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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

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

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

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
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