When it comes to future collaboration between the government and private sector on climate and sustainability issues, there are some clouds in the sky with the strong possibility of sunnier days ahead. 

That was the overriding message from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s event on Monday, October 23, titled “Meeting Climate and Sustainability Goals: A Collaboration Between Government and the Private Sector.” 

The three-part meeting began with a welcome from Judy Martinez-Faye, the Head of Siemens’ State and Local Affairs for the Midwest Region, Texas, and California. She pointed out that Chicago is well-positioned to be a global leader in modern infrastructure, which underscores the importance of a strong collaborative relationship between the government and private businesses. 

She then kicked off the first discussion with a chat between Eric Lotz, National Federal Business Development Director with Siemens, and Sandrine Schultz, the Advisor on Sustainability and Green Buildings with the U.S. General Services Administration.  

Schultz — who previously worked as Director of Energy and Sustainability for Chicago Public Schools — pointed to the electrification of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., as an example of ambitious projects coming to fruition. The electrification of the building will save over $6.3 million in energy costs annually and reduce emissions by 16,000 tons, according to the GSA’s website.  

The second discussion, titled “Revitalizing the Windy City: Programs for Chicagoland’s Sustainable Future,” brought the issue closer to home. Led by moderator Jon Powell, the Global Head of the Sustainability Practice with Salesforce, the group included Illinois State Representative Eva-Dina Delgado, Cook County Sustainability Officer Deborah Stone, and Chicago Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar

The group noted that the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) is the first legislation of its type in the country and could serve as a model across the nation as we work toward a sustainable future with more clean energy jobs.  

The group applauded the legislation’s spirit but noted that, while addressing climate issues is critical for the entire city, it’s particularly important in areas that have typically been underserved. These areas have more flooding, a higher temperature during the summer due to less tree cover, and fewer EV charging stations. With these factors in mind, the group agreed that it’s critical to acknowledge Chicago’s history of disinvestment and work to create greater environmental equity in the city.  

The last event, titled “Data-Driven Sustainability: Best Practices for Private Sector Power for a Greener Future,” detailed the importance of incorporating data and analytical work into the sustainability effort. The discussion was led by Brad Tietz, Vice President of Government Relations and Strategy with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and included Erika Gupta, Head of Sustainability and Environmental Initiatives with Siemens; Tom Michels, Director of Government Affairs with United Airlines; Peter Skosey, Executive Director for Public for and Government Affairs with BNSF Railway; and Scott Vogt, Vice President of Energy Acquisition with ComEd. 

This group acknowledged the positive momentum in today’s sustainability movement, but repeatedly noted the issues that vex the national – and global – effort. When it comes to cost, for instance, the group discussed this example: the cost of decarbonizing one building to 100% is the same as decarbonizing two buildings to 90%. This example illustrates the complicated nature of the sustainability effort, but the group ended on this promising note: “When we bring together these partnerships between the government and private sector, it can be a win/win.” 

Check out more photos from the event!