She is the President of Evolution Marketing, a Wisconsin-based women-owned certified B Corporation specializing in the area of global sustainability consulting and storytelling, environmentally responsible creative design, and ethical marketing.
I keep hearing about the social side of sustainability, but I thought sustainability was only about recycling and addressing environmental issues. Can you define that for us?
In all sincerity, the average American really believes that when you say sustainability, you're talking about the environmental side. True sustainability comes in a holistic manner and what that means we like to talk about it as like three legs of a stool. So those three legs of the stool are people which would be the social side. So that equates to corporate social responsibility. Planet would be the environmental stewardship side, which is the environmental side. Then profit or economic viability would be making sure that the business you're doing is making money while you're doing sustainability. So all three of those parts interconnected together are what true holistic sustainability is. So you can't really address an environmental issue without also addressing the people side, or the community side or the supply chain side. So everything is all connected together. Here's the definition that I really love because it puts it pretty clearly: Sustainability means ensuring prosperity and environmental protection without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. So really, at its heart, it's all about people.
Why is it important for businesses to begin addressing and adopting sustainable business strategies and actions?
It kind of goes back to what we were just talking about with COVID. The reality is, Americans today want business to solve social problems. 20 years ago, Americans expected government and or nonprofits to solve the world's problems or the social problems that we have in our communities. But after the last couple of years in this United States, there's a lot of data that talks about how consumer attitudes have changed, and specifically Americans attitudes have changed, saying that they really want business to be the one to solve social problems. If you look at what happened Last year, business was the one that really jumped up or stood up in many cases to address not all their worker issues, but address community sustainability. So I would say transparency is a big part of this. Customers, consumers, the public, want to know what a business is doing, and that's why I think sustainability strategies are really important right now because they help to tell the story of the actions that you're taking in your organization.
If I want to get help to make sure my business was more sustainable, are there references available? Do you have resources for Wisconsin and even beyond?
I am a walking resource for sustainability because I love sustainability and its parcel to what our business does! So if you're in the state of Wisconsin and your listener, we have a program, it's through the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council. It's called the Green Masters Program which was established in 2009. Evolution Marketing, actually, was one of the original 13 businesses to pilot the program. What it is, is it's an assessment and recognition program for Wisconsin businesses interested in improving and being recognized for their sustainability initiatives. So what it means is, if you've never done anything and sustainability, and you're kind of looking for the on-ramp on like, where do you begin to learn about sustainability and what you could do in your business, I would say, go check out https://www.wisconsinsustainability.com/ and then go to the Green Masters tab on the website and you can actually download the questions. So the program runs all year round. For new businesses is free to apply until October 31 2021 and if you're an existing business, who already participates in the program, it's free to apply before August 31. So after August 31, you pay a small fee, which isn't in the grand scheme of things a big deal. Then we close the program on November 1, and in December at our annual conference, which happens to take place in Wisconsin, we announce the Green Masters Companies. So those are the 20% of the companies that apply to the program, who are the top score getters. With the program, there are three levels, and the apprentice level is the beginning. So as long as you're taking one action, each of the nine different areas of sustainability, you can come in at the apprentice level. As I said, it's a recognition program so it really helps you to start on your trip, and then on your road to sustainability. Then over time, you can compare your year-by-year data. So if you're a company like mine, we've been a Master Company for several years and each year, we benchmark against the previous year for our data. We use that as a way to do improvements within our organization. So that's a free program if you're a Wisconsin business, and if you're new to the program, the first year is free and the second year, as long as you apply by August 31 is still free to participate. Then there's this program called the B Impact Assessment. This is for national companies and global companies. So there's part of this Certified B Corp movement and what that means is the BIA (B Impact Assessment) is a global tool that is free for any business in the world to go and to use. I don't know how many countries we're in right now, I think we're in over 50 countries that have companies that have become Certified B Corp and there's 4000 of us now in the world. So your business gets audited through completing this BIA and it is free if you don't want to get certified. So all of the questions for the BIA are there, you can go and you can put your information in, and you have to get a minimum score of 80 points in order to qualify to become certified. So again, if you're a little bit more advanced in the sustainability realm or if you're in the UK, or you're in Mexico, and you want to look at what's the global tool that's out there, the B Impact Assessment is free. Last year 46,000, businesses were new to it, and they put their information. Now, granted, they didn't all try to become certified, but I think that's really amazing! That shows that this is a global movement, and more and more businesses are wanting to see kind of where they're at across the globe. It's based on a global way of looking at sustainability, which is awesome!
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Again, I love sustainability. So for me, I really enjoy going to conferences, workshops, webinars, really any event tied to sustainability. For me, finding like-minded folks or people who might think the same way I think or who are working in the same space is just is wonderful. The discipline of sustainability is relatively new, we're only 15 years old. So it's been more challenging for me to network, especially when I started Evolution Marketing, 14 years ago, there weren't a lot of folks in Wisconsin that were engaged in the sustainability space. So for me going to our Wisconsin Steel Business Council, we have a conference over December, that will always be my favorite networking event of the year, because I get to go and see everyone I know in the state and some folks from other states, too who are engaged in sustainability. This group, especially women in the group has been my foundation, as I've grown my business. Because again, being in a new discipline, it's a little bit more challenging to find colleagues to network with. So I'm really happy that we've been able to grow that space through our WSBC. My friend Jessie and I started a group called Women and Sustainability in 2014 which is another group of women who are working in sustainability in Wisconsin, and we network across that group as well. So to me, it's having folks that are working in the same space as me, that's been my best way to network. Because they understand the challenges and the ups and downs, of what goes into sustainability.
Regardless of the size of your network, it's important to stay in front of and nurture these relationships. How do you best do that?
What we've done is we send newsletters out to all of our clients, as well as our colleagues and friends. In those newsletters, we share resources and tell really good impact stories. We try to help our network be more informed about what's going on in the space because there are a lot of things happening really quickly in sustainability because it is such a new discipline. So really doing the E-newsletters on a regular basis, we do basically every two months, we do an E-newsletter, I think that's been super useful. But the other thing is getting out and doing speaking. For years, I've done public speaking programs or engagements at conferences, events, and community-level events talking about different facets of sustainability. I'm amazed at the things that the public I think they know that they don't know or the questions that the public has. So that's helped me become a better marketer for sustainability products. Sometimes you're in your own space, and you know what you know, but you don't always know what's going on outside of that space, meaning the community. So I can tell you a story if you want! A couple of years ago, the Waukesha County Green Team reached out and they said, "Hey, Lisa, we're doing our countywide sustainability fair in August and we'd like you to be a speaker at the program." I said, "Okay, great! What would you like to speak about?" They're like, "We really want you to talk about sustainable shopping," and I was like, "Sustainable shopping?! Let’s unpack this a bit." As we were talking, it came out that they wanted me to talk about certifications that are on products. So when people go shopping, they know if the product is environmentally responsible, or socially responsible. I was like, "Oh, sure that makes sense to me," and then they kind of went through the rest of the speakers for the day. All of the speakers were highlighting different facets of sustainability, to help the general public who came to the event to learn more and to basically use their money in a better and more environmentally socially responsible manner. So there was education about yard care and not spraying chemicals and all of the different things that if you want to live a sustainable lifestyle you could do. So I put together this program and as I was working on it, I realized that there are over 3500 certifications out there for sustainability for products. That's crazy, right? So I'm like, Alright, what are the top 10 that I think are the most important. So I built my talk around that and I gave it the sustainability fair. The room was standing room only and everybody loved to talk. After that talk, I have given that same talk over 20 times now to other groups. Now, when I put the program together, I thought this is interesting, this is neat, it's about certifications. I was on a podcast where literally I talked about the entire talk I gave on a podcast. This messaging about third-party certifications and what they mean and how that can impact your product buying or your food buying, that is huge! I already knew this information, but I didn't think it was something that the public was craving. I have been proven wrong like the public loves this topic and it really showed me that sometimes even the most basic things about sustainability, most people don't know. So I thought that was a good eye-opener for me and also now when I do community engagement, that's one of the topics I bring in.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I laugh, because when I was in my early 20s, I was like, gotta get a degree, gotta go to graduate school, education, education, education. Looking at the state of the workforce today, I have some really great data at my fingertips and one of the projections that we've seen which we've talked about for a couple of years is that by 2025, 73% of jobs in Wisconsin will not require a four-year degree. So I think back to when I was 20 and I was like, go to undergrad, get my degree, go to graduate school, education is so important. Now I look at my nephew who's 19 and I'm like, "You know what? You can go out and work in the work world, you don't have to have a degree," because so many jobs today are training their workforce and there are so many different types of opportunities that a four-year degree is not required anymore. You can get a certificate, you can get an associate's degree, so many more options exist. So I think my advice would be that, maybe, because everyone tells you this is how it is, it's not what you needed to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I went to graduate school and I'm glad I had the experiences I had. But I think so much has changed in the nature of work from the time I was 20 till now and I think younger people who are listening to this podcast, and even employers, I think we all need to really be aware of the fact that so much more of the training today can happen in the workplace. We do the same thing, all of my interns have they go through sustainability training with me and it just a different way of looking at things, but I think it's a better way for the future that we're looking at right now. Especially because there are 7.5 million jobs that are being unfilled right now. So I think putting barriers in place saying somebody that works for you has to have a four-year degree or has to have an advanced degree, I think that that's unrealistic when we look at the future of how do we attract and retain talent.
Sustainability resources available to listeners:
Social Sustainability: https://greenmkting.com/social-sustainability
Environmental Sustainability: https://greenmkting.com/environmental-sustainability
Economic Viability: https://greenmkting.com/economic-viability
Free tools: https://greenmkting.com/free-tools
Connect with Lisa
Evolution Marketing’s LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/evolution-marketing-llc/