Alegria Partners Sustainability Engagement Strategist Tue, 19 Mar 2019 17:55:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Many People Who Helped Green Wisdom Come To Life Fri, 28 Dec 2018 14:58:28 +0000

As we transition into a new year and reflect on all the beauty and joy in our lives, I thought I’d take a moment to share all the names of all the people in the world who helped to make Green Wisdom happen.

Green Wisdom evolved from a short, 7-page, free document that could be downloaded from my website into an ebook sold on Amazon. My initial idea grew, the action item list expanded, and my need for more support blossomed.

I asked people to help me find the perfect people to interview. I requested people to review my words. Friends answered my call and brainstormed potential titles with me. Talented family members collaborated on the cover design after I went through two other graphic designers and cried a few tears. Countless people all over the world jumped on video co-working sessions through Focusmate (a tool no author should live without!) and kept me accountable for my writing goals.

Thank you, friends, for your valuable contributions to my 2018. I am humbled and I am grateful and am happy to help you any way I can in 2019 and beyond!

Cindy Belz
George Cisneros
Rose Diamond
Maura Fallon-McKnight
Ellen Goldberg
Suzette Hibble
Joel Johnson
George Kao
Ben Lizardi
Lorenzo Lizardi
James Lizardi
Jess Robertson
Jason Schneider
Tauni Swenson
Laura Wald
and all my friends from Focusmate

Interview support:
Callie Rojewski – B Lab
Clint Wilder – Clean Edge Consulting
Chris Allieri – Companies v. Climate Change
Jason Youner – Companies v. Climate Change
Jeff Marcous – Dharma Merchant Services
Tracy Tinclair – New Resource Bank
Kari Dorth – Presidio Graduate School
Pam Gordon – Presidio Graduate School

Official Release of Green Wisdom: A Guide for Anyone to Start, Engage and Energize a Sustainability Team Tue, 27 Nov 2018 18:19:21 +0000

Green Wisdom can now land in your inbox today!

No more waiting!

After two years of research, conversations, writing, and revisions, Green Wisdom: A Guide for Anyone to Start, Engage and Energize a Sustainability Team is finally here for public consumption!

This is a collection of stories, research and best practices from some of the most innovative companies that are changing the way business works.

This book is for those who WANT to get a team of people started on sustainability initiatives in their company and for those who already have programs in motion and would like some new ideas.

Even people in the smallest businesses can learn how to make their company more socially and environmentally friendly – and make it fun for everyone involved.

Learn about the best practices of the sustainability teams in these companies while enjoying Green Wisdom:

Alaska Airlines
Alter Eco Foods
Badger Balm
Better World Books
Dr. Bronner’s
Market Force Global
Mountain Rose Herbs
New Resource Bank
Self-Help Credit Union

Purchase Green Wisdom for your kindle or e-reader. Stay tuned for the paperback version to be released in early Spring, 2019.

From Compost to Campaigns: How to Reach Your Sustainability Goals Mon, 22 Oct 2018 19:41:46 +0000

Have you ever wondered why you often see big banana peels or corn stalks poking out of the top of a compost pile? It’s not necessarily because these materials are more difficult to break down than others, but rather because of their size. Be it a leaf, food scrap, or tree branch, large objects break down slowly.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, these larger objects have less surface area for bacteria and fungi to go to work on. When you take a shovel and chop up a banana peel or corn stalk, you increase the working space for the microorganisms that transform the waste pile into fertile soil.

The same principle can be applied to the work of your Sustainability Team. You may have an energized workforce and bold, clearly communicated sustainability goals, and yet, there is a disconnect between your team members’ passion and the results of your sustainability initiatives.

It’s possible that all that needs to be done to reach your goals is to increase your surface area.

Sustainability touches all aspects of life and work and developing campaigns that attract different types of people over time is incredibly helpful in reaching a broader audience – both to enroll new volunteers, and most importantly, to continue reaching the company’s goals.

“It’s important to provide as many different entry points as possible for people to get involved into and get inspired,” says Stephanie Meade, Director of Sustainability at New Resource Bank (NRB). “People feel passionate about many different things within sustainability. One person can be passionate about animals and others might be passionate about oceans and beaches, while another is inspired by sustainable fashion.”

To maximize the number of entry points into their sustainability work, NRB allows employee interest to drive their actions. For instance, one of their major initiatives is an annual “Sustainability Challenge.”

“Each person chooses an area of sustainability that they are interested in learning more about and integrating into their lives. Examples include: growing a garden at home, wasting less food, eating less meat, or decreasing automobile use through public transportation. The “challenge” is unique to each person and all projects turn out differently. This event creates yet another “touchpoint” for people to learn more about sustainability and helps them transfer what they learn at the bank to their daily lives.”

This variety is crucial, because as Meade reminds, “It’s all about what makes people feel passionate. I think that with more entry points focused on education through an array of initiatives, you have a higher likelihood of getting more people involved because you’ll find their entry point. That has been helpful for us.”

When a Sustainability Team struggles to engage a workforce it is rarely because team members don’t care. Perhaps everyone on the Team just needs to chop up its big initiatives and create more space for individuals to connect their interests and passions to the company’s overall sustainability mission.

Author’s note: New Resource Bank has been acquired by Amalgamated Bank, which also has a very innovative sustainability program. Stephanie Meade now runs her own brand storytelling consulting company.

Data Paralysis and Over-Ambition: Are They Robbing Your Sustainability Team’s Momentum? Fri, 27 Jul 2018 16:14:47 +0000

The fossil fuels you use each day took 300 million years to form. Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year alone. What on earth is your team supposed to do with statistics of this magnitude? It seems that your every action matters, and at the same time, no change could possibly be enough.

While it is important to have a firm grasp on the big-picture reality of the effects of business choices and the seriousness of the many environmental threats to the planet, it is equally important that Sustainability Teams in companies avoid two common pitfalls when formulating their corporate response: paralysis and over-ambition.

Paralysis: All actions add up.

Don’t become so overwhelmed by the numbers gathered from preliminary research for a new sustainability initiative that you hesitate to put a plan in motion. Movement in the right direction will begin to add up and even the smallest micro-changes will have an impact. Environmental and social change builds from the bottom up and has a ripple effect that will reach all levels of the company, in addition to all stakeholders, over time. (For more on this see my recent Triple Pundit post: Climate Leaders Take Cues From Nature To Inspire Optimism.)

Over-ambition: Be aware of your limits.

Take inventory of your capacity. A team of employees mandated by the company to work on sustainability issues will have a different capacity than a team of volunteers that is focusing on environmental and social issues in their free time. Additionally, it is helpful to set goals and milestones that are attainable. For example, a newly-formed Sustainability Team focused on decreasing their company’s waste stream by 25% in six months will not achieve its goals until a good employee engagement program focused on recycling and composting is developed and used over time. Such a meaningful change requires a fundamental shift in the habits and patterns of company employees.

There’s a fine line between “being ambitious,” which is an important characteristic for any individual or team to possess, and “over-ambition,” which can create exhaustion and fatigue. In terms of momentum-killers, over-commitment is second only to apathy. Where apathy accomplishes nothing, over-ambition tries to accomplish everything, inevitably leading to rapid burnout and ultimately, disengagement. In addition to producing few lasting results, such a turbulent introduction to the work of sustainability will leave a bad taste in the mouth of your team members, potentially preventing future successes.

There are a myriad of psychological studies linking effort-reward imbalance and over-commitment in the workplace to psychological stress, depression, and other breakdowns in health. The same principles hold true for Sustainability Teams.

“Organizations with high initiative fatigue frequently suffer from the failure to build a powerful leadership coalition and lack an engagement effort that connects the initiative to the daily routines of the affected employees” (32).

-Adam Werbach Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto

The 2016 Bain Sustainability and Change Survey found that out of 301 companies engaged in sustainability transformations, only 2% met or exceeded their sustainability goals. 81% reported diluted results and 16% failed to achieve even half of their original projections. That doesn’t mean these teams didn’t accomplish meaningful work, but it does mean they missed a crucial chance to build momentum for long-term change.

In order to decrease or even eliminate paralysis and over-ambition, Melissa Malkin-Weber, Sustainability Director of Self-Help Credit Union and Ventures Fund (SHCU), encourages new teams to “find small things that are non-symbolic to do at first and then build up.” When the first thing your Sustainability Team does is aim too high and miss the mark, you risk losing company trust and stakeholder investment before you’ve even begun.

As your Sustainability Team gets off the ground, it is important to generate momentum and investment before successfully tackling macro-level changes. “Sustainability Teams build their ability to impact an organization,” Malkin-Weber explains, “by demonstrating value and results.” To best accomplish this, she encourages teams to “find projects that are both meaningful AND provide a payback for the organization.”

Malkin-Weber knows how effective this model is, because her job is the result! SHCU’s Environmental Stewardship Committee started as a grassroots employee campaign to transform SHCU into a triple bottom line organization. As the team established themselves, they focused on generating small sustainability wins like finding ways to eliminate Styrofoam in break rooms.

One of their early initiatives, “The Great Paper Smackdown,” was an interoffice competition. Each floor of the building competed to see who could use the least amount of paper in a set period of time. The initiative was fun, free, and saved the company money. It also was a great opportunity for the team to reach out to new members and create a positive atmosphere around their work.

As these small successes garnered support and engagement, the team set their sights on bigger and bigger projects. Eventually, they realized they needed full-time support to reach their now lofty goals. So, several team members used their fundraising skills to secure a grant so SHCU could hire a full-time Sustainability Director. Shortly after, Malkin-Weber was hired as the organization’s first Green Initiatives Manager.

To avoid paralysis, develop initiatives and goals that can be integrated into the company’s model and culture in sustainable ways. Teams that focus on a company’s climate change milestones are extremely important at this moment in time. Use that energy and excitement to do anything possible to decrease waste, energy, and water use, however, be aware that over-ambitious plans can have a negative impact on a Sustainability Team’s momentum.

When employees truly desire to do meaningful work and integrate the company’s sustainability initiatives with the employee’s daily responsibilities, and managers, owners, and other leaders understand the capacity of the employees, that company’s possibilities to impact global transformation are endless – despite the overwhelming data.

Climate Leaders Taking Cues From Nature To Inspire Optimism Thu, 03 May 2018 19:52:57 +0000

“How do you work in the field of sustainability or environmental issues without getting depressed?”

Maybe you’ve been asked some form of this question. In my line of work, it is one I field often. My answer has always taken on a holistic outlook. In the natural world, everything is connected. There are millions of relationships, many that we don’t understand or even acknowledge. That means that every negative action is multiplied through the effects it has on these relationships, but it also means that even the smallest positive change can create a huge impact for good. (I also try to remember that even though “I” think an action is positive, that same move can be felt as negative to someone else, depending on the circumstances.)

When an ecosystem leader creates positive change, the ripple effects of that change can have unintended consequences that lead to increased health for the whole system. In an essay published in 1945, Aldo Leopold found that wolves, seen as an ecosystem threat because they prey upon deer (wanted by human hunters), actually maintain balance within the forest, helping the entire system to thrive. When the deer population increased as a result of exterminating wolves in a certain area, plant life dwindled rapidly, which meant that many animals did not have food or places to nest. Leopold found that the wolves are ecosystem leaders who greatly contribute to more positive aspects of the forest than originally thought.

It is easy to think that companies merely respond to consumer demands, but just as wolves shape their surroundings, business choices shape consumer culture.  When a business “does the right thing” and acts in a just, environmentally responsible manner by setting aggressive sustainability goals or mandating company initiatives, those actions affect not only company employees, but the entire business ecosystem–customers, suppliers, and community members.

Recently, Larry Fink, the CEO of investment company BlackRock, penned an open letter to CEOs that states: “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.” This is a bold, important declaration. Corporate leaders are waking up to the fact that their actions dramatically influence the earth’s future.

In 2016, the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture Strategy conducted the largest ever CEO sustainability study, gathering information from over 1,000 CEOs from more than 100 countries. They found that 97% of the chief executive officers “believe that sustainability is important to the future success of their business.” This understanding is crucial, because even when sustainability initiatives and projects are mandated from the top down, these initiatives give employees who have a sustainable vision for the company’s future a chance to band together and spark action. A simple idea from an employee can change the entire trajectory of a company for the better.

It’s 2018, and while the teams that focus on environmental and social issues in companies are rapidly evolving, the principles that guide healthy systems remain the same. Known by many names – Environmental Stewardship Committees, Sustainability Councils, or the standard Green Team – CEOs at companies such as Dr. Bronner’s, Alaska Airlines, and Genentech are understanding the contribution and impact that these teams have on both the short and long-term success of the companies and are leveraging the interests of their employees to make a sustainable difference.

For example, at Dr. Bronner’s (a family owned-and-operated activist and social enterprise company that produces soap), the vision and mission of company leadership creates an environment in which grassroots, bottom-up development can thrive. “When I look back at the success that our Green Team-like initiatives have had in the last four years, it’s been the ideas that have come from the specific departments where those ideas have actually been implemented that have been the most successful,” said Darcy Shiber-Knowles, Quality, Sustainability, and Innovation Manager at Dr. Bronner’s.


When someone asks me, “are you feeling depressed about the current state of our environmental situation?” I share about how wolves are an integral part of nature and trust that their contributions will continue to serve the planet. I share about the many businesses that are developing thriving initiatives that will help to decrease their resource use. I share that these initiatives are not only stemming from grassroots groups of employees, but also from high-level managers who understand that the bottom-line is about more than just profit and are making decisions as ecosystem leaders that benefit all members of their community.


While there are still many obstacles facing the convergence of business and the environment, knowing that there are many smart, motivated people who are in action and striving toward positive change – helps me to stay optimistic about our future.

Why Sustainability Now Thu, 08 Feb 2018 18:58:24 +0000 In addition to profitability, there are significant “soft benefits” to eco-friendly business practices. Corporations that practice sustainability see higher levels of worker engagement, better PR, more engagement from their customers, and more opportunity in the global market.(1) These benefits may be less measurable than bottom line profit, but they are equally powerful in driving revenue growth. Growth leaders have already begun capitalizing on these opportunities, and sustainability is becoming the “new model” for being successful at scale.

Public Opinion, On A Global Scale

It is important to remember that the vast majority of Americans, and an even greater percentage of global consumers, feel strongly about sustainability. According to a January 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, 74% of adults in the United States agreed that the country should “do whatever is necessary” to preserve the environment.(2) Studies in Europe and East Asia found similar results, and governments in those countries have reflected this investment by implementing massive regulations restricting business with companies that excessively pollute. Even without such drastic legislation, brands that market their sustainable actions have a tremendous PR advantage over less green conscious competitors, in almost any market.

Considering your business’s environmental impact in context of the global market is incredibly important. Even though the importance of sustainability may not be reflected in the current political administration, it remains a massive global priority.

Last year, China pledged billions of dollars to develop clean energy sources and has levied strict penalties on polluters. The European Commission has created many laws within the European Union that support corporate social responsibility and sustainable development.(3) Any company with aspirations of tapping new global markets will need to begin implementing sustainability now.

Companies in the US can embrace the “new model” of sustainability to scale, connect with their local communities, and engage their customers. It is possible. Drop me a line for a free 30 minute consultation and together we can talk about how your business can implement soft benefits into its practices.

Saving Money For Your Business At Every Step Tue, 05 Dec 2017 16:52:28 +0000 While there is little argument that eco-friendliness should become a driving principle for all businesses in the near future, considering the high investments costs and seemingly scarce short-term benefits can make some business owners balk. Add to that a political tide that seems to be turning against sustainability, and it is understandable that many business stakeholders are uneasy with the prospect of going green now.

The analytical cliche: “the most important thing is the bottom line,” is likely the first thought that comes to mind when making this kind of decision. If a business doesn’t make money, it can’t stay in business. The bottom line is as important as its ethical impact when considering the future of a company.

This very reason is why every business needs to go green now. Contrary to popular belief, in today’s economy, “sustainable” equals a better bottom line. Why?

Tax Credits
Despite a chill to climate change, there are still millions of dollars in tax credits available to businesses that invest in green-initiatives. Most are artifacts of the 2009 economic stimulus plan, which provided incentives in the form of tax credits for companies to go green, enhancing their bottom lines by investing in the environment. At the time, credits were made available to companies that utilized environmentally friendly business practices; like switching to renewable energy sources (solar or wind power) or using electric vehicles for their transportation fleets. Most of these credits are still available to businesses.

Two of the best:
Up to 30% of cost tax credit for switching to sustainable power sources
A $1.80/ sq ft credit for buildings built or renovated to be energy efficient
There are still dozens of tax credits available like these, and businesses with sustainability on their minds would do well to pounce on them now, before they go away.(1) Many states, like California, also provide generous tax subsidies to green initiatives, over and above federal credits, meaning higher profit via a lower tax liability.

Cost Reduction
Aside from reducing your business’s tax burden, going green now will also slash your operation costs. As Emily Reyna, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, asserts, “sustainability is first about improving the bottom line.”(2) Unilever is a shining example of this. By first reducing their environmental footprint and then adding ingredients that are better for the planet into all of their products, they saw higher margins and their sustainable product line is now a multi-billion dollar business.

To replicate this success, businesses can:

  • Eliminate almost all electricity costs by switching to solar panels (and get a tax credit)
  • Reduce gas expenses by switching the corporate fleet to hybrid vehicles (and get another tax credit)
  • Spend less on waste processing by training employees to use resources more efficiently (Dr. Bronner’s is a great example of this in the upcoming book about Climate Action Teams!)

On a purely statistical cost:benefit analysis, going green wins out completely. While most businesses will need to start small – first by taking advantage of low hanging fruit such as switching off lights and processing waste better – they will see that sustainability saves money at every step. Next week we will look at the soft benefits sustainability brings to the table.


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How Your Company Can Reduce Its Environmental Impact Wed, 18 Oct 2017 17:58:53 +0000

The fires are finally decreasing in Northern California and people are starting to rebuild their lives after devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida in the last few weeks.

At the current rate we’re going, climate scientists have recently shared that in the future we will experience less hurricanes overall, but will see an increase in Category 4 or 5 hurricanes. Heat waves in places where they do not normally occur will happen more often in locations that hadn’t experienced this phenomenon in the past. Groundwater will be drier, which means that wildfires can spread more easily in many parts of the world.

The environment links communities, people, and businesses. Despite these challenging examples of severe weather events, we can work together to discover new opportunities for our businesses that do not come at the earth’s expense.

What You Can Do

As a business owner or an employee who cares about how the company you work for, there are many simple actions you can take to support it in creating a lighter footprint on earth. Instead of simply decreasing and measuring emissions, a new goal of many companies is to entirely reverse climate change with the solutions provided in Paul Hawken’s new book, Drawdown. If you are someone in your company who is responsible for making decisions about its sustainability strategy, I highly recommend reading this book. If you are someone who would like to make these types of decisions for your company, I also highly recommend reading this book.

Many business leaders that I’ve spoken to over the past few months about their company’s sustainability initiatives have told me about their incredibly innovative campaigns that support their company’s climate change strategies. A few have already integrated Hawken’s ideas into their plans. I look forward to sharing these stories with you soon so that you can use them as inspiration for your sustainability initiatives!

Summary of Interview With Jacqueline Drumheller at Alaska Airlines Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:47:54 +0000

This interview is one of the companies that will be featured in my upcoming book on Climate Action Teams.

Today I talked to Jacqueline Drumheller, the Manager of Sustainability at Alaska, which is a US carrier based out of Seattle, Washington. She oversees the company’s green team, which is a voluntary group of people from all different departments. Their green team focuses on employee engagement to ensure that all employees are aware of all the company’s sustainability initiatives.

Check out for more information.

Summary of Interview with Gretchen Grani at Nutiva Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:45:44 +0000 This interview is one of the companies that will be featured in my upcoming book on Climate Action Teams.

Nutiva is a conscious curator of organic, plant based foods and their mission is to revolutionize the way the world eats.

Between 2014 and 2015 Nutiva diverted 94% of their waste – this means that only 6% of their overall waste went to landfill. This earned Nutiva the Gold Standard Zero Waste certification from the United States Zero Waste Business Council. The company has donated $4 million to organizations that support some of the most important environmental issues of our time. Nutiva has also achieved 69% diversity.

Grani in is the Director of Sustainability and Corporate Giving and Executive Director of the Nutiva Foundation.

Check out Nutiva at