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Leading the region to a clean energy economy

October 10th, 2017

Corporate demand for renewable energy is one of the key drivers in renewables growth in the United States. According to a recent Deloitte Resources 2017 Study, “What’s clear is that the train has left the station: Renewable energy is vital for corporations, and corporate procurement now rivals policy as a driver of growth in the sector.”

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition (MNSGC) is getting on board, leading the region to a clean energy economy. Coalition members are working together to find the best opportunities to collectively add more renewable energy to our existing systems. The group has identified aggregating renewable energy purchasing as a tangible way to demonstrate the demand for renewables in Minnesota.

In partnership with national experts, World Resources Institute and Rocky Mountain Institute, coalition members are planning a series of trainings with the goal of identifying and pursuing utility-based and non-utility renewable energy, both individually and collectively.

After months of planning, the Coalition kicked off this effort by hosting a webinar with WRI. This opportunity set a foundation of common understanding of best practices for corporate renewable energy procurement and introduced Coalition members to the factors unique to the Minnesota landscape.

Next, the Coalition will host Renewables Purchasing: Corporate Leadership through Clean Energy, a day-long event on the renewable energy procurement options available for the private sector in Minnesota. Through facilitated conversations, participants and organizations will:

  • Explore all the options available to Minnesota companies to procure renewable energy in the state of Minnesota (utility and non-utility)
  • Provide feedback on utilities’ renewable energy purchasing options and identify ways to improve future offerings
  • Identify which procurement options attendees want to pursue beyond this event— aggregated and individual— and have the opportunity to further engage, act on, and/or develop those options

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is on the cutting edge of the corporate renewable purchasing trend. The landscape has grown exponentially in the last 5 years. The Coalition’s pursuit of renewables purchasing, especially the potential for aggregating demand, showcases true regional leadership and our commitment to 100% renewables in Minnesota, and ultimately, a circular economy.

Stephanie Weir

POSTED BY:

Project Manager

Meet Waste Management, our Member of the Month

October 2nd, 2017

Waste Management (WM) has a long tradition of investment in the communities that we serve. Our presence in the community is visible and starts with our drivers and the connection that they make with our customers every day and continues with the significant contributions that our company makes to a variety of causes.

Although WM is an environmental services company, our contributions and community relations efforts go well beyond the environmental scope of our business. Our involvement in the community is big and small, ranging from having a WM truck visit a cancer-stricken child on his birthday to contributing millions of dollars to the Red Cross to assist with Hurricane Harvey. Giving back is firmly entrenched in the WM culture and it is our belief that partnering with the communities that we serve will create a brighter future for all.

A Partner for Cleaner Air & Collective Learning

At home in Minnesota, WM began working more closely with the Environmental Initiative in 2002 and through the Clean Air Minnesota program, we pioneered the use of DPF filters on our trucks to reduce truck emissions. This was a step in the right direction for air quality in the metro area that ultimately led our company to invest in Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) trucks— a nationwide effort to switch from diesel to CNG that began in 2008 and continues today. CNG fueling station installation and investment in a CNG fleet have reduced greenhouse gas emissions significantly for our company and for the communities that we serve.

As a past Environmental Initiative Board member, I enjoyed various roles: from advising the organization on their Business and Environment Series to reviewing their various programs to giving direction on stakeholder group convenings. These events that engage multiple parties in discussions related to the environment are like “old home week,” because they provide a great opportunity to network with people that I have connected with over the years, but also to meet newcomers to the environmental field.

One of my fondest memories with Environmental Initiative was a matching contribution that Waste Management made to the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity for the first green building home in the Twin Cities. WM used the building of this home in Crystal as an opportunity for a team building exercise for our Area’s leadership team. WM gained employee engagement through our hands-on work by helping other volunteers build this home, and the reward of giving back to a family in need was impactful. It was fun and a learning experience at the same time! WM also got to attend the open house for the future owners which was very gratifying.I have been with WM for over 15 years, and never have our volunteer efforts and community partnerships been a more important part of our culture.  We will continue to support Environmental Initiative because we believe it is an organization that has served a crucial role in efforts to improve the communities in which we all live and work.

I have been with WM for more than 15 years, and our volunteer efforts and community partnerships have never been a more important part of our culture than they are now. We will continue to support Environmental Initiative because we believe they have served a crucial role in efforts to improve the communities in which we all live and work.

Congratulations to Mike Harley on his upcoming 20-year anniversary with the organization! You have a lot to be proud of and we appreciate all that you have done.


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.

POSTED BY:

Government Affairs, Waste Management

Our Journey to Shape a Circular Economy (So Far)

September 28th, 2017

About 18 months ago, Environmental Initiative and Minnesota’s business leaders began drawing up a new partnership. Along with sustainability experts in our state, we came to the conclusion that no one company can solve the environmental problems of today on their own. Huge issues, like Minnesota’s water quality or organic waste recycling, cannot be completely addressed by one company alone.

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition came out of that realization. The Coalition is a business-led initiative focused on collective action. The growing partnership started out with a huge goal: move from a linear, waste-generating economy to a circular, waste-transforming economy.

A year and a half later, the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is a group of more than 30 members who’ve achieved a great deal to begin making impactful change.

Year one, and a little more

We officially launched the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition in June 2016 and were immediately noticed, with over 500,000 social media impressions and coverage in 12 local and national news outlets. We were even called out in the Harvard Business Review as one of the top 9 sustainability trends in 2016. By 2017, the number of coalition members has doubled to 32, including seven from the Fortune 500. The need and desire for this type of innovative partnership were apparent.In its first year, members worked together to develop the infrastructure to support such major undertakings, despite being composed of highly diverse organizations. Perhaps most importantly, we developed our first three focus areas – advancing clean energy, converting organic waste into valuable resources, and protecting or restoring the natural water cycle.

In its first year, members worked together to develop the infrastructure to support such major undertakings, despite being composed of highly diverse organizations. Perhaps most importantly, we developed our first three focus areas – advancing clean energy, converting organic waste into valuable resources, and protecting or restoring the natural water cycle.

Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition Meeting 8-17-16

100 percent renewable energy

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition recognized early on that a circular economy can only exist if it is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, which is why members selected clean energy as the initial priority for action.

Throughout 2017, we’ve been focused almost solely on how we can advance that goal. Currently, we’re working on building a roadmap for the state of Minnesota to follow and work toward 100 percent renewable energy. The Coalition is also planning a series of workshops for members to better understand renewable energy options available to them and how to work together to purchase renewable energy more efficiently.

Impacts on water

Our next area of work—which we’ve just begun scoping— will focus on the role Minnesota businesses can play in improving regional waterways, which are in many ways our most valuable natural resource. We can’t wait to be able to share more details with you in the coming months.

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition has made a lot of headway in the past 18 months in defining and shaping goals toward such a big outcome—a regional, circular economy. What makes it exciting is the way this work is taking shape. We’re beginning to see the true potential for a circular system. Through our work so far, we know our goal is possible and achievable—and will have a limitless impact.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Sustainability Snapshot: The Metropolitan Airports Commission

July 26th, 2017

Every quarter, the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition holds meetings with more than 30 members to discuss updates, our three focus areas (renewable energy, clean water, and organics), and ultimately how we’re working toward a circular economy through sustainability.

Working toward a “circular economy” is still a wonky concept to many folks, but something that’s a little easier to wrap our heads around are on-the-ground sustainability efforts by our members. Together, we’re working to combine these efforts, and the minds behind them, to make transformative results possible. In other words, no one business alone can transform the way we see waste, water, or energy.

Each business and organization in the Coalition is simply building on their existing sustainability efforts by working together to create a cumulative impact.

In our last meeting, we got to know what one of our members, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), is currently doing in their sustainability operations—and what they bring to the table for collective action. Walking through the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), we all got to know the ways the MAC is saving water, promoting local business, and meeting customer needs.

SUSTAINABILITY AT MSP

Restroom Retrofits

The MAC is in the process of redesigning all MSP restrooms with the environment and patrons in mind. The estimated water savings from the restrooms redesigned to date is approximately seven million gallons per year! Bathrooms also incorporate LED lighting, but use daylighting when possible.

The MAC has also taken measures to increase accessibility to those with disabilities, such as speaker and thermal cues when a restroom is closed for cleaning. They’ve also added four lactation rooms, one nursing room with one under construction, and service animal and pet relief rooms at MSP.

Local and Sustainable Businesses

The MAC features a variety of local and sustainable businesses within the airport, furthering their sustainability goals. Below are just a few of them.

  • Open Book: A collaboration between the Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions, and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, this local non-profit offers MSP travelers an ever-changing selection of the latest books, as well as an eclectic assortment of gifts and artwork.
  • LoLo: This locally-owned, locally-operated restaurant in MSP changes 40% of its menu with change in seasons, and serves locally-sourced food and drink.
  • Angel Food Bakery and Doughnut Bar: The MAC sets goals for bringing in Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; this woman-owned bakery is one such business, serving amazing items made from locally-sourced ingredients
  • Hammer Made: This specialty men’s shop offers distinctive, limited-run shirts and accessories by a local designer. The limited runs reduce fabric use, and any extra fabric is used as shirt trim or made into boxer shorts.
  • Stone Arch: With a concept developed by a local Minneapolis team, Stone Arch offers numerous kinds of local craft beer in partnership with the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild

Organics

All concessionaires at MSP– in Terminal 1-Lindbergh and Terminal 2-Humphrey– participate in the MAC’s MSP back-of-house organics composting program. The MAC was able to divert and compost 354 tons of organics in 2016 through partnership with MSP concessionaires. In addition, 91.4 tons of used cooking oil was recycled, and 1,520 tons of other material were recycled or diverted in 2016.

You can learn more about the MAC and MSP’s sustainability efforts by reading their 2016 sustainability report, available here »

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Paris Withdrawal Won’t Stop Business Sustainability

June 27th, 2017

In the wake of the United States leaving the Paris Climate Agreements, many states, cities, and individual companies have taken pledges to continue sustainability efforts. In Minnesota, we’re lucky to have major companies and thought leaders stand firm in their commitment to environmental protection, including many members of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition.

In an effort to work toward a circular economy, environmental protection and stewardship must be a high priority. Several Coalition members have issued public statements and/or been in public support of the Paris Climate Agreements, demonstrating the leadership in our community on environmental issues.

The fact is, a commitment to the Paris Agreements, and more broadly our environment, is a smart business decision no matter your priorities.

STAYING GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE

One of the main reasons that companies and government entities are still following through with climate promises is to stay competitive. Cargill issued a statement reflecting their need to remain globally competitive, concluding that the Paris accords impact “trade, economic vitality, the state of our environment, and relationships amongst the world community.” Because of this, CEO David MacLennan said Cargill will not back away from efforts
to reduce climate change.

General Mills and several leading companies (Google, Walmart, Unilever, and more) echoed that sentiment with a letter to the President to express why the Paris Climate Agreements are important to their ability to compete globally: “the agreement ensures a more balanced global effort, reducing the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies.”

INNOVATION & OPEN MARKETS

Part of being globally competitive is practicing innovation. The Paris Climate Agreements helped companies to innovate and create technologies that lower business costs. That new technology allows companies to enter new markets and keep markets open. Dow commented on how they will act in light of the executive decision, saying they will “continue to advocate for smart policies that enable the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that global markets stay open to American exports and innovation.”

Thomson Reuters also commented on the importance of climate innovation: “In short, having a sustainability strategy integrated into your business model is an efficiency, growth and innovation driver.”

COMMITTING TO CUSTOMERS

In addition to economic arguments, Xcel Energy made a more values-driven appeal. In an op-ed, Xcel’s CEO calls out the value of their customers, and responding to their interests in achieving a higher standard of environmental protection. As a result, Xcel is already on a “path to reduce carbon emissions by 45%
by 2021, well ahead of the U.S.-Paris commitment.”

Best Buy also highlighted what they’re doing in response to customer interests, saying, “Best Buy is focused on reducing our own carbon impact, and helping our customers use less energy as well… Collective action will result in a healthier world for generations to come.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

In the end, Minnesota businesses and corporations are dedicated to the environment for more than just regulatory reasons. Investing in environmental protection is a smart business decision. Even more than that, private-sector leaders see lessened environmental protections as harmful to their organizations and global markets as a whole.

These businesses, our state, and many others are still committed to action on the environment. It’s because of that leadership that we can still look forward to climate action for years to come.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Sitting Down with an Emerging Leader: Eliza Clark

May 10th, 2017

In honor of our 25th anniversary, we’re taking the time to honor those who’ve been essential and influential in Minnesota’s environmental community. In addition to celebrating outstanding projects, we’re also recognizing the leaders that have helped us get to this point, and those that will continue to improve our community.

Eliza Clark is the Director of Sustainability and Environmental at Andersen Corporation and this year’s Emerging Leader Award recipient. In her role, she’s responsible for developing and advancing programs that measurably reduce environmental impacts across the company’s value chain.

Eliza Clark (pictured right) and Andersen sustainability team members

However, she also believes that there are some problems organizations can’t solve by themselves, which has led her to seek groundbreaking solutions. Known for reaching outside of her organization’s four walls, she has also served as a founding member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, acting Vice Chair of Super Bowl LII’s Sustainability Committee, an Environmental Initiative board member, and co-founder of the Sustainability Practitioner’s Roundtable. You can read more about her here »

As part of the festivities, I got to sit down with Eliza and talk about her career, her team, and her advice for those currently working on environmental issues.

SITTING DOWN WITH ELIZA CLARK

What excites you about the environmental community, sector, or movement in Minnesota?

One thing that I’m excited about right now is that we are starting to work across all sectors. We haven’t always had the best cross-sector, public-private dialogue or cross pollination, and I think that sometimes causes misunderstandings. Working with a diverse set of businesses, government entities, NGOs and academics really could be the “secret sauce” to solving our most complex problems.

In the private sector, though, organizations committed to sustainability have been meeting, sharing, and collaborating on work and best practices for many years. We have a really robust network of people that genuinely like each other and are willing to be very honest about challenges. I think it’s fun to see all of us come together and be more action-oriented, which really was the genesis of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition. We have a strong foundation of people helping each other and working together, and now poignantly understand that there are problems that we can’t solve as individual organizations. I think that nexus of energy and influence is really powerful.

I also think that there is actually a lot of optimism right now. It was a very difficult election season with a lot of negativity and divisiveness, but in the end, we all feel like there are some important economic factors that are driving things like better access to renewable energy or more energy-efficient technology for manufacturing. It feels like we’re on the cusp of being able to do some transformational things.

What does partnership or collaboration mean to you? Why is it necessary?

I think collaboration is really the reason I want to get up in the morning and do the work that I do! All day every day, I’m basically trying to convince people to change the way they do things, often making their lives harder. I think the primary reason that it’s fun—because it is fun—is that I get to build relationships and work through challenges collaboratively. I think a core part of the human experience is that nothing feels better than solving a tough problem or achieving some kind of landmark that you really had to struggle to get to. A lot of my work is like that. Once you get to the mountain with a group of people, it feels that much more rewarding. I’m really grateful for the work that I get to do within my company and outside of it.

Partnership and consensus isn’t always easy. What lessons have you learned so far?

What I’ve learned at this point in my career is that collaborative problem solving is not all about making everybody happy. Truly difficult environmental problems have tradeoffs, and so that depth and intersection is incredibly challenging to “solve.”

My style of partnering has really changed to not just go directly to a solution, which is tempting, and instead to spend more time on the front-end. I work with stakeholders to understand the history of the problem and why people want something to be a certain way, and then taking that heart and those passions to have an open and candid dialogue with all parties about what they might lose or gain by making big choices.

Notably, I’m not positioning that process as having one, perfect solution. How most of those problems are solved is through compromise and through an honest assessment of tradeoffs. We have to collaboratively agree on accepting or not accepting those conditions.

What successes are you most proud of in your career?

I was very proud to help my company declare its first set of public sustainability goals and to announce its signing of the Ceres Climate Declaration. I’m also very proud to have led Andersen to sign up to up to 19 megawatts of community solar subscriptions, which is a pretty significant amount of renewable energy. That feels very meaningful to me at a national level.

But honestly, for me, it’s the journey and not the various outcomes. I’m just proud of the work that my team and my peers do every day because most of it is not glamorous—it’s just chugging through it! Making sure things get done and then measuring what’s happening… it’s more just the fact that we remain committed to the mission and the environment, and that we want to keep going together.

What advice would you give your peers working in the environmental sector? What advice do you give to young women working on environmental issues?

Generally, I think we all need to do a better job of understanding social, financial, and human implications of potential projects and really how human behavior affects what we’re trying to achieve. We need to have that holistic understanding of the problem and then identify key working partners and other leaders that can help advance solutions.

Speaking about young women, sometimes we aren’t bold enough. I think sometimes we decide ahead of time what we can and cannot achieve. I recently spoke at the Women in Green Power Breakfast (a program by the U.S Green Building Council) and my primary message was to ‘fail forward.’ We have a lot of capacity within us, and if you know your stuff and the broader implications of what you’re advocating for, then don’t be afraid to be a champion regardless of our role in the hierarchy.

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

The Triple Bottom Line in Action: Meet the Sustainable Business Winners

May 3rd, 2017

Private-sector leadership on environmental issues is a valuable, often over-looked complement to public policy. The Sustainable Business award recognizes such leaders for their sustainable practices and sector-based solutions as they benefit our environment and our economy.

The winners in this category contribute to environmental stewardship, economic benefit, and competitive advantage. However, Better Futures Minnesota, multiple cities and counties, and many more partners take it a step further to create a thriving community.

PROMOTING DECONSTRUCTION & REUSE

 

 

When a house is torn down or buildings are renovated, there’s a good chance those materials are in a landfill. In fact, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) estimates that more than 80% of construction and demolition waste was landfilled 2013. It’s a surprising figure, right?

Don’t worry— there’s good news. Better Futures Minnesota, ReUSE Minnesota, government agencies, local governments, and so many more partners came together to try and bring that percentage down. They do so by sustainably deconstructing buildings and promoting reuse of materials.

The results of this partnership are, in some ways, immeasurable. In 2016 alone, Better Futures and partners diverted over 1570 tons of waste that would have otherwise ended up in landfills. Additionally, not only has this project has a positive impact on the amount of waste in landfills, but it’s also decreased emissions from those landfills. Last year, Better Futures estimated that they avoided 750 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

But those are the hard numbers. What really makes this project unique is its dedication to the triple bottom line. Better Futures works to provide deconstruction jobs, training, and resources to men who have had a history of incarceration, homelessness, poverty, and untreated mental and physical health challenges.

Overall, this is a unique public-private partnership, where multiple organizations worked together to find an alternative way to remove structures and reduce the amount of construction and demolition waste in our landfills. The diversity of the partnerships is extremely innovative, bringing together stakeholders from the city, county, state, and more in a coordinated effort to grow deconstruction and reuse and increase public awareness of the sustainable alternative.

FROM BETTER FUTURES MINNESOTA

“In just two years of consistently gathering research, we’ve been able to quantify the environmental impact of deconstruction—reusing and recycling building materials—compared to the common practice of demolishing a building and sending the materials to a landfill. The results are phenomenal. Reduction of greenhouse gases, creation of jobs, and a boost to the local economy are all benefits from this new and innovative technique.” –Thomas Adams, Better Futures Minnesota President and CEO

“Better Futures Minnesota worked to address workplace shortage and the underrepresentation of people of color in the workforce by giving men, predominately African American, the skills and certification they need to work and be successful in a new, green economy. We are extremely proud of how this project benefits Minnesota’s environment, the men we serve, and our communities.” –Thomas Adams, Better Futures Minnesota President and CEO

CELEBRATE THIS EFFORT

Join us on Thursday, May 25 to congratulate and celebrate these project partners, their positive environmental outcomes, and the lasting benefit of collaboration. To shake things up, we’re also honoring three individuals in honor of our 25th anniversary, so it’s sure to be a night of reflection and festivities for Minnesota’s environmental community. Purchase your tickets or tables here »

 


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th Anniversary, four organizational and two individual awards will be presented on May 25, 2017 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Get your tickets before they’re gone »

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

Meet Stephanie Weir, Project Manager

April 26th, 2017

Hi, there! I’m Stephanie Weir. I’m excited to join Environmental Initiative to support the Sustainability Program as Project Manager.

My work at Environmental Initiative will be focused on the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition where I will be assisting the group’s clean energy work. I’ll also provide project leadership and management on the Business and Environment Series, an upcoming business-to-business mentorship program, and other emerging Sustainability Program projects.

For the past three and a half years, I served as Program Manager at St. Paul Smart Trips. There, I led the organization’s bicycle advocacy, education, and community building work through St. Paul Women on Bikes (WOB)— a coalition of women, families, and organizations working to make it safer and easier to ride a bike in St. Paul. Similar to Environmental Initiative, this work utilized a positive, coalition-based approach.

With more than a decade of nonprofit and community organizing experience, as well as a Master of Nonprofit Management, I have learned that strong relationships and creative partnerships are key to systems-change work.

More personally, I grew up romping through the woods, climbing trees, and catching fireflies in a small town in rural Michigan. From early-morning fishing to afternoon swims to gazing up at the stars, my childhood was defined by the natural world. After graduating from Kalamazoo College in 2005, I moved to Minneapolis and immediately fell in love with the way the Twin Cities embraces nature in the midst of an urban environment. Whether it’s riding my bike to the Quaking Bog at Theodore Wirth Park, exploring the banks of the Mississippi with Ulu (the cutest dog in the whole world), or getting dirt under my fingernails planting cucamelons in my backyard, there is no shortage of time spent outdoors.

To me, Environmental Initiative’s mission is both personally and professionally important. In every position I’ve held, cross-sector partnerships have always been a centerpiece, so I know I’m going to fit in here. I look forward to getting to know the great people and organizations that make up the Environmental Initiative community!

Stephanie Weir

POSTED BY:

Project Manager

Member of the Month: Best Buy

April 3rd, 2017

At Best Buy, we are thrilled to be Environmental Initiative’s member of the month. As Environmental Initiative celebrates 25 years, I want to reflect on the organization’s impact both on Best Buy as well as the greater Twin Cities community.

 

When Best Buy began our sustainability journey a decade ago, Environmental Initiative was one of the first organizations we sought out to help guide our strategy and have continued to be a trusted resource in the years since.

I see Environmental Initiative as the convener of environmental thought leaders in Minnesota. The team has built a solid network of organizations who seek to drive sustainability forward. We are part of a unique community, with 16 Fortune 500 companies in the metro area, yet a close-knit group of individuals. Perhaps it’s our Midwest values-driven organizations, but there is a small-town feeling within our sustainability community. I can pick up the phone and call my environmental counterparts at any organization in town, thanks in part to the network Environmental Initiative helped build.

Not only does Environmental Initiative connect large companies, but also brings together smaller companies, academics and government agencies, facilitating conversations on topics that affect all of us, like smart transportation, sustainable consumption and renewable energy. I appreciate the variety of programming, which engages members of my team at all levels. From the case studies presented at the Business and Environment Series, to the more specialized Sustainability Practitioners Roundtable to the advocacy-focused Policy Forums, I see a common thread of collaboration and problem-solving throughout.

 

I’m excited about the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, an Environmental Initiative-led partnership of 30 businesses working together to advance the circular economy. One aspect of the work focuses on renewable energy, a topic Best Buy is deeply connected with, as 12 percent of our 45 percent carbon reduction goal is dedicated to renewables. By facilitating an open discussion with energy providers, Environmental Initiative has helped advance green tariff design that aligns with the energy and carbon reduction goals of our respective companies.

Congratulations Environmental Initiative, on 25 years of convening, educating, advocating for the environment. We are proud to be on this journey with you.


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.

Alexis Ludwig-Vogen

POSTED BY:

Director, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Best Buy

A True Champion: Gail Cederberg

March 14th, 2017

To say that Gail Cederberg, currently the Vice President, Environmental Division at American Engineering Testing (AET), has been instrumental in our sustainability work is truly an understatement. Gail has not only dedicated her career to the environment, but has also been a champion of our work for the past 10+ years.

Cederberg spear fishing as a young woman

Gail started her career at Los Alamos National Laboratory attempting the almost impossible – building a laboratory to measure the radon in geothermal fluid in just 14 weeks. At a mere 23 years old, sitting by herself in a remote trailer in the mountains 60 miles from civilization, she learned the empowering self-confidence you only gain from an utterly trusting employer, that it’s okay to ask questions and seek the answers, and to surround yourself with kind and generous people who can help you with your work. Gail has carried these lessons with her throughout her career as she researched groundwater transport modeling for her Ph.D., worked on Superfund sites in New Jersey and EHS compliance in Minnesota, and now works on brownfield redevelopment and environmental compliance at AET.

These days, I’m grateful for her support as she continues to lend her insight and wisdom to planning the Business & Environment Series year after year. (Can you believe she’s helped plan 26 and counting events?!). I recently caught up with Gail to talk about her endless support of the Business & Environment Series and one of her lifelong passions: diversity and inclusion.

Why she stays engaged, in her own words

Q1: What was your first introduction to Environmental Initiative?

I think my first experience with Environmental Initiative is when I was working
as the Director of Environmental, Health and Safety at Imation, a long time organizational supporter of Environmental Initiative. I was asked if I wanted to be part of a newly created Business & Environment Series and I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been participating in planning group meetings ever since.

Q2: As one of the founding supporters of the Business & Environment Series nearly 10 years ago, what is it about the series that keeps you engaged and excited year after year?

When we first started the Series, the topics were broadly focused on the intersection of business and the environment. In recent years, we began honing in on specific sustainably issues. I enjoy how the Business & Environment Series continues to evolve, bringing current issues to the forefront, and looking beyond to what might lie ahead. The Series reminds me that there is always more to do and learn, even though it sometimes feels like we’ve done it all. I’m also energized by the people – what they do, what their organizations do, how they are making an impact, and their enthusiasm. I always leave the events with new ideas, new friends and colleagues, and new ways that I can look at issues and problems facing my company.

Q3: One of our values is “better together” – the idea that bringing diverse perspectives together creates stronger environmental solutions. As an advocate for addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, why do you also value the better together mentality?

As a little girl interested in science and engineering, I’ve felt first-hand what it feels like to not be heard or included. This experience at a young age helped me developed a sensitivity and empathy towards individuals and groups who are excluded simply based on who they are.

Throughout my career I’ve experienced that heterogeneous teams are often more productive than not.  Reaching out, including diverse perspectives, and working towards a common goal are core values of mine.  Without working together and including other voices, ideas, and perspectives how do I, or we, really know the issues and problems? And if we don’t know that, how could we presuppose the answers, solutions, or best ideas?

I have recently been learning more about workforce development, economic development, our marginalized communities, and working on ways to be more intentional about including and incorporating diverse perspectives, people, and ideas through my role as a Midway Chamber of Commerce board member. This brought me to examine the unconscious biases my teams and I may have that hold us back from intentional inclusion and have those uncomfortable conversations.  It’s a process of continual learning and introspection.

Q4: What do you think successfully tackling issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion would look like in the environmental field?

I think there are a few important things to keep in mind, but these relate to all fields, not exclusively the environmental field.

Say Yes: We have to say “yes” more often than “no.” Instead of saying why we can’t include a person or group, we need to ask ourselves from the onset – what are they bringing to the table that we don’t have in terms of perspectives, ideas, etc.? And even if you don’t know – let’s make the table a big one!

Be Nimble and Adaptable: We need to be much more nimble and adaptable. Let’s find ways to change course mid-way or even stop what we are doing if things are not working the way we expected. It’s important to acknowledge we are going down the wrong path or we have thought of better ideas for moving forward.

Incorporate Disruption: We need to include more disruption into our processes. Let’s delete the phrase “but we’ve always done it this way” and look towards innovation, entrepreneurs, and outsiders for ideas and new and improved processes. Then we need to listen and engage.

Our Shared Values

After my interview with Gail, I tried to reflect on exactly what makes her such a great champion of our work. Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s always one of the first to respond to my emails (who doesn’t appreciate that!), or that her unwavering dedication to the Business and Environment Series makes me want to plan better events, or maybe it’s her infectious zest to continually learn from others and improve herself, her team, and her work. But, I think it really comes down to the fact that we share the same values: creating a sustainable world and continually fighting to prove that better together is the only way.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th birthday, 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.

Dani Schurter

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Project Manager
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