Torres, The Climate Reality Project’s Southwest Regional Manager, kicked-off the event and stimulated early morning intellectual processes with a potent presentation on real and verifiable scientific evidence on climate change accumulated over the past decades.


Following lively post-presentation networking over refreshments, the agenda moved on to facilitated dialogues at each table, which were focused on these five topics:

  • Topic 1 – Sustainability Change Management
  • Topic 2 – Climate Change and Sustainability Successes in Orange County
  • Topic 3 – Value Proposition of Climate-Change & Sustainability: Impact Mitigation
  • Topic 4 – Transformational Leadership, and
  • Topic 5 – Innovation in Climate Change and Sustainability Regulation

Orange County’s sustainability leaders came alive during the discussions when they enthusiastically shared their insights, lessons-learned and problem-solving tricks-of-the-trade.   What did the leaders discuss?  Here are just a few of the major ideas.

  • Success Breeds Success – Many executive management teams – especially those that don’t yet fully understand the value of sustainability – lack patience for the long-term results required of comprehensive large-scale sustainability initiatives.   The assembled leaders agreed sustainability initiatives are more successful when small-scale, time-constrained steps are taken to achieve a few verifiable successes in meeting an organization’s most-pressing needs.  With the executives’ confidence gained, an organization can then start building on those successes.
  • Help May Be Closer Than You Think – The dialogues at the various tables revealed that “hidden champions” – i.e., those individuals that aren’t directly responsible for a sustainability program or project, but have personal passions and interests in their outcome – exist in most organizations.  Orange County’s sustainability leaders agree that to advance sustainability programs, “Luke Skywalkers and Princess Leia’s” have to be found and encouraged to promote initiatives, breakdown resistance, and provide the necessary labor to help initiatives succeed.
  • Communication Is Key – Not unexpectedly, the topic of sustainability program communications emerged as a common impediment to success.  It is universally recognized by management experts that complaints of “communications problems” are tip-of-the-iceberg indicators of dysfunctional work processes . . . and, they aren’t limited to just sustainability programs.  These processes are often:
  • Incompletely and/or inappropriately designed, especially in the area of inter-functional connectivity
  • Burdened with all manner of inefficiencies, and
  • Haphazardly managed in the monitor-detect-correct sense of the word.

Further compounding these issues is the fact that players in these dysfunctional processes are rarely prepared adequately for successful participation through competency-based instruction involving deliberate and timely follow-up and reinforcement.

So, when communications are stymieing a sustainability program, it’s time to concentrate on resolving problems in work processes and knowledge-transfer efforts.


OCSC is gratified that every leader who provided written feedback indicated they would come to the next OCSC event.  Further, because OCSC is committed to providing high quality professional development events, it will build on the success of the inaugural event to improve the experience and value for all.  So, here’s what OCSC will be working on to create even better programs in the future.

  • The Climate Change Presentation and Future Presentation Topics – Many of the leaders in attendance found the climate change presentation interesting and compelling.  However, these action-oriented leaders would have preferred more time spent on how to design specific implementable solutions and less on high-level problems.  The OCSC views this as a positive take-away in that the county’s sustainability leaders want to get past global concepts to learn how to start mitigating climate change risks and liabilities locally and in their own organizations.

In addition, OCSC clearly heard that climate change is not THE issue that concerns Orange County’s sustainability leaders the most.  Rather, the majority would rather focus on local issues over which they have control.

As a trial balloon, the climate change presentation served its need-sensing purpose.   So, using these and other lessons-learned, OCSC will continue to identify and focus on those local issues – along with ready-to-implement solutions – that are of most interest here in Orange County.

  • Provide More Time for Dialogue Topics – Near audible groans were heard as the table captain’s moved on from an engaged subject topic to the next, suggesting the participants felt further exploration was needed.


For 2012 and 2013, OCSC is planning a full slate of presentations, dialogues, educational programs and other events to promote sustainability in industry, communities, non-governmental organizations, academia, and public agencies.  We invite you and your colleagues to join us in this ground-breaking sustainability event planning and delivery effort to create a “Greener Orange”.