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Marc R. Pacheco, US

Massachusetts State Senator, Chairman of the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change

What does sustainable entrepreneurship mean to you personally?

Sustainability is something I care very deeply about. Entrepreneurship is a very important piece of that because it helps to improve our environment and – when done correctly – it greens up the bottom line of companies. The SEA’s work is crucial to accomplishing the dreams of those in the environmental community. Without entrepreneurs that are truly sustainable, we will never see those dreams become reality.

How firmly rooted do you believe sustainable entrepreneurship already is in people’s thinking and above all in the actions of companies?

Well, we are seeing much more activity among companies in the US now. Some areas have moved forward quickly, such as the green tech industry or those in the green building field, but it has not been the aggressive movement that I’d personally like to see. I am proud to be from Massachusetts, a state that is the number one in the US in energy efficiency, and that is developing very rapidly in all the other areas of sustainability. There are many other states that are leading in the US as well. The problem is we don’t have a consensus for moving forward on a national level; we have 50 separate states and a complex political structure. But we are very close to a tipping point that would achieve that consensus.

Are there any differences between the US and Europe?

I think that Europe is probably number one in the world in terms of what they are doing with sustainability. What has been done, not only in Austria but in many European countries, is extraordinary.

But we, in America, still have a long way to go. There are lots of similarities between US states and European states now. Why don’t we act in concert? Well, we can, with increased EU-US cooperation.

I sometimes have the feeling that sustainable entrepreneurship has become even more relevant in the wake of the crisis. Would you agree?

Yes, absolutely. There is a debate going on, not only in the EU but all around the world, about how much we should invest in trying to solve the climate crisis and in sustainability. I think that sustainability is an excellent investment. It pays dividends and it is a new way to create jobs. In the US and the EU there are lots of opportunities for us to work together to market some of the new technology and the skills that we have developed.

Politics, industry, society. What do you think should be the driving force for the further development?

Ultimately, you’d have a mutually supportive role in all three areas; all have to head in the same direction. We must always be improving the process and continuing to change. It doesn’t do any good to just rest on some of the actions that have taken place; it is important that we continue to deploy the most efficient and effective technologies, policies and strategies to have a good overall sustainability process.

How important is an international initiative like the SEA?

I had heard a lot about the SEA gala before, but nothing could have totally prepared me for it. It was a tremendous and emotional event that put the type of emphasis on the sustainability issue that it truly needs. It sets a high standard for recognising those who are truly being sustainable in the world. It also has become a world-class event now, so, the work Christina Weidinger has done is amazing and marks an international achievement.

You are the first SEA ambassador, which is an honourable job …

Yes, personally, I was very honoured and humbled to have been asked to take on this type of role.

To me, it’s an opportunity to get the message to companies around the world that they have a vehicle by which they can inform people about what they are doing to be more sustainable.  One doesn’t have to win the SEA; I think by being involved you are a winner. The more we can spread information and stories about sustainability, the more sustainable the world will become. In some small way, as an ambassador, I am trying to invest as much time as possible to help achieve big results.

The next step of the SEA is to install an International Business Association for Sustainable Entrepreneurship – a platform for entrepreneurs to exchange their ideas. Will that help?

Yes. I think it benefits companies and countries on both sides of the Atlantic. The idea of establishing an entrepreneur exchange and organisation between the EU and the US is very important, particularly now, when Barack Obama has taken that US-EU message that reemphasises doing more together on the world stage. We should look at the sustainable entrepreneurs and the ways we can share some of our visions and also collaborate with some membership organisations in the US. I certainly want to support that.

In the future there will be a SEA quality seal – what do you think about this idea?

That’s a great idea and a worthy goal. There are many companies right now that are talking about sustainability but offer nothing more than greenwashing. I am very happy the SEA is not taking part in that. That’s why I was willing to sign on in America to help with some of those issues. We should concentrate on making sure that companies claiming to be sustainable actually are; then people will look at it objectively. I think we should involve some international environmental organisations as well. They could help to create standards internationally. It would really help the entrepreneurial community to know that these are legitimate sustainability standards, with a seal of approval, from those who have independent credibility internationally.

To what extent can each one of us contribute towards increasing the relevance of sustainability?

We all have the individual power to act in and around our own environment and to try to make a difference. We are not only citizens of our individual communities; we are citizens of the world. I think we can insist as individual citizens that the companies we do business with also are as sustainable as possible; we can be involved in our own communities in a way that makes sustainability one of our top priorities. There are a number of ways that we, as citizens of the world, can discover how to develop a deeper relationship between the US and EU as it pertains to sustainability.