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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

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

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October 11th, 2016

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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

Circular Economy in the News

September 29th, 2016

The concept of a circular economy is gaining traction in sustainability circles and across the broader American business community. Earlier this summer, a contingent of leading Minnesota businesses and organization formed the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition – a regional partnership to demonstrate and accelerate a circular economy.

Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition Meeting 8-17-16

Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition Meeting at Uponor, 8-17-16. Photo credit: Uponor

The circular economy can be a difficult concept to unpack, but at its simplest a circular economy works like nature does, where everything is a resource and nothing is wasted. Energy is clean and renewable. Materials never become waste, but are used again and again. Communities are equitable and healthy. Ecosystems are supported, sustained, and provide ongoing services. Businesses protect people, the planet, and profit. Sounds good, right?

We’re keeping our eyes peeled and our ears open for circular economy news from across the globe to help advance the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition’s efforts to raise awareness about a concept that could completely transform the way we do business and more. Read on:

How is your business or organization thinking about the circular economy? What opportunities or challenges does the circular economy present? Share in the comments below.

For more information about the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, contact me at 612-334-3388 ext. 8111.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

An Interview With Paul Helgeson: Sustainability Manager, GNP Company

April 19th, 2016

Environmental Initiative has a network of environmental leaders across all sectors of the economy – from businesses, all levels of government, nonprofits, academia, and more. In a new series, we’ll be interviewing environmental and sustainability leaders from our diverse community to share their passions and how they lead.

I’m kicking off the series with sustainability leader and Environmental Initiative board member, Paul Helgeson. Paul is currently the Sustainability Manager with GNP Company and is the founder and visionary behind the Field Stewards program.Greg interviewing Paul

To start us off, can you tell us a little bit about how you became sustainability manager at GNP Company?

I grew up in central Minnesota surrounded by the agricultural industry. My great-grandfather started what became Gold n’ Plump as one of hundreds of small hatcheries in Minnesota in the 1920’s.  For most of my life my dad was CEO and he, along with our team members, worked very hard to grow the company into the largest chicken company in the Upper Midwest.

This inspired me to pursue a business education and during my undergrad days I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. There I visited Carlsberg, the big beer company. This was my first exposure to a large company advocating for sustainability. Beverage companies had worked with the Danish government to put a high deposit on bottles. So those bottles were getting turned back in and Carlsberg was reusing them to bottle beer. This reduced litter, saving the government money, and saved Carlsberg from having to buy expensive new bottles. Seeing this win-win for business, government, and the people of Denmark sparked my interest in harnessing the profit motive of business to achieve social and environmental goals.

I remained interested in sustainability while earning my MBA from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota and working outside the company. When I joined GNP Company in 2010 I helped my family’s business to consider sustainability and together we developed the 4 P Framework: people, poultry, progress, and planet. We set aggressive planet goals for improving the resource efficiency of our operations and made a commitment to working with our supply chain.  During this time, I also helped develop the Field Stewards idea and I’m the liaison from GNP Company on the project.

For folks who haven’t heard about it before, how would you describe the Field Stewards project?

At the core, it’s a way to connect consumers and farmers who care about water quality.fieldstewards

Functionally, it is a certification and market system that recognizes and rewards farmers for their environmental protection efforts.  Food companies can buy certificates to offset some of the environmental impacts of their commodity crop inputs. The market system allows us to support farmers in our local area who have gone above and beyond the norm to protect water quality on their farms.

Consumers increasingly care about their food and how it was produced. The underlying sentiment is “Do the people creating my food share my values?” However, the commodity crop system isn’t set up for food companies to track sustainability at the farm level. Like a lot of food companies, we buy the grain used in our feed off of what is essentially an international commodity market.  The grain markets and the commodity crop systems are not designed for food companies or consumers to track on-farm sustainability practices.  So, we have no way to know what practices were used in the fields that our grain came from.

This is the opportunity for Field Stewards. It is a program that gives food-marketing companies like GNP Company the ability to create a more sustainable supply chain for their most critical inputs. (more…)

Greg Bohrer

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

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

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Reducing “Junk Mail”: Our Lessons Learned

June 22nd, 2015

About a year ago, in an effort to be more “environmental” at the office, I decided to take on a little pet project of my own – reducing JUNK MAIL. I know, I know, those two little words are cringe worthy, which means it’s worth tackling, right?

Whether at home or at the office, we are all inundated with unwanted mail. And although it’s hard to resist the temptation to simply throw it all junk mailin the recycling bin, it’s totally worth it once your mailbox is filled with mail you actually enjoy receiving (besides bills, of course).

Today, as I celebrate removing Environmental Initiative from 100 different direct mail lists, here are a few tips I learned along the way.

  • Keep a log of who sent the mail, who it’s addressed to, and the date you requested removal. It can take a few months to process so it’s good to keep track of your efforts.
  • Be persistent. Sometimes it takes multiple emails or phone calls but the satisfaction is worth it in the end, trust me.
  • Although it might not have been “junk” at one time, be sure to request removal of all former employees.
  • If you receive several copies of the same mailing, request to receive only one to circulate around the office.
  • Think about what your organization is sending. Are there ways to consolidate or eliminate the materials you mail?
  • And finally, celebrate your waste reduction successes with your colleagues!

Reducing unwanted mail is just one example of the things we’re doing at Environmental Initiative to keep our office green. To learn more about other ways businesses are reducing waste, check out information about our Waste Reduction Collaborative or contact me anytime.

 

Dani Schurter

POSTED BY:

Project Manager

Global Water Issues and Minnesota Business: Values, Risks, and Opportunities

March 31st, 2015

The Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul region has been described by one CEO as the “Silicon Valley of Water” with a unique network of businesses, talent, and thought leadership well positioned to contribute solutions to regional and global water challenges.

Join the Center for Ethical Business Cultures (CEBC) at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business on April 29 to hear from global water expert Dr. Peter H. Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute. Gleick integrates technical expertise on water and the environment with a profound commitment to social justice, human rights, and sustainability.

Two Minnesota executives will also share their insights on water risks and opportunities: Emilio Tenuta, Vice President of Sustainability at Ecolab, and Jerry Lynch, Chief Sustainability Officer at General Mills.

This event is free and open to the public but registration is required.

EVENT DETAILS

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Registration:  4:00 p.m.
Program: 4:30 p.m.
Networking Reception: 6:15 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Register »

Thornton Auditorium, Terrence Murphy Hall
University of St. Thomas – Minneapolis Campus
1000 LaSalle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Map & Directions »

I hope you will join CEBC for this important conversation to explore global water perspectives and implications for Minnesota businesses. For more information about the event, speakers, or to register visit CEBC’s website.

David Rodbourne

POSTED BY:

Vice President, Center for Ethical Business Cultures - University of St. Thomas, Opus College of Business

Midwest Bioeconomy and Safer Products Summit: Regional Innovations Solving Global Problems

February 13th, 2015

Strong manufacturing, retail, and human resources, supportive policies, abundant forestry and agriculture resources, and solid industries, summit logocompanies, and innovation make the Midwest well positioned to be a leader in the bioeconomy. How will stronger consumer (and business) demands for safer and environmentally-friendly products impact the Midwest economy?

Join the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum to explore green chemistry, innovation, and sustainability initiatives at the Midwest Bioeconomy and Safer Products Summit on February 19th.

EVENT DETAILS

Thursday, February 19, 2015
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Minneapolis Central Library, Pohland Hall
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Register »

(more…)

Laura Babcock

POSTED BY:

Director, Minnesota Technical Assistance Program
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