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Director, Boston Green Ribbon Commission
I grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, the oldest of four daughters. My father was the second president of Hampshire College, and my mother is an Emily Dickinson scholar and author. Both are very creative people, and they were my formative influences. I also spent a lot of time outside in nature, because we lived in such a rural area and, of course, in those days, you could just roam around.
I majored in English at Wesleyan University, and did my MBA at Harvard. I spent the majority of my early career at the Nature Conservancy, focusing on cause-related marketing and relationship development work with corporations. Then, in 2006, after taking some time off when I had my children, I co-founded a small firm that focused on corporate sustainability strategy consulting. Several years later, PwC acquired that firm.
It was great to see the firm make an effort to invest in sustainability strategy consulting, relatively early on. I mean, this may sound obvious now, but back then, the corporate world was just beginning to understand that consumers wanted sustainability. That energy conservation could possibly save them money. That environmentalism and good business practices were aligned rather than oppositional. It was really quite new thinking at the time.
Our mission at the Boston Green Ribbon Commission is to convene business, institutional, and civic leaders in different key sectors across Boston to help the city implement its climate action plan. We highlight successes and we sponsor fundamental research like the Climate Ready Boston and Carbon Free Boston projects. As we make progress in Boston, our hope is that we’ll be serving as a model for progress for other cities around the world too.
I think corporations can often show what’s possible, but then the government has to come in and mandate it to happen at scale. It’s not an either/or situation, but a collaborative and strategic effort. At the end of the day, all the voluntary action in the world isn’t going to get us where we need to go with climate. I think the coronavirus is actually a very interesting insight into that, because people won’t just change. Look how long it took for people to actually stop going out. And that’s with a very personal, very immediate threat of death. Now if you translate that to climate, it’s this idea that someday, something will happen. It’s not immediate. It’s not happening yet. So people ask, why should I change? But with policy, we see that people can change quite quickly and it can have a very rapid impact on the environment.
We’re now working with cultural institutions, and I’m really proud of that collaboration. Boston has world-class cultural institutions. And a lot of them have buildings that may be old, inefficient, and vulnerable. Yet they really weren’t participating in the climate conversation in the same way as other important sectors, such as the healthcare sector, the commercial real estate sector, and the higher-ed sector. So starting with the Museum of Science, and then slowly building up one by one, we now have a group of 40 organizations working with us — including the Red Sox, Zoo New England, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of African-American History, the Paul Revere House, the USS Constitution, and more.
Oh, I love spending time with my two kids. One lives on Nantucket and one lives in San Francisco, and I miss them dreadfully. I also love to be on the water, so I’m always happy to spend time on Cape Cod in the summer.
Well, I’ll pass along a piece of advice I received long ago that I think is correct. And that is, in your career, follow the person not the job. Follow the person or people who are going to teach you, be fair to you, inspire you. I think a job is most fulfilling when you’re learning like crazy and working with people whom you admire. Particularly in the climate space, it’s nothing if not a learning curve.
I’m really excited about launching our first culture and climate campaign. Well, that and my first Zoom book club.