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Archive for November, 2017

Minnesota Environmental Fund: More than Workplace Giving

November 21st, 2017

As we get into the holiday season, there’s a lot of talk about giving back. While Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF) is a workplace giving organization that benefits 19 member organizations across Minnesota, it’s also a way for people to volunteer and get involved directly with conserving our environment. It’s more than workplace giving— it’s a way to give back.

What does volunteering with MEF look like?

1. This September, MEF coordinated a volunteer event for Carlson employees. They went to Burwell Park in Minnetonka for an afternoon of pulling invasive species around the Park.

2. MEF also offers opportunities for in-office volunteering or “speed volunteering.” We recently hosted a speed volunteering event at the HGA office in Minneapolis. Over the course of an hour, employees were able to join us in their break room to help assemble native seed packets and MEF note cards, both items that MEF uses as thank yous.

3. I recently led a volunteer event for alumni of the University of Minnesota. During the event, volunteers pulled invasive species along the Mississippi riverfront in Minneapolis.

4. Over the summer, MEF hosted a volunteer event with Mississippi Park Connection and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Volunteers spent the afternoon on the Mississippi riverfront at Mill Ruins Park pulling invasive species and planting native species. Volunteers joined a Park Ranger in the Amber Box at the Guthrie Theater to hear about the history of that industrial part of Minneapolis. MEF offered this event for those who live in and work in downtown Minneapolis, so that they could come together as a community to improve the environment. Some of the workplaces represented included: Wells Fargo, Jamf Software and the University of Minnesota.

5. Washington County hosted MEF at their Health, Safety and Wellness Fair. Washington County employees stopped by the MEF booth to participate in speed racing and help assemble native seed packets.

Bring Volunteering to Your Workplace

Does your employer offer giving and volunteering at work? MEF is currently offered to employees in over 100 Minnesota workplaces– including Environmental Initiative! MEF connects more than 200,000 employees with their communities. Employees love to help out, and MEF makes that possible– supporting so many great stories of caring for our environment! To learn more about volunteering or to sign up for a workplace learning activity, sign up here.

Find out about how you can contribute through workplace giving today by contacting Cordelia Pierson or by visiting www.mnenvirofund.org. Choose to help the environment. It adds up!


A note from Environmental Initiative:
We’re one of nineteen member organizations receiving support from Minnesota Environmental Fund’s workplace giving program. In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to share these event opportunities as you make plans to celebrate. Interested in adding Minnesota Environmental Fund to your workplace giving campaign? Learn more »

Cordelia Pierson

POSTED BY:

Executive Director, Minnesota Environmental Fund

Year Two of Farmer-Company Partnerships

November 16th, 2017

As someone who is working on Field Stewards, calling farmers, and running the numbers—I’m excited to tell you about impacts and outcomes in our second year!

First, you might be asking yourself, what is Field Stewards? Environmental Initiative, Conservation Marketplace Midwest, the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Kieser and Associates developed Field Stewards as a way to reward farmers who go above and beyond in their care of our natural resources. By providing a way for food companies to provide financial incentives to farmers who protect water quality on their farmland, we are investing in conservation leadership and a higher quality of life for communities across Minnesota.

FIELD STEWARDS BY THE NUMBERS

Before we get to this year’s accomplishments, I’m going to tell you about our first year.

In 2016, we…

  • Paid 15 Stearns County farmers who maintain a high level of environmental protection on their 2015 fields
  • Enrolled 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans that meet a high threshold for water quality – using practices like precision nutrient management, conservation tillage, and cover crops

So, what’s happened during Field Stewards’ second year? We’ve been busy, and in 2017, we…

  • Distributed payments to 25 farmers who met the threshold for water quality protection across their entire farm in 2016
  • Enrolled 2,000 acres of corn and soybean fields– double from the previous year

Quite the increase, right? We’re thankful for our partners, farmers, and food companies for making this year more impactful than the last. Payments to farmers were made possible by funding from Pilgrim’s Pride poultry company– an investment in the Stearns County community where their employees live, work and play.

NEXT STEPS

However, we know we still have a long way to go. As of 2012, there were 757,637 acres in crop production in Stearns County, so this is just a start for rewarding conservation leadership. And that’s only Stearns County! As Field Stewards continues to grow, we’ll have a whole state and region to work with.

Currently, we are talking to other companies who are interested in investing in sustainable agricultural supply chains and the natural resources of their communities. If you are interested in giving your company a sustainability boost, improving quality of life where your food production happens, or getting more information, talk to Greg Bohrer, who leads the Field Stewards program.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Field Stewards continues to create farmer-company partnerships that support those who go above and beyond for water quality. If you want to learn more about Field Stewards, visit our website at www.FieldStewards.org.

Erin Niehoff

POSTED BY:

Project Associate

Andersen Corporation: Member of the Month

November 15th, 2017

Andersen Corporation, a longtime supporter and partner of Environmental Initiative, is our Member of the Month for November. This year, at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards, Andersen’s Eliza Clark was honored as an Emerging Leader— the very first recipient of the award. Clark is the Director of Sustainability and Environmental at Andersen Corporation, a founding member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, and the Vice Chair of Super Bowl LII’s Sustainability Committee. She’s a standout in corporate sustainability, and known for unifying others. You can learn more below about Andersen Corporation’s environmental leadership below.

 

1. What drew you to be a board member of Environmental Initiative?

Andersen Corporation has been one of Environmental Initiative’s longest and most enthusiastic supporters. We believe in the power of unconventional partnerships to solve tough problems, which is at the core of Environmental Initiative’s mission. I am proud and humbled to have the opportunity to serve on the board of an organization that is both convening and leading some of the most innovative and effective environmental programs in our region.

2. What makes Environmental Initiative such a hub for successful environmental collaborations?

I believe Environmental Initiative’s success is largely due to its outstanding staff who have consistently demonstrated not only technical acumen, but also authenticity, empathy, and inclusiveness over the organization’s 25-year history. Leaders across our region have come to trust Environmental Initiative to help bridge challenging barriers to build understanding, focus, and momentum.

3. How does Environmental Initiative support your goals and mission as Director of Sustainability at Andersen Corporation?

We have bold goals at Andersen to advance environmental responsibility outside our four walls. Environmental Initiative provides a key platform to work with other companies, NGOs, and public sector partners to assess and tackle systemic problems and opportunities.

4. Andersen Corporation has sponsored Environmental Initiative’s Business and the Environment Series for over a decade. Why?

The Business and the Environment Series (fondly known as “BES” to its regulars) has consistently delivered quality educational content and best practice sharing among environmental practitioners across Minnesota. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to foster, support and grow this network of collaborators who share the belief that our society benefits when we share knowledge and resources.

5. You were the 2017 recipient of Environmental Initiative’s Emerging Leader award. What did receiving the award mean to you?

This year’s Environmental Initiative Awards had a special dynamism tied to the organization’s 25th anniversary. It was amazing to feel the energy and shared resolve in the room that evening. As I stated in my remarks, I feel incredibly lucky to be working in the field of sustainability within the best environmental community anywhere– much of which is tied to Environmental Initiative’s leadership and history.

6. As we look to the future, what role do you see Environmental Initiative playing in advancing sustainability in our region?

With programs like the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, Environmental Initiative is on the cusp of an exciting new chapter in its history– one the is propelled by its extensive network and credibility as an effective convener. I am very excited for the work ahead of the organization and look forward to celebrating many measurable wins and partnerships over the next 25 years!


Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

Give back while shopping this holiday season

November 13th, 2017

The holidays are fast approaching (Crazy, right?! Where did 2017 go?) and with the holidays comes shopping.

I wanted to remind everyone shopping this holiday season that you can give back while buying your niece that new science experiment kit.  Amazon has this great thing called AmazonSmile.  What’s this you ask?  AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization (Environmental Initiative) every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.

How does this work?

How do I shop at AmazonSmile?

To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to smile.amazon.com from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to smile.amazon.com to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.

Which products on AmazonSmile are eligible for charitable donations?

Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. Recurring Subscribe-and-Save purchases and subscription renewals are not currently eligible.

Can I use my existing Amazon.com account on AmazonSmile?

Yes, you use the same account on Amazon.com and AmazonSmile. Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same.

How do I select a charitable organization to support when shopping on AmazonSmile?

On your first visit to AmazonSmile smile.amazon.com, you need to select a charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. We will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation.

Can I change my charity?

Yes, you can change your charity any time. Your AmazonSmile purchases after the change count towards your newly selected charity. To change your charity, sign in to smile.amazon.com on your desktop or mobile phone browser and simply select “Change your Charity” in “Your Account.”

What charities can I choose from?

You can choose from almost one million eligible 501(c)(3) public charitable organizations, which includes Environmental Initiative.

Thanks for your contribution this holiday season

I hope this was a helpful reminder for your holiday and everyday shopping on Amazon. If you still have more questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Thank you to everyone that supports Environmental Initiative. We could not do this work without you. Happy Holidays!

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

Julie Blackburn– A Champion For Impact Through Partnership

November 7th, 2017

Julie Blackburn has been a longtime supporter and member of Environmental Initiative. In her prior role as Assistant Director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources, Julie was a key partner on the Land and Water Policy Project led by Environmental Initiative nearly ten years ago, which resulted in recommendations to streamline and better coordinate state and local resource planning efforts.

Now Julie leads the Minnesota regional office for RESPEC Consulting and Services and is a member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC). Made up of 12 individuals representing state legislators and public appointees, the LSOHC is responsible for making annual funding recommendations to the state legislature for projects funded by the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and provides approximately $80 million in annual funding for projects that restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife across Minnesota.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund Outcomes Project

In early 2017, the LSOHC contracted with Environmental Initiative to design and manage a process to define intended outcomes and impacts for the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The first phase of this endeavor concluded in July 2017 with a report that synthesizes outcome and indicator recommendations from stakeholders representing thought leaders and experts in conservation from various sectors and perspectives. The stakeholder work group for this process was tasked with developing recommended outcome metrics for the Outdoor Heritage Fund to demonstrate public benefit resulting from fund investments and provide accountability to the Legislature and to taxpayers for the use of public money invested via the fund.

Our short process resulted in recommended outcome statements related to fish habitat, wildlife/game habitat, outdoor recreation, and secondary benefits to people resulting from Outdoor Heritage Fund investments. Furthermore, the group identified specific indicators that could be used to measure progress toward these intended outcomes. Further work to explore potential data sources and measurement methods to evaluate the outcomes is anticipated in the near future. You can read more about the process and project results here »

Leadership & Shared Values

Throughout our organization, but especially in our policy work, our processes are highly focused on outcomes, accountability, and open exchange of ideas. In the Outdoor Heritage Fund project specifically, I got to see Julie also exhibit and apply these values. On topics like habitat conservation, where many people are extremely knowledgeable and passionate, it’s difficult to pull up out of the weeds of the technical details to focus on partnership and collaboration. But, Julie was an early advocate and important partner throughout this project and we are grateful for her leadership and willingness to advocate for transparency, accountability, and the ultimate impacts resulting from this important resource for Minnesota’s conservation legacy.

Ultimately, Julie’s dedication and willingness to put in the hard work and perseverance that partnership requires made the process successful. As an organization, we’re thankful to have people like Julie—who showcase a true, collaborative spirit and bring it to their work—in our corner and in our community.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th anniversary, members of our staff will take turns throughout the year highlighting the organization’s most influential and effective collaborators. We want to say thank you to the amazing people who help us achieve all we do. 

Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Program Director

How can Businesses move to Action on Sustainability?

November 6th, 2017

You’ve thought about it. You’ve talked about it—a lot. You’ve included it as a bullet point on hundreds of PowerPoint presentations. But for many senior leaders, sustainability has been a subject that’s outside of the normal scope of business—too difficult to wrap your arms around and too all-encompassing to manage effectively.

Multiple goals, multiple disciplines

While smart businesspeople understand the core components of running a profitable enterprise and can easily connect the roles of finance, marketing, and operations, they can get tripped up when trying to manage to sustainability. Why? One reason can be that while each successful business function maintains its own unique competencies, they are all ultimately aligned around a single metric of maximizing shareholder wealth. But when you take on the issues of sustainability, not all profits are equal. How you seek profitability becomes influenced by a wide variety of complex issues, ranging from removing toxic substances in products and reducing greenhouse gas emissions across diverse supply chains to increasing workplace safety, advancing community development, and incentivizing diversity and inclusion in your supplier network.

Not only are there more things to measure, but managing sustainability requires new and different skills and capabilities to find profits amid stakeholder-driven trade-offs between sustainability objectives, shifting social and environmental impacts across geographies and organizations, and long-term performance targets spanning decades. Without the increasingly requisite business acumen of sustainability, it can feel like just a collection moving targets that are difficult to measure and rarely actually accomplished in any real sense.

Many organizations are investing in their employees and systems to measure, report and improve sustainability performance. It’s widely reported that more than 80% of large companies are reporting on their sustainability goals and performance, a niche activity just five years ago. And, it’s not just reporting. More than 300 global companies, representing $6.5 trillion in market value and CO2 emissions of 158 million cars annually, have committed to set “science base”’ emissions reduction targets in line with the United Nations Paris Agreement to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Companies don’t commit to targets lightly. It’s no surprise that within companies like 3M, General Mills, Target, and many more, the sustainability function is growing and increasingly being integrated into the strategies and operations in order to successfully meet sustainability goals.

Secret sauce

wind turnbineInvestments in sustainability are admirable, but when it comes to the bottom line, they still need to payoff. Finding where your company’s opportunities to integrate sustainability reside isn’t always easy, but it can lead to cost advantages, risk reduction and preferred status among key customers. An example of this in action can be seen in firms’ efforts to manage sustainability in their supply chains. Companies want to know the sustainability impact of their supply chains, and much of my research focuses on helping them uncover these upstream risks and opportunities.

For the past three years, we have been working with environmental non-profits and large food companies to map high-impact agricultural inputs through complex food systems’ supply chains. This work highlights that the strategies most effective in reducing emissions or managing water impacts for Cargill are very different than those available to Smithfield Foods or Tyson Foods. In the case of Smithfield Foods, our models and tools have helped inform the company’s recent commitment to reduce its total CO2emissions by 25% by 2025. Targeted strategies to meet this goal–and the increasing requirements of large downstream retailers–are being implemented across feed procurement, energy and manure management, and in their operations and transportation.

Finding your way to action

With this range of challenge and depth of expected outcomes, how can senior business leaders navigate the multiple and winding pathways of sustainability from talking points to action plans? One excellent place is with the new eight-day Comprehensive Executive Program on Leading Sustainability.

To describe this program as “multidisciplinary” does not begin to do it justice. A partnership between the Carlson School and the Institute on the Environment, this course began by the gathering of input from seventeen regional firms with a proven record of sustainability effectiveness. The course itself will be presented by business practitioners from leading companies and professors from top universities, all of whom are actively shaping sustainability best-practice on the ground.

It’s an opportunity to move from thinking about sustainability to uncovering ways you can effectively act on it within your own organization. To present meaningful and robust living case studies, we’ve gathered leaders from companies including Target, General Mills, Cargill, and 3M to help shape and enhance this course, ensuring a highly inspirational, educational, and practical experience. Participants will have the opportunity explore and create sustainability frameworks and analyses through exercises, homework, and group work. We’ll work with you to find ways to prioritize sustainability aspects appropriate and applicable to your own organization, and to open doors to meaningful and prosperous action toward sustainable practices.


You can join Carlson School of Management January through April 2018, for a program that can help propel your organization toward a step-change in sustainability leadership. Learn more here. https://carlsonschool.umn.edu/executive-education/courses/leading-sustainability

Tim Smith

POSTED BY:

Professor, Sustainable Systems Management, Carlson School of Management
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