Actor and noted sustainability speaker Kal Penn spoke on "Climate action required: A business imperative" at NRF 2023: Retail's Big Show. Penn graduated from UCLA with a double major in film and sociology. This doubleness has been a constant aspect of his career. In April 2009, he joined the Obama administration as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, which resulted in his TV character, Lawrence Kutner, being written out of the series "House."
Penn said he was invited to speak at the Big Show to discuss the intersection of climate, clean energy, and business in a way that brings together policymakers, consumers, and the business industry in addressing these matters.
During his time at the Obama White House, he was assigned to host a youth summit on climate with about 140 seats to fill. Penn divided the invitations into thirds. One-third of the guests were young progressive climate advocates. The second third consisted of young evangelical Christian conservatives who approached climate preservation from a faith-based perspective despite disagreeing with 99% of President Obama's proposals. The remaining third were young CEOs, and business owners focused on developing new products that improve the world. According to Penn, the results were inspiring to see as these groups came up with a clear set of solutions and action steps to move forward.
Penn's comments laid the groundwork for the rest of the session. He and Scot Case, NRF's Vice President for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, discussed retailers' role in climate issues.
When Case mentioned that retailers segment their audience constantly, Penn replied that it depends on the story they're telling. According to Penn, most consumers would prefer to purchase a product that helps the environment. Consumers don't need to choose between something good for the planet or something efficient. It is feasible to have both, and retailers can be straightforward about it. Penn suggested that retailers say, "Hey, here's a product that we maybe didn't design with environmental stability in mind, but oh, by the way, it does that."
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