Tajana Mesic, of G3 Solutions discusses the importance of implementing sustainability road maps.
|Ben Lack||I’d like to start by having you talk us a little bit about your company.|
|Tajana Mesic||Thank you for taking an interest in this subject. Since 2008, Green Grove Group Sustainability Solutions has provided sustainability strategy and implementation expertise to leading companies domestically and internationally. We help our corporate clients craft and implement sustainability solutions including resource conservation, employee and community engagement, waste and carbon emission reduction, sustainability tracking and sustainable procurement. Through these core services, we provide organizations with a clear sustainability road map to help them achieve measurable results. They rely on us to be their corporate sustainability officers without the associated high costs.|
|Ben Lack||Talk to me about a couple of examples of projects that you are working on.|
|Our favorite Houston project right now is the extraordinary WhatIF™ campaign, presented by UHY LLC in partnership with CompuCycle, Easter Seals of Greater Houston and Green Grove Group.In joining forces, the city of Houston’s leading tax and business consultants, a deserving non-profit, and a responsible e-waste recycler are helping create jobs for Houston’s community of people living with a disability.The concept is simple, “WhatIF…” our city’s leading corporations, with the support of their employees, collected unused and end-of-life electronic products and recycled these products in order to fund a sustainable, ongoing job creation and training program? No money is exchanged. Instead, the currency for this effort is unused, unwanted, oftentimes outdated, items with the proceeds going to employ the deserving clients of Easter Seals Greater Houston and their partner agencies. As an added bonus, after a company engages, Green Grove Group can be contracted to continue and elevate corporation’s sustainability efforts and quantify the ROI.Our favorite project in Dallas last year was Trammell Crow’s Earth Day Dallas, which turned out to be the second largest Earth Day in America. We were hired as sustainability advisers for the 48,000 people event, resulting in the event’s eco-friendly initiatives that helped offset nearly 300 metric tons of CO2 and diverted 70% of the event’s waste from landfills. It was such a thrill seeing the results of our combined efforts, as Earth Day Dallas became the second largest Earth Day in America, educating Dallas residents, corporate and academic communities about sustainability.|
|Ben Lack||Talk me a little bit about sustainability climate in Houston.|
|The sustainability climate in Houston is robust and gaining speed. The city and the Mayor are progressive thinkers and implementers. To illustrate, the city has invested in a Green Building Resource Center to educate Houstonians and companies doing business in Houston about how to “build and live green”. The city partners with CompuCycle to provide electronic waste recycling drop-off locations city-wide. CompuCycle is transparent in their operations, offering tours of their facilities to the public, which is not standard in the industry. Did you know that less than 20 percent of electronics are currently recycled in the United States? The remaining 80 percent ends up leaching into our water supply. Another issue – all of us know someone living with a disability. A child with a neurological impairment, Autism, people affected by stroke, or living with learning disabilities. Many have trouble finding adequate jobs although they have skills needed for the position. They are highly skilled in certain areas, but are often bypassed for positions. In a February brainstorming session, we thought up a truly unique solution to a number of problems. The WhatIF™ team’s combined passion for social justice and community involvement, skillset of measurable corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility, a solution was born. While Easter Seals of Greater Houston help people who live with disabilities, we are able to also quantify the results of the WhatIF™ campaign for the corporate donors.We care about what happens to the 80 percent of electronics that are not recycled. This waste contains powerful neurotoxins such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and mercury. After they end up in our landfills, these heavy metals slowly leech into our water supply, wreaking havoc with our children and causing diseases and disabilities.Corporations carry end-of-life electronic equipment on their books and replace their operating equipment once every three years on average. It’s a win-win situation for companies that are donating that electronic waste to CompuCycle, who is well equipped to recycle this waste responsibly.Globally and locally, consumer electronics is one of the fastest growing industry segments. It is estimated that the average American owns 25 pieces of consumer electronics. That means that over 7.7 billion pieces of consumer electronics will eventually enter the waste stream in America. Just in 2009, EPA estimated that only about 18-19% of electronics that enter the waste stream are recycled. Nearly 2.5 million tons of electronics will up in the landfill and incinerators across the country. That is a staggering number and there’s a huge need for finding a win-win solution for these end-of-life electronics.
Our solution process was conceptualized to dedicate a percentage of the value donated corporate electronic waste to fund the training programs for people with disabilities in Houston. UHY LLC embraced the campaign as a responsible solution, encouraging participation from other community-minded companies who want to make a positive difference in our community. Electronic waste becomes a solution. The program asks all sorts of WhatIF™ questions. WhatIF™ there was a way to financially sustain a program to begin to train and employ those Houstonians living with disabilities? WhatIF™ the Human Resource function involved in recruiting the next generation of employees understood how to recognize disabilities and know how to employ those individuals appropriately? WhatIF™ this became an annual campaign? There are a lot of WhatIF™s on the table; WhatIF™ we clean the environment, WhatIF™ getting jobs for people with disabilities locally became easier, WhatIF™ the problem became a solution? All these become a part of the larger sustainable and self-sustaining solution.
|Ben Lack||So talk me a little bit about what success really look like, obviously you’ve made a very compelling argument for the problem that the campaign is trying to solve and it’s a great solution to really help and get enough attention and you know really save the world at the same time. When do you say this is really becoming a successful venture?|
|Tajana Mesic||Houston’s leading tax and business consultants, UHY LLC stepped up as the corporate leader. Their pioneering efforts are helping educate more companies about how WhatIF™ offers a solution to an ongoing problem on so many levels. We know that in Houston right now there are about 15,000 non-profit organizations. Each is asking corporations or foundations for cash support. Our campaign takes cash out of the equation and focuses on hard work and end-of-life electronics. Our goal is to recycle 500,000 lbs of electronic waste in two months from September 15 through November 15. The more electronic waste we recycle and keep out of the landfill, the more jobs will be created. So that’s the other goal, job creation for individuals living with disabilities. Other goals are fostering of corporate partnerships, and creating a measurable platform for corporate responsibility in the Houston business community. I’m sure more goals are going to come out of it, but another goal right now is development of a replicable model that we can leverage in other business communities.|
|Ben Lack||Tajana why are you doing what you’re doing and why have you chosen to spend your time on this space?|
|Tajana Mesic||I am passionate about contributing my skill set, my educational and professional background to strategize and quantify results. I enjoy providing clients with measurable results and really appreciate the diversity and challenges they face. With each client, the focus is on tailoring the solutions to them. One thing I recall as a challenge from my days as a management consultant with Ernst & Young: it is the implementation and finesse of getting to the results that matter – those are critically important. It is increasingly important to focus on the triple bottom line because the consumers demand it. Triple bottom line results focus on people, planet and profit, not just profit. Through the WhatIF™ campaign CompuCycle, Easter Seals, UHY LLC, and other partner companies are leading the way with a powerful message on creating jobs and reducing electronic waste. It must be a win-win to make sense. To demonstrate our internal commitment to sustainability, Green Grove Group decided to undergo a rigorous third-party certification assessment. We became a certified Benefits Corporation (B Corp) just few months ago. Are you familiar with the Benefits Corporation model?|
|Ben Lack||No can you briefly talk to me about it?|
|Tajana Mesic||With social media and instant communication, with heightened scrutiny on corporate behavior, there is constant pressure on companies to operate more transparently. Now there is a standard available for privately held companies – B Corporation certification. A third-party certifier, B Lab is a national certifying organization for companies in the United States and beyond. There’s a lot of greenwashing out there and lack o transparency, so taking a company through the B Corp impacts assessment indicates commitment to corporate responsibility and transparency. There are 574 certified B Corporations in America, and 15 of those are in Texas. Green Grove Group made the investment and became the first Texas certified B Corporation sustainability consulting firm.Ultimately most people want to do the right thing; they might not know how. The WhatIF™campaign presents a solution. It will be tremendously helpful to Houstonians, to organizations in Houston and to people living with disabilities. As I mentioned before, implementation could really be overwhelming. We have created a platform for carrying out the solution and to get the benefits of transparency, tax benefits, helping people find adequate jobs and keeping the electronic waste out of landfill. We can’t wait to see the results! And Green Grove Group will be ready to help if companies want to learn how to do more.|