Robert Watson | Founder of LEED and SWEEP

Robert Watson

Founder of LEED and SWEEP

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Robert Watson

World-renown sustainability expert, Rob Watson, is a maverick leader and disruptive change agent who solves systemic problems through market transformation and first-of-a-kind solutions. Widely considered one of the founders of the global green building movement, Rob is best known as the "Founding Father of LEED." Under his direction, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) became the most commonly used international standard by which green buildings are measured worldwide.

In the book Hot, Flat and Crowded, author Thomas Friedman called Rob "one of the best environmental minds in America," and in 2019, Rob was named by Dartmouth Alumni Magazine as one of The 25 Most Influential Alumni in the college's entire 250-year history.

A visionary who makes it real, his presentations are thought provoking, dynamic and engaging. Rob's award-winning experience and insights make him an exciting and popular keynote speaker on a wide range of environmental, business and futurist topics.

Rob has spent three decades conceiving and implementing market transformation policies, programs and projects on four continents that combine regulatory push with market pull to optimize environmental and economic outcomes.

Rob seeks to optimize energy and environmental benefits through the intersection of services and technologies across multiple sectors -- from green buildings, and sustainable urban mobility to zero waste management. Rob's influential work in green buildings, solid waste, and sustainable tourism has dramatically impacted multiple sectors including energy efficiency and climate change to make life better for all species on Earth.

As part of his market transformation approach, in 2016 Rob launched SWEEP, the Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Performance standard, a comprehensive sustainable materials management framework for municipal solid waste programs and private companies. From 2016 to 2018, Rob was recognized as an international Be Waste Wise Pioneer.

Since 2007, he has been in a leadership role at four clean tech start-ups ranging from international and US-based green building services & technology companies to a zero-waste technology.

Before this, as Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for over 21 years as Director of the International Energy and Green Building programs, Rob spent 10 years promoting energy efficiency and utility energy saving programs in Russia and the Former Soviet Union and another 10 years in China on green buildings. His influential work in green buildings, energy efficiency, solid waste, clean technology and sustainable tourism has led to wholesale change in these sectors across the globe.

Rob has been honored with several national and international awards. In 2019, he was named by Dartmouth Alumni Magazine as one of The 25 Most Influential Alumni in the college's 250 year history. He is also a 2019 Top 50 Construction Influencer according to Building Connected, an International Be Waste Wise Pioneer since 2016, and a 2013 BRIT International Award of Excellence in Conservation recipient. For his leadership as the Founder of LEED, Watson was the recipient of the First Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2002.

Notable awards for his international work include a commendation from Gosstroi, the Russian State Construction Ministry, for his work on the Sochi Olympics. Watson was also the first foreigner to receive the Energy Innovation Award from China's Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Development (formerly the Ministry of Construction) for his work on China's first green building, his contributions to China's energy efficiency building codes on residential and commercial buildings (the Three-Star green building rating system), and his contribution on the 2008 Beijing Olympics green building policy.

Rob has given hundreds of keynotes and participated on corporate, university and government panels as participant and moderator. He is consistently ranked #1 as an annual speaker at the Green Schools Alliance's Student Climate & Conservation Congress of the Department of Interior's National Conservation Training Center (NCTC).

Rob has authored and been featured in numerous articles and publications worldwide and is a regular speaker and conference keynote. Mr. Watson has an AB from Dartmouth College, an MSc from University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Columbia University. On a personal note, he is also a gardener, chef and former world-class rower. Desiring to give back, Rob recently also joined the faculty of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) as an Adjunct Professor.

Robert Watson
Featured Video

Current: Rob Watson, Father of LEED, Talks Green

Time 06:37

Robert Watson
Featured Keynote Programs

How Will Cities of the Future Work
Exploring Resilience in a Changing Climate

Urban areas need more connection to the environment and natural areas need less development. As human populations become more concentrated in urban areas because of better economic opportunities, new resilient systems are needed to ensure that this growth is environmentally, economically and equitably sustainable.

• What does “Future-proofing” mean – How do we reduce cities’ broad environmental footprints through more efficient buildings and practices, as well as develop urban water, transportation and waste management systems that are flexible and resilient in the face of upcoming challenges both anticipated and unforeseen.

• More roads…buses…rail lines are the answer! But what was the question? Look at the evolution of mobility in society and discusses how “access” is becoming the more dominant framework for evaluating the transportation network and what it means for how people will get from one place to another in the future.

• Because of its profound impact on society and our current economic system, climate change is one of the most polarizing topics in science and politics. Does an adequate response to the effects of a warming planet represent a threat to “our way of life,” or are human systems and ingenuity up to the task of a “soft landing”?

Constructing The World
Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency

Winston Churchill once said that “First we shape our buildings, then our buildings shape us.” It is now widely understood that the construction and operation of buildings is the most damaging of all human activities but, with the right approach, can also be a pathway to salvation. Explore what we can do about it.

• Learn, from the Founder of LEED himself, how high performance buildings and integrated sustainability best practices result in more profitable and healthier buildings.

• Learn first-hand from one of the founders of the movement about the opportunities and challenges of improving efficiency and productivity, and the policies and programs that promote this global movement.

• How Rob not only launched the global standard and also provided LEED certification services to over 30 million square feet of development and has helped certify 4 Platinum projects, including the first Platinum EBOM, CS and CI projects in China.

What’s Next and How Do We Get There?

Explore Global Trends, Innovation, Disruption, and Market transformation. A consultant to governments, NGOs and corporations worldwide, Rob has made a career of having his finger on the pulse and staying one step ahead.

• Transforming markets to sustainability is choice not fate. Learn the proven system of successfully transforming any market developed during the creation of the trillion dollar global green building market, which used a combination of regulatory-push and market-pull mechanisms.

• Changing the way we think is the most effective way to promote transformation. Learn about “what’s right” instead of “who’s right.” Challenge conventional thinking in order to overcome old thought patterns that prevent meaningful, profitable and sustainable change.

• How does a “Turnkey Lifecycle Sustainability” model combine the best of integrated green design, cleantech products and operations management to ensure a building’s optimal performance throughout its life?

Circular Economy
Sustainable Solid Waste/Materials Management & Recycling

Watson is at the forefront of technical innovation in solid waste management both through the lens of performance standards and corporate innovation. Rob discusses what it will take to bring about “the end of garbage” and what it means for our planet.

• Learn about modern waste management practices and the trends toward a zero-waste, circular economy society, as well as the answer to burning questions such as “paper or plastic?”

• Since 2016, the Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Protocol (SWEEP) has become a comprehensive environmental performance standard for municipal solid waste programs and private companies in the solid waste industry. Learn how it is transforming the market.

• Dive deep into the circular economy with Rob, Chief Sustainability Officer of EcoHub LLC, an innovative developer of environmentally friendly waste separation and processing complexes.

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