Babson Center Welcomes Cook Lecture on Nov. 17

John Cook, director of sustainability, Niagara Bottling, LLC, will be the Babson Center’s Bryan Viewpoints Speaker for the 2022 Advent semester. He will offer his insights into the growing influence of sustainability directors in businesses given increases in regulatory oversight, climate change risks, activist investing, and consumer and employee social and environmental awareness.

During his visit, Cook will meet with students and faculty. He will deliver a public presentation, “Planting a ‘Green’ Seat in the C-Suite: Sustainability Leadership,” at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17, in the Torian Room at duPont Library. This event is co-sponsored by the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability, Sewanee Environmental Institute, and the Department of Natural Resources.

Prior to Cook’s role at Niagara Bottling, he served as the first director of sustainability at the University of California Riverside where he certified the first LEED Building on campus and installed the first campus PV solar array, among many accomplishments. He also worked as a consultant with Domani Sustainability, re-establishing a corporate recycling program for United Airlines. He started his career in academia and ultimately left for administration and then the for-profit business world, always with a goal of looking at consumption and growth through a sustainability lens.

Since 1963, Niagara Bottling, LLC, has been a family owned and operated company with 47 locations on three continents. It is the largest manufacturer of bottled water in North America and sells a range of products from spring to sparkling water, tea, vitamin enhanced water, and protein nutrition shakes. Niagara Bottling also manufactures private label bottled water for other companies, such as Costco and Safeway.

During an interview in 2018 with the International Society of Sustainability, Cook admitted that, “working for a bottled water company may seem a bit like an oxymoron for a sustainability officer, or like greenwashing at best. But it is not! At Niagara Bottling, I am working to drive sustainability in all aspects of our operations, our company culture, and our product.”

Building on 15 years of work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he recently oversaw the installation of more than 65 megawatts of renewable electricity at Niagara that immediately made a positive financial return. After overcoming some internal resistance, Niagara achieved LEED Gold certification for their new headquarters in Diamond Bar, CA, and received support to obtain TRUE Zero Waste certification for 33 of their manufacturing plants.

Cook began his college career at Texas A&M in marine science and as a cadet in the Merchant Marines. He graduated with an honors BA in fine arts studies from York University in Ontario, Canada, and then earned a PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and an MBA in Sustainability Management from Presidio Graduate School. Cook holds accreditation from the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, Alliance for Water Stewardship, TRUE Zero Waste and LEED.

The Bryan Viewpoints Speaker Series is sponsored by the Babson Center for Global Commerce and is made possible by a generous gift from Peggy and J.F. Bryan IV, C’65. For more information about the Babson Center for Global Commerce and our events, please visit: <>.

All are welcome to attend.

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