Rick Fedrizzi at Greenbuild 2012

27 November 2012 – The opening plenary to Greenbuild 2012 by US GBC president and chief executive officer Rick Fedrizzi was a  “call to arms”.

Here are highlights of the speech, which seem to have struck a cord with so many people in the green building movement.

Almost 20 years ago USGBC was founded right here in San Francisco with the goal of … changing the world.

And from this LEED certified convention hall …to the LEED certified hotels and office buildings… even to the  LEED Certified Starbucks that dot every street here… you begin to get a sense of what a changed world can look like.

But here’s the thing that makes me really excited… I can walk out of this building . . . take a Prius cab to the LEED terminal at San Francisco Airport… get on a flight and go half way around the world to Shanghai or Qatar or Sao Paulo ….and see glimmers of that changed world we envision.

Shanghai Tower on the Bund, set to be the tallest LEED building in the world, the 100-PLUS-building LEED commitment in the Ancient sector of Doha, or the amazing new LEED stadiums coming on line in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics…

Through our work with the 89 other green building councils that, along with USGBC, make up World Green Building Council… we’re seeing exponential growth in the web of influence.

A trillion dollar industry
Our changed world boasts a half-trillion dollar green building industry in the United States… and almost a trillion dollar industry worldwide… that literally did not exist 20 years ago.

We should feel incredibly proud of the leadership we have ALL demonstrated so far…

But with leadership comes responsibility, and there is one thing I know to be true:

Time for leadership as a movement
Leaders can NEVER be satisfied. We cannot afford to be.

it’s time for us to succeed as a movement, as a “social movement”

We should feel incredibly proud of the leadership we have all demonstrated so far. But with leadership comes responsibility, and there is one thing I know to be true: Leaders can NEVER be satisfied. We cannot afford to be. It’s time for us to succeed as a movement. As a “social movement.”

And that’s a goal – and a responsibility – far greater than anything we have achieved so far. The other day, I was thinking about social movements that have changed the world forever.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement that started in Senaca Falls, NY, very close to my home in Syracuse. Who WERE the people that actually thought women were property, incapable of intelligence, un-deserving of schooling, or the right to vote?

The Workers’ Rights Movement. How could anyone ever think that child labor, inadequate pay, and unsafe working conditions were acceptable on any level?

The Civil Rights Movement. Who can even imagine that another Human Being would ever be denied the right to sit where they want, eat where they want, go to school where they want, or apply for the job they want because of their race or ethnic origin?

What about Gay Rights and Marriage Equality? Who has the right to ever say that gay and lesbian couples don’t deserve the same rights as anyone else–to have their relationships respected as equal under the law.

These are some of the most important and successful social movements of the past 100 years, and none of them were a slam-dunk. Not by a long shot.

And if we’re going to take up the mantle of a movement that wants to change the world, we need to learn from the ones that already have. It’s the reason they earned their place in the history books. It’s the reason they changed – and are still changing – the world. They were Right… Absolutely RIGHT!

And their detractors were Wrong… DEAD Wrong!

That’s exactly where WE are today, folks, and we’ve seen it recently in newspaper articles and the halls of Congress. And you know what? We too are right. And OUR detractors are wrong.

They’re wrong when they say transparent third-party certification is not important; that LEED costs too much; that we should “TRUST THEM!”

They’re wrong when they say renewable energy isn’t a priority; that it doesn’t make a difference; that it costs jobs and hurts the economy; that it’s somehow “un-American.”

They’re wrong when they say toxins are a fact of life and that we shouldn’t “fear monger” about their impacts on our kids in their schools, or our families in their homes.

They are just wrong.

And I’m pretty darned sure that we are right when we say that all of our children and teachers deserve school buildings that will keep them healthy, keep them safe, and help them thrive.

We’re right when we design, build, and operate our buildings so that they reduce energy, keep costs down, and conserve our planet’s resources.

We’re right when we witness that green building is a powerful, world-changing force that can create millions of jobs here in the United States and lift people out of degradation and poverty around the world.

We. Are. Right!

Powerful oppponents
We’re up against powerful forces who want to accelerate mountaintop coal removal; fast track a pipeline; or frack the hell out of every square inch of green-space we have left. Forces who actually don’t want government buildings or college campuses to save energy, save water, and save money – they just want to claim they do: “Trust me…it’s Green.”

Transparency in the content of building materials
Another issue of major concern [is] the organisations that work feverishly to deny the market transparency and accountability. If you even suggest that we bring more information to the marketplace, these folks revolt, and will do anything to keep us in the dark.

If we knew then what we know now about asbestos, would we have chosen to use it the way we did? Don’t you want to know if there are toxic VOCs [volatile organic compounds]  in your paint; flame retardants or formaldehyde in your furniture?

Seriously…don’t you want to know if there are bio-accumulative toxins, persistent organic pollutants, or endocrine disruptors used anywhere in your house – things that could ultimately end up harming your children?

Of course you do, because information allows you to make better decisions. And better decisions from better information supports true innovation that leads to new and improved products that challenge the existing ones for market share.

And some enlightened, 21st century companies get this, even though their pre-historic special-interest trade associations don’t.

These leadership companies are embracing health product declarations and green chemistry. They’re sitting at the table with us instead of isolating themselves from us; showing us their records and making their case. If you claim to be the best… if you claim to be healthier… …PROVE IT! You have a great product?… Prove it.

Just like leadership, green building is about transparency and accountability. We’ve seen the power and the influence brought by the “trust me” crowd. And we know, all too well, what they’re capable of. And what is our response to these folks?

Simple: Bring it on!

We’ll see your policy inertia, and raise you world-changing innovation and growth. Like the phone companies who pretended that cell phones were a fad, or newspapers that pretended the internet would go away – ignore us at your own peril.

The hornet’s nest
Will this disturb the special interest “hornets nest”? Absolutely.

We expect more misinformation campaigns in the halls of Congress; more hatchet jobs by “journalists” desperately seeking circulation instead of truth. And we say, bring it on!

Because we are ready for it. All of it! The critics. The cynics. The doubters. And yes…The scoundrels.

We’re ready to make the case for green buildings and communities. When people doubt that we can improve health outcomes, we’re going to show them the drawers of unused asthma inhalers in green schools.

We’re ready for the stubborn, uninformed politicians who are funded by and pander to special interests. We’re ready to break the stereotypes of sustainability and build bridges between business, government and NGO’s. We’re ready to challenge President Obama to do even more for green building in his next term.

Because our movement isn’t about red states or blue states – it’s about a future that puts our nation’s balance sheet back in the black by putting green in every neighborhood.

We’re ready to create millions of jobs and improve millions of lives.

We’re ready for the future we’ve been talking about, the future we’ve been dreaming about, the future we’ve been building for nearly 20 years.

So, my friends, let me close with three simple words. Own these words. Make them YOUR mantra. Take them with you when you leave Greenbuild.