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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

POSTED BY:

Project Manager

A Year and 30+ dedicated organizations later…

February 23rd, 2017

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is just over a year old, but already we’ve come a long way. More than 30 businesses and organizations now form a business led partnership that harnesses each member’s expertise to advance the next frontier of corporate sustainability – the circular economy.

Together, the Coalition has designated three strategic priorities for regional transformation and are actively educating on what a circular economy can do for Minnesota and the region.

NEW MEMBERS

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is a business-led effort that also includes key public and nonprofit entities within its membership. This cross-sector representation is essential to advancing the circular economy. In June of 2016, the Coalition publicly announced itself as a 27 member strong collaboration. Since then, six additional organizations have joined the effort, including:

 

 

With these six additions, the Coalition expands to just over 30 members. Each new member brings a different perspective and a wealth of experience. This knowledge continues to better position the Coalition, allowing the group to more effectively work on advancing the aspects of a more circular economic system. With each new member, we get closer to realizing our vision.

CIRCULAR ECONOMY EDUCATION

Our members have been quick to explain and project circular economy concepts. Jessica Hellman, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and Coalition member, recently penned an op-ed in the Pioneer Press demonstrating the value of transformative, far-reaching sustainability efforts.

Ackerberg, a recent addition to the Coalition, is the first commercial real estate company to join. Shortly after entering the group, they shared more information on the value they see in collaboration through a piece by Finance & Commerce.

And finally, the Coalition as a whole was featured in the Harvard Business Review as part of the 9 Sustainable Business Stories that Shaped 2016. Number nine focuses on the circular economy, with special mention of the Coalition.

OUR THREE PRIORITIES

Soon after the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition launched, Environmental Initiative convened members to select priority areas for their work. Three areas of focus quickly emerged from these conversations including: 1) advancing clean energy, 2) transforming organic waste into resources, and 3) greening grey infrastructure.

Members selected clean energy as the initial priority for leadership and collaboration. Coalition members recognize a circular economy can only exist if is powered by 100% clean, renewable energy. It’s a big commitment, but we aren’t taking it lightly. Over the past six months, members have developed a clean energy work plan, have secured initial funding to support that work, and have begun taking actions that support increased access to renewable energy resources.

While a lot of progress has been made already, much more is ahead. You’ll be hearing a lot more from us as we continue to make progress on our clean energy work plan while also digging deeper in our greening grey infrastructure and organics focus areas.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition Spotlight: Uponor

January 23rd, 2017

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is a nationally unique collaboration of leading businesses and organizations working together to advance the circular economy. Over the course of the year, we’ll profile member businesses and organizations to learn more about how they are thinking and what they are doing to advance the circular economy and achieve their sustainability goals.

We sat down with Rusty Callier, the Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability for Uponor, an international provider of plumbing and indoor heating and cooling systems. Uponor North America is headquartered in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Here’s our interview:

 

Tell me a little bit about you and your role at Uponor.

This year will mark my fifteenth anniversary at Uponor. Over those fifteen years I’ve been predominately in operations with jobs ranging from Manufacturing Manager all the way up to Director of Operations. A little over a year ago I took on a new role as Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability. In a way this change was kind of like going back to my beginnings because prior to Uponor I was focusing on environmental management and trying to break into a career in that area. So, after spending a lot of time in operations, its all come full circle and now I’m able to focus on environmental management and sustainability full-time.

How is Uponor working to advance the circular economy? How are you thinking about it as a company?

That’s a great question. First and foremost, we’re always thinking about it. Uponor as a company believes heavily in innovation. We’re always thinking about how we can be thought leaders in our industry and bring solutions to market that meet the customers needs all while balancing the triple bottom line. It’s a work in progress. We’re still figuring this out.

If you imagine people, planet, and profit in those traditional sustainability circles, we want to achieve balance. We want to achieve all three. In the search for that balance, we’re putting processes in place to evaluate projects and ideas through a sustainability lens. We ask ourselves: How are we changing our practices to be better stewards of the earth’s resources? How are we taking into account the human element of our business? How are we looking at the communities in which we operate and the communities in which we extract, or others extract, raw materials? We want to be cognizant of all of these questions and smart about how we deliver our products and solutions to our customers.

Is there anything in your recent memory or recent experience that has been a victory for Uponor?

I would love to point to the single home run, but that’s very rare, especially when you’re trying to build something different than what was done before. So, we’ve had what I’d call a lot of base hits. Some examples are getting our executive leadership to agree to participate in efficiency programs with Xcel Energy, or allowing us to take some liberties to implement different technologies in our facility to cut our energy use. A big, big win years ago – which is still a big deal even today – was our conversion from oil heaters on our extruders to electric energy. This resulted in a 40% energy reduction across the plant, which is a huge savings.

More recently we’ve been converting our chiller systems for our extruders to be able to be reversed to use the natural cooling the Minnesota winters provide so we don’t have to run our chillers for five or six months out of the year. This has resulted in significant energy savings and carbon reductions from our operations – and its exciting to be able to tap into a homegrown resources to do so.

We’re also looking at alternative energy with a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2020 as a company. We’ve installed a solar array at our North American headquarters in Apple Valley and are exploring ways to purchase additional renewable energy – both wind and solar.

Is there anything you would like to do as a company on circular economy, but you’re not quite sure how?  

That list is long. There are plenty of companies to point to who are doing great work, many that are involved with Environmental Initiative, and we will steal shamelessly from others best practices. I have no trouble admitting that. Ultimately, that’s the true essence of sustainability – it’s how do you learn from others? How can you take messages, techniques, lessons learned from other companies and apply them to your own situation? Being able to see and adopt opportunities from other facilities is vital. It helps from a sustainability standpoint, a continuous improvement standpoint, and from an operations standpoint. It’s part of how we’ll eventually get to a circular economy. Information sharing between companies can help advance that disruptive innovation that’s going to be needed to get to the next step.

What’s the biggest barrier or challenge that Uponor faces when it comes to achieving that balance of the triple bottom line or advancing towards more circular models?

Many will probably have a similar answer. There’s an inherent push-pull between the two concepts – a linear versus circular economic system. Putting a value on natural resources is really challenging – the whole idea of natural capital.

When you’re having a conversation with somebody its easy to get them to nod in agreement that natural capital makes sense, when you talk about how you’re valuing the natural resources used everyday to produce your product, run your plants, or move your people. But, when it comes right down to it finding the value of those resources and agreeing upon that value in terms of the true cost, it becomes difficult. So, to me that’s a challenge. Because when you’re putting your projects together to move them forward, you’re trying to set it up in terms of how to look at this for what the future brings. But in a lot of cases it still comes back to what the traditional accounting models demand in the short-term.

What do you hope the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition will achieve? What value do you see in being a member?

I think the biggest value we get out of membership is the exposure to other ideas. That’s huge. But, it’s also the ability to have strength in numbers and to be able to collaborate. We know as a coalition there are still things we need to learn about circular economy and what circular economy means for our region. What we’re really excited to be able to support the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment’s research project and the work Maddie Nordgaard is doing on behalf of the coalition to further our understanding on circular economy. We’re proud to have our name associated with something that is going to serve more than just Uponor, and to be alongside many other leading companies who are committed to advancing on these issues.

Is there a circular economy story or example that inspires you?  

Absolutely, there are so many examples both from within our industry and outside of it. I’ll stick with one that’s close because it’s from within our own company. We have a product in one of our European factories that we were able to improve by adding waste material from another product at another factory in our operations.

Essentially, location A could use the waste from location B to make a superior product. All of the work and materials are staying within Uponor. So, while it’s not a fully circular product, the principles of a circular economy are being applied – we’re transforming waste into resources, reducing emissions, and providing jobs within the company.

I wish I could say more about it, but we’re going to officially announce this project later on in the year. I’ll have more details to share then!

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Meet Antea Group: Member of the Month

November 1st, 2016

Antea Group is an international engineering and environmental consulting firm with USA headquarters in Minnesota. We work to reduce environmental footprints, mitigate safety risks, protect against engineering failures and minimize social impacts for our clients worldwide. Subscribing to a philosophy of Better Business, Better World®, we believe that doing the right thing environmentally and socially will improve competitive position and prosperity over the long-term.

As an environmental consulting firm, we are always looking for new ways to bring value to clients that positively impacts both their business performance and their environmental performance. A concept that has become increasingly important to our clients recently is the Circular Economy, a framework that departs from the linear ‘take-make-dispose’ manufacturing process and urges that businesses cycle materials and resources back into supply chains, effectively eliminating waste. Today, we are at the forefront of these discussions as a founding member of the Circular Economy 100, a global platform bringing together leading companies and emerging innovators to accelerate a sustainable path forward for industry.MemberoftheMonth

Another way we are helping clients make better decisions when it comes to sustainability is through our Accounting for Sustainability practice. We are often asked: How do I know which sustainability projects to invest in? Which sustainability efforts will create the greatest environmental, social and business benefits? To reduce this uncertainty, we’ve developed a process and set of tools that enable quantification and monetization of business benefits, both tangible and intangible, that accompany sustainability investments. Through business case development, cost/benefit analysis, predictive modeling, and metrics formulation, we can help demonstrate business impact for every dollar spent on sustainability. Check out this explainer video.

Antea Group has been a proud supporter of Environmental Initiative for over two decades. Through membership, board participation and sponsorship of the annual awards program, we demonstrate our excitement and appreciation for all of the great work that Environmental Initiative undertakes to develop collaborative solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems.


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.

Alison Bryant

POSTED BY:

Antea Group

Three Tips for Successful Sustainability Storytelling

October 20th, 2016

When it comes to sustainability, there is a lot to communicate. And you’re dealing with multiple audiences. And those audiences have different needs. And the stories and information are often complex or loaded with acronyms and jargon.

If you’re charged with communicating your business or organization’s sustainability efforts, how do you make sure your stories reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time? How do you make sure your stories are compelling and engaging?

Last week we spent some time unpacking these questions and getting to the heart of what makes great stories at our Business & Environment session, Sustainability Storytelling: Going Beyond the Report.

Here are the three things I took away:


Visuals Matter

Our first speaker, Arlene Birt with Background Stories, kicked off the session talking about what makes a good sustainability story and how visuals can help your messages stick. Did you know a whopping sixty-five percent of the population are visual learners? The right visuals can help communicate context, convey emotion, and make complex data sets more easily digestible. Check out Arlene’s presentation or her TEDx talk on visualizing sustainability.

Measure in Dinosaurs

Mel Meegan, Director of Marketing at Peace Coffee spent some time during the session sharing some of Peace Coffee’s success stories. Did you know Peace Coffee delivers their coffee by bike and their bike couriers haul the weight equivalent of five dinosaurs per year? That is crazy! Measuring in dinosaurs might not be your metric, but it’s a great example of how you can make numbers immediately relatable to your audiences. View Mel’s presentation »

Use Your Barriers and Your FailuresBES2.2016

Kate Lilja Lohnes with Lilja Communications facilitated a storytelling workshop during the final hour of the session. She also spoke about how to use barriers to your advantage. It can be easy to gloss over the “what went wrong” parts of a story to get right to the great outcome. But, that old cliché of failure being our greatest teacher is true. Let your audiences know where you tried, failed, and then tried again. This is the interesting stuff!

Missed the session? You can check out all of the presentations on our website.

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

Meet Andersen Corporation: Member of the Month

October 11th, 2016

YellowstoneOct15

Paintbrush: employee dormitory located near Old Faithful – first LEED Platinum building in the National Park Service.

At Andersen, our values define us – they speak to our past and guide our future. They are the foundation of what makes us Andersen. Our value of Corporate Citizenship ensures we continue our longstanding commitment to leadership in environmental stewardship and to make a positive impact in the communities in which we live and work. It is the reason we’ve supported Environmental Initiative for over two decades.

It is also the reason we have partnered with Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone captured our attention nearly a decade ago with their quest to become the greenest national park and Andersen joined that effort, sharing our expertise in energy efficiency and providing in-kind windows and doors for key projects in the park.  It has been a remarkable journey and a wonderful way to live one of our key values. Andersen’s involvement during the past several years, as well future green building plans within the park, is detailed here.

Or, see firsthand and hear from our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay Lund about the steps we are taking to reduce our environmental footprint and increase our positive impact across our value chain as he speaks from Yellowstone National Park – Preserving the View: 2015 Corporate Sustainability Report.

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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.

Annie Perkins

POSTED BY:

Sustainability Analyst at Andersen Corporation

Meet Maddie Norgaard

October 11th, 2016

Environmental Initiative has always been an organization deeply rooted in partnerships that work collaboratively to strategize around complex environmental problems. It’s one reason why we convened the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition (MNSGC), a business led effort focusing on the advancement of the circular economy.

To better shape MNSGC actions, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and other member organizations are working with a graduate student to research practical, circular economy applications. Her research will influence the direction and project goals and how MNSGC will function within the Midwest.

So, without further delay… Meet Maddie Norgaard! Maddie

Maddie is a first-year student pursing a Master of science, technology, and environmental policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Maddie currently holds a B.A. in environmental studies from the College of Saint Benedict.

In summer 2016, Maddie participated in Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy in Chicago where she was inspired by lessons in circular economy, industrial ecology and systems thinking. She is eager to explore these concepts further and help MNSGC discover opportunities for collective action.

Her work will help coalition partners advance the next frontier of corporate sustainability through the circular economy. Maddie will be working closely with Environmental Initiative as well as member organizations to conduct her research. We’re excited to have her, and we’re eager to get started! Learn more about Maddie »

Rachel Dupree

POSTED BY:

Communications Associate

Well Being and a Sustainable Future

October 10th, 2016

In the vast world of sustainability, the role of industry to change our future is becoming increasingly important. Though there are many ways to chart this course, designing and procuring sustainable buildings is a viable path toward corporate sustainability.

Additionally, better building designs can have major co-benefits in terms of staff retention, job performance, productivity, creativity, and the general health and well-being of individuals.

To shed light on the connection of buildings, health, and the environment, Interface and partners are hosting Well Being and a Sustainable Future, an evening event focused on these topics. Bill Browning and Paul Hawken will be speaking about the impacts of human health, the carbon equation, and environmental restoration.

This event is free, but registration is required. Learn more and register »

EVENT DETAILS

Thursday, November 3, 2016
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Pantages Theater
710 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

Directions and Registration »

We hope you will join us for this session and learn the connections between our environment and human health with Interface, Pulse Products, Fluid Interiors, MSR, and CBRE.

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

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