BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Leaders from several of Indiana’s largest employers and at nine cities across the Hoosier state are meeting to discuss how to better collaborate on resilience to climate change, through a federally funded project led by faculty at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the IU Environmental Resilience Institute.
As a result of a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, business and public officials will participate Feb. 25 in a virtual workshop about research-informed strategies for improving resources, information, and tools for collaborative climate planning among local governments and businesses.
Nearly 40 participants will include representatives of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Berry Global, Cook Group/Cook Medical, Cummins Inc., Duke Energy, IU Health, Subaru of Indiana, Sweetwater and cities such as Indianapolis, Bloomington, South Bend, Fort Wayne, New Albany, Richmond, Terre Haute, Jasper, and Lafayette.
Sarah Mincey, managing director of the Environmental Resilience Institute and an associate clinical professor in the O’Neill School of Governmental and Environmental Affairs, said local governments and companies often have addressed these environmental issues separately.
“The issue here is essentially that local governments are doing their own planning and businesses are doing their own planning. What we’re finding is not much evidence that they’re working together,” said Mincey, who also directs IU’s Research and Teaching Preserve. “They really need to be planning together and we want to understand if they are, and if not, how to facilitate that.”
At the core of the one-day workshop will be a discussion of the Environmental Resilience Institute Toolkit, which helps local governments across the Midwest prepare for climate change by providing information tailored to their communities. Organizers will demonstrate how ERIT can be useful for the private sector as well as in public-private collaboration.
The workshop will develop research-informed strategies for improving resources, information and tools for collaborative climate planning among local governments and businesses. IU will provide a final report including workshop materials, presentations, participant lists and an analysis of participants’ exit survey responses.
It also will be a networking opportunity for those in communities and businesses who want to work together more on sustainability and environmental resiliency and learn from each other.
The workshop is not open to the public. Chatham House Rules, which allow participants to freely use the information with anonymity, will be used to foster discussion and collaboration.
Kelly Eskew, clinical professor of business law and ethics at the Kelley School, is the project manager. She is being joined in the project from Kelley by Jackson Dorsey, assistant professor of business economics and public policy; and Vivek Astvansh, assistant professor of marketing.
In her classes, Eskew spends a lot of time engaging with Indiana businesses about environmental issues. She is on the steering committee for the Midwest Climate Collaborative Planning Committee, a consortium of 20 leading Midwestern higher education institutions, non-profits and local governments working to develop a regional response to the climate crisis.
“My students and I have worked with many Indiana firms on sustainability and environmental resilience projects. I am so gratified by the learning opportunities they have provided to Kelley students. Our business partners see the importance of “triple bottom line” management as well as strategic planning that acknowledges the impact of climate change on both local daily operations and, globally, on supply chain,” Eskew said.
“While coordination with local governments is not always at the forefront of business considerations, we hope to foster a good dialogue about how joint adaptation planning can strengthen the stakeholder engagement to which our business community in Indiana has already committed,” she added.
Several participants said they appreciate the significance of local governments and businesses in the state working together on climate resilience.
“The Indiana Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of over 25,000 members and customers across the state of Indiana,” said Greg Ellis, the chamber’s vice president for environmental and energy policy and federal relations. “We look forward to collaborating with other stakeholders on how climate change impacts businesses, as well as all of us that live in Indiana and the Midwest. It drives economic development strategies through regulatory and financial impacts in addition to consumer demands.”
“Collaboration between local government and businesses is essential for achieving South Bend’s carbon neutral goals,” added Evelyn Bauman, the city’s director of sustainability. “From supporting companies in setting and achieving company-specific sustainability goals, to subsidizing job training opportunities for new clean technology fields, to developing innovative methods for financing decarbonization, the city sees multiple pathways for partnership with the private sector.”
The organizers are encouraged by the EPA support for the workshop.
“The EPA is sponsoring this workshop knowing that what they’re seeing is a lack of this kind of synergized planning,” Mincey said. “When you have a federal agency funding us to help them learn more about this that is a good signal that it’s not happening enough across the whole country.”