Sustainability Exchange: 10 Years of Industry-Leading Debate


More than 300 senior executives from across the infrastructure and natural resources sectors joined the 10th annual IFC Sustainability Exchange in late May to discuss and debate critical issues related to large footprint projects, disruptive technology, climate change, and other key business concerns at the intersection of international and community development.

The invitation-only event brought together corporate leaders, sustainability experts, academics, and civil society representatives for frank discussions about trends in energy, transportation, mining, and other sectors, including overlaps between them in an increasingly inter-connected global economy.

This year’s theme, “Preparing for the Future: Reflecting on a Decade of Bridging Communities, Companies, and Governments”, included a look back at IFC’s Performance Standards, which were launched in 2006, as at the Sustainability Exchange itself that began that same year and has become a key meeting point for practitioners in emerging markets.

“It’s more critical than ever that we share knowledge and lessons learned between industries, and find ways to replicate and scale-up successful solutions,” said Lance Crist, IFC’s Global Head of Natural Resources.

While the Sustainability Exchange had its roots in the oil, gas, and mining sectors, it has over the years grown in size as well as scope, and this year included significant focus on renewable power, including the intersection of clean energy and mining, for instance in the need for copper, platinum, and other metals and minerals to build solar panels or create fuel cell car engines.

Other key themes included:

  • Strategies to integrate disruptive technologies and manage trade-offs that may occur—including between health and safety benefits and potential job losses.
  • Ways to reconcile growing global energy demands with increasing climate concerns, including at the intersection of mining and renewable power.
  • Approaches to engage young people in emerging markets, where youth unemployment rates can be high. A large global consumer products company shared their program to engage with youth on HIV awareness and prevention.
  • Innovations in storytelling, including using the digital sphere to communicating core messages. Media experts emphasized open, honest storytelling as a strong defense against misinformation.

This year’s event included nearly 30 different sessions, ranging from traditional panels to “snap chats” and “tech talks.” Participants were also shared their personal and professional stories using the Exchange’s Storytelling Booth, capturing a range of experiences related to sustainability, project development, and personal journeys.

For more information on the Sustainability Exchange, visit

Published in June 2016