2018 Summit - What’s Your Sustainability Story? High-Impact Leaders in Sustainability

As the student panel left the stage, Frank Sesno engaged Chris Policinski, CEO of Land O’ Lakes, in conversation before the next panel appeared. Policinski spoke to the importance of storytelling in the business world. His organization is completely farmer owned, so for him it is important to communicate the stories of these farmers. Though farming is in the American heritage, and in our country’s memory, only 1.4% of the Americans are farmers today. This creates a major gap and distance between the people who grow our food and everyone else who consumes it. Policinski believes in bridging this gap in order to convey the stories of these farmers to the greater population.

The following panel consisted of Policinski, Beth Stewart, creative directory for Discovery’s in house ad agency, Felecia Nave, former provost of Prairie View A&M, and Roric Paulman, owner of Paulman Farms in Nebraska. Chris Mooney of The Washington Post listened to their stories, and then presented his findings to the audience: what would he choose from these characters’ work to write a story about?

Stewart and Discovery are partnering with the World Wildlife Fund in order to double the amount of wild tigers by the year 2022. Mooney identified three different stories, each for a cause of the declining tiger populations. The story about poaching considers the question, why haven’t we stopped this problem and what are the challenges facing the end of this problem? The second story hones in on conflict with humans. He suggested pursuing a character who realizes that conflict is not the only way to live with tigers and then chasing the story based around this character. The third story would focus in on habitat loss.

Mooney was interested in one of Policinski’s problems in particular: How is dialogue failing to occur between farmers and the rest of the population and what are some examples? This story would focus on this problem and how to find a solution.

Regarding Nave, Mooney brought to light the problems facing communication of science. The public will not always understand the point of scientific research if there is no clear result, if they do not understand how it is benefiting them. He says that it is crucial to link the science education and investment to innovation, company, product, and economic development. Without a solid outcome it is hard to relate science to a public audience.

Paulman's story also played the role of bridge building. Mooney wanted to know what made Paulman different that he was willing to engage in conversations about sustainable agriculture and the environment, whereas other farmers were not receptive to such conversation. What needs to be communicated to other farmers in order to bring this kind of conversation to the table, how do we get other farmers to care about this issue?

Up next: Climate FWD: How The New York Times is Transforming Environmental Reporting >

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.