Column: Atlanta could be home to Prince of Wales’ sustainability program

By Maria Saporta
Friday, May 6, 2011

Metro Atlanta has a new link to British royalty.

From May 9 to May 12, Serenbe in south Fulton County will host the Prince of Wales’ Business & Sustainability Program for senior corporate executives.

Although the seminar has been held in the United States since 2001, it is the inaugural program in Atlanta. Organizers hope it will become an annual event in metro Atlanta.

“We hope Atlanta will be our permanent home,” said Karen Flanders-Reid, North American representative for the Prince of Wales Business & Sustainability Program. “We might have an East Coast and a West Coast seminar. But it is our hope that the East Coast program will be in Atlanta.”

The Prince of Wales (who also is known as Prince Charles and the heir to the British throne) started the business and sustainability program in 1994 in a partnership with the University of Cambridge.

Since then, the program has graduated more than 3,500 alumni around the world, and the Prince of Wales holds an annual reunion at his private residence at Highgrove. The keynote speaker at the last reunion was Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE.

The inaugural Atlanta seminar will have about 25 senior executives from numerous companies, including: The Coca-Cola Company, PwC, Rolls Royce North America, Southwire, LaFarge, Arup, Aflac, Weston Foods, Haverty’s Furniture, and The Boeing Company.

Flanders-Reid said the program targets executives who are at least senior vice presidents and those who are not in charge of their company’s sustainability efforts.

“Hopefully they will have a new way of looking at the world once they’ve gone through this seminar,” she said.

And Serenbe is an ideal location. Not only is it convenient to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Serenbe is a community focused on balanced growth, sustainability, green building, organic farming and smart environmental practices.

The four-day program will culminate with a reception on May 12 at the Nelson-Mullins law firm at Atlantic Station.

Famed Atlanta environmentalist Ray Anderson, chairman of Interface Inc., will be the guest of honor at that event.

Looking up at Cousins

At Cousins Properties Inc.’s 2011 annual meeting May 3, business was looking up.

Larry Gellerstedt, CEO of the real estate company, said the company is now better positioned to proactively seek investment opportunities.
“We really believe we are entering into an opportune time in the real estate industry,” Gellerstedt told shareholders.

The company did add a new member to its board — Dary Stone, a former Cousins vice chairman and president. It also added two new members to its executive team: Michael Cohn, executive vice president of retail investments; and Gregg Adzema, the new chief financial officer.

Gellerstedt said he hopes to be able to make his (all-white male) executive team more diverse as well as the board, which is an all-white male board with the exception of Lillian Giornelli, the daughter of founder Tom Cousins.

“It’s something I don’t feel comfortable with,” said Gellerstedt, who has been CEO for nearly two years. “Rich boards always have a lot of diversity.”

YWCA awards

It will be a first for the YWCA of Greater Atlanta.

At this year’s Salute to Women of Achievement luncheon on May 18, the YWCA will present it’s first “Y’s Man Award” to Tad Hutcheson, AirTran Airways’ vice president of marketing and sales.

“Tad has been wonderful to the YWCA and this entire community,” said Justine Boyd, CEO of the YWCA of Greater Atlanta.

The luncheon also will honor Kathy Betty, owner of the Atlanta Dream, as the 2011 Woman of Achievement.

The 2011 luncheon — the 28th annual event — is being co-chaired by Erica Qualls, general manager of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis; and Hala Moddelmog, president of Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc.

Aaron’s shows its camaraderie

Speaking of diversity, at last year’s Aaron’s Inc. annual meeting, founder Charlie Loudermilk said the company would have a woman director by its next annual meeting, held on May 3 this year.

“We are working real hard on that,” said Robin Loudermilk, CEO of the company.

The meeting always spotlights the great camaraderie on Aaron’s board.

Director John Portman, the internationally renowned architect and developer, received the highest percentage of votes — 98.4 percent — of any of the four directors standing for election. “I want to know who were the 2 percent who voted against me,” Portman said, laughing and adding that at his age he was just happy to be able to make it to the meeting.

Portman especially enjoyed getting a higher percentage of shareholder votes than founder Charlie Loudermilk, who received 95.7 percent.

“There’s no way I’m not going to tell Charlie about that,” Portman joked about Loudermilk, one of his closest friends.

Herman Russell honored

Nearly 600 people attended the Swan House Ball on April 30, which honored Herman Russell, founder of H.J. Russell & Co., one of the largest minority-owned construction firms in the United States. Russell received three standing ovations at the event.

The Swan House Ball was co-chaired by Jack Sawyer, president of Wilmington Trust (the presenting sponsor), and Lovette Russell. The ball raised more than $500,000 for the Atlanta History Center.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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