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Posts Tagged ‘Business and Environment Series’

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.

Alexis Ludwig-Vogen


Director, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Best Buy

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


Director of Communications

Support Ongoing Sustainability Leadership

November 24th, 2015

Environmental Initiative is an incredible organization that provides so much for our state and the region. Now, I might be a little biased being an employee of the organization, but that bias doesn’t alter the real impact Environmental Initiative has in our community. While I’ve only been on staff for a few months, my recognition of Environmental Initiative as a leader, especially in the space of business sustainability, has been present for years. With all the avenues for businesses to engage – through events, collaborative projects, and so much more – Environmental Initiative truly is a major convener of Minnesota’s business community around environmental sustainability.

In a state that is so fortunate to have a wide range of private businesses, public entities, nonprofits, institutions, and Sam Hanson Minnesota lakeindividuals that are all interested in addressing our shared environmental challenges, it is crucial for Environmental Initiative to convene these interests and help catalyze the changes that we collectively know are important. We’re so proud to be a part of the sustainability community in Minnesota.

Environmental Initiative’s leadership, and the corresponding impact that it makes in our community, is what has drawn my interest to the organization for many years. It’s also the reason that I am so excited to be a part of the team. I am thrilled to be able to work with such a wide variety of stakeholders on improving the environmental sustainability of our region.

If you share my enthusiasm, join me in supporting the work of Environmental Initiative. Our current and past board of directors have contributed $15,000 to help us raise another $15,000 from individuals between now and December 31st. Annual or recurring monthly membership contributions will be matched dollar for dollar. We still have about $9,000 to raise to meet our goals.

I’m an individual member and I hope you will be too!

Sam Hanson


Director, Sustainability Program

Is It Time to Reinvent Corporate Sustainability Management?

June 11th, 2014

A note from Environmental Initiative: We are excited to welcome Mark McElroy to The Initiative as today’s guest blogger. Mark will discuss his context-based approach to sustainability metrics at our June 25th Business & Environment Session “Measuring Sustainability.” We’ll also hear from local companies Pictura Graphics, Mosaic Company, and GNP Company on their approach to sustainability measurement, and leave plenty of time for discussion and networking with an audience of over 100 cross-sector sustainability professionals. Don’t miss the conversation – register today!


Whether overtly expressed in these terms or not, every approach to sustainability management in business constitutes or adheres to a doctrine of some kind that can be identified as such. Doctrines such as Corporate Social Responsibility, Eco-efficiency and Shared Value provide distinct and often competing perspectives on (1) what sustainability is, and (2) how it should be measured, managed and reported.  As distinct doctrines, the principles they rely on differentiate them from one another.

Most of what passes for mainstream practice in business today, however, falls into a common cluster of doctrines (including the ones mentioned above) that can be thought of as incrementalist. A feature they have in common, that is, is the view that marginal (if not merely ostensible) changes in performance over time are sufficient for purposes of determining whether an organization’s social or environmental impacts are sustainable. Using less water this year than last, less energy, producing less waste, doing more community involvement, etc. all constitute positive performance per se and are interpreted as sustainable or more sustainable performance accordingly under the incrementalist doctrines.

Within the past fifteen years, however, a new doctrine has come along that is more literalist and anti-incrementalist in its orientation and which challenges the status quo. Known as Context-Based Sustainability, or CBS, this upstart of a doctrine takes the position that sustainability performance is more of a binary affair: impacts are either sustainable or unsustainable in the first instance, depending on how the impacts compare to norms, standards or thresholds for what they would have to be in order to be sustainable. A particular level of water consumption, for example, that falls above a sustainability threshold would be regarded as unsustainable no matter how much less it was than the year before.


Mark McElroy


Founder and Executive Director, Center for Sustainable Organizations

Meet Our Members: Andersen Corporation

May 1st, 2014

Andersen Corporation is the largest window and door manufacturer in North America. Headquartered along the banks of the St. Croix River since its founding in 1903, environmental stewardship is in their nature. As an industry leader, Andersen has a history of sustainability firsts and was a proud recipient of the 2007 Environmental Initiative Green Business and Environmental Management Award for their innovative steam plant in Bayport, Minnesota. Andersen continues to evolve its sustainability journey with a steadfast focus on supporting the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.

Andersen takes a collaborative approach to continually improving the environment and communities where its employees live and work. By engaging employees, suppliers, customers, and community experts to understand best practices and benchmark operations, they continue to increase efficiency and reduce impacts. This collaborative approach is one of the common threads between Andersen and Environmental Initiative. Andersen’s continued support of the Business and Environment Series helps advance collaborative efforts around sustainability within the region.

Andersen believes increased transparency is critical for driving overall environmental and social progress. They continue to participate in the development of the window and door industry’s product category rule –a prerequisite to publishing environmental product declarations. Additionally, their continued support of transparency is evident as their 2012 Corporate Sustainability Report (CSR) met Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) requirements for a C Application Level. Look for their 2013 CSR, expected to meet GRI B Application Level, next month!


A note from Environmental Initiative: Each month, we feature information about one of our members here on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact me anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson


Development Director

To Zero and Beyond: Business & Environment Session Preview

April 24th, 2014

Have YOU gone zero-waste yet?

Last year, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company became the first company to receive a platinum certification from the US Zero Waste Business Council. Closer to home, Mayor Betsy Hodges has announced plans for a zero-waste Minneapolis. You’ve probably been to a zero-waste event where all leftover materials are recycled, reused, or composted; maybe your company has donated used office furniture or supplies rather than tossing them; or you’ve thought twice about purchasing the trendy new single-use coffee pods or individual water bottles. The movement toward reducing what we toss is definitely growing, and more and more businesses, organizations, communities, and individuals are taking on this ambitious zero-waste goal. (more…)

Georgia Rubenstein


Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

Environmental Initiative’s 2013 Year in Review

December 27th, 2013

Happy New Year from all of us here at Environmental Initiative! 2013 has been an exciting year for us and we can’t wait to continue to work with our current partners, and forge new collaborations, in 2014. Before we hit the ground running next year (next week!), join me in looking back at this top-ten list of Environmental Initiative’s 2013 highlights.

1. Our Clean Air Minnesota partners announced twenty-four recommendations to reduce emissions, protect public health, and keep Minnesota’s air clean. Now, this statewide partnership of leaders from businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations is entering a new phase of work together – collectively reviewing, prioritizing, and discussing how to implement these recommendations.

2. Halfway through Governor Dayton’s first term in office, we brought state agency leaders together at our 2013 Commissioners Forum to discuss their environmental priorities and perspectives. Leaders from the Board of Water & Soil Resources, Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health, Natural Resources, and Transportation offered ideas and heard from audience members on water quality, climate change, and more. We were pleased to hear lots of talk about the importance of collaboration – with so many agencies working on environmental issues, our speakers agreed that aligning goals and programs across agencies and departments was key to driving greater impact.


Georgia Rubenstein


Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

Event recap: How Do You Tell Your Sustainability Story?

December 20th, 2013

On December 12th, representatives from businesses, nonprofits, government, and other interested groups gathered at Aveda Corporate Headquarters in Blaine for the final Business & Environment Session of 2013. This event was my first with Environmental Initiative; my initial impression was one of connections, both old and new – people catching up with professional connections built over time and others making new ones.

The topic was what can be a delicate balance: how do you manage expectations of both transparency and privacy when communicating about your organization’s sustainability efforts? The session included engaging speakers from business and industry, as well as facilitated tabletop conversations and informal networking.

First up was Stephanie Glazer from SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization focused on developing industry-specific sustainability disclosure standards for publicly-traded companies in the US. SASB is meeting quarterly with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and hoping to gain the organization’s endorsement of the standards, similar to those set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) for financial reporting on the Form 10-K. Ultimately, SASB aims to benefit both investors and the public by providing an avenue for companies to share the environmental, social, and governance issues that are most relevant – or material – to their industries. (You can read more about SASB here.) SASB is using a three-step process to develop their standards:



Master of Public Policy Candidate, University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Weekly Wrap-Up – 8/23/13

August 23rd, 2013

We’re gearing up for our second Business & Environment Session of the year, Setting Goals That Matter: A Sustainability Toolkit.

As more companies and organizations work to reduce the environmental impact of their operations while maintaining their bottom lines, the web is bursting with resources on sustainability leadership, reporting, and more. Hopefully, this post helps you sort through the sustainability fire hose and provides you with something valuable or thought provoking to consider in your work.

  1. 8 ways to create the sustainability job of your dreams. (CSRwire)
  2. Stereotyping: Do young people value sustainability above all else? (The Guardian)
  3. Only 10% of  S&P 100 companies have incorporated sustainability into their bonus structures. Should executive compensation be linked to sustainability performance? (EDF + Business)
  4. Study finds that employees expect to be engaged with their company’s sustainability strategy as well as educated on how to be more sustainable in their day-to-day lives. (GreenBiz.com)
  5. Sustainability reporting has become more common, but what’s really makes it “good?” (TriplePundit)

Are you craving more? Get connected to emerging and experienced sustainability professionals through our Business & Environment Series LinkedIn Group.


Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Our 2012 Top 10: The Year in Review

December 27th, 2012

Happy new year, from all of us here at Environmental Initiative! Another year has flown by. Things are quiet at the office this week and we’re taking a breather to look back on 2012 — reflecting on the projects we’ve been a part of, the many partners we’ve worked with, and the successes we’ve achieved, together, for Minnesota’s environment. We’ve got plenty in store for an even more exciting 2013 but before we tell you more, join us in our reflection and embark with us on a journey back through 2012. Here, with no further ado, is our second annual Year in Review Top Ten List. Be sure to check out the slideshow too!


Georgia Rubenstein


Senior Manager, Sustainability Program
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