Bringing Women to the Forefront of Green with Women in Green Forum’s Jaime Nack

August 22, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have with us today Jaime Nack. She’s the founder of the Women in Green Forum, and also the President of Three Squares, Inc. Welcome to Green is Good, Jaime. JAIME NACK: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, we’re excited to have you on. You’ve got a lot to share with regards to the great work you’re doing at Women in Green Forum and also as the President of Three Squares, but before we get talking about your two great organizations, I want the listeners to hear about the Jaime Nack story and how did you even get to this position and what led up to this time where you’re running these two great organizations? JAIME NACK: It was not a straight path. I speak to a lot of college classes and try to give advice as best as I can, but I went to UCLA both undergrad and grad, studied public policy so my focus back then was how to impact the world around me through a policy but I knew that I didn’t want to work inside government. I wanted to somehow affect change from the outside and I started while I was in school with the City of Santa Monica here locally and was a program supervisor, ran a lot of programs. One happened to be an environmental program working with the bay and coastal cleanup day and so we grew over about five years our beach cleanup or environmental cleanup to be the largest one on the west coast and I really enjoyed it and I thought it was a great way to both engage with the community and have an impact and so I started focusing heavily on environmental. Shortly after I graduated with my masters, I joined another environmental consulting firm here in Santa Monica. We focused on education so I did a lot of work just to educate myself on everything about clean vehicles, electric vehicle transportation, infrastructure, worked with the ports, really love the idea of the trade component and how to reduce emissions from all of the different pieces of port related activities from trucks to planes and trains and ships and was having a great time but I felt like I was hitting a ceiling at the firm that I was at and in 2008, a really ripe economic time, I decided to go out and launch my own firm, Three Squares, Inc, and so I did that shortly thereafter. I left to serve as Director of Sustainability for the Democratic National Convention in Denver and that was the first time ever the DNC had an environmental initiative like this and actually hired a director for sustainability and so it was a great project, really put us on the map, and we’ve been having a successful ride on the environmental consulting side for the last six years and about five years ago, I decided that I wanted to see more women and that I would find a way to bring more women into the field and that’s when we decided to branch out and to curate this conference series, the Women in Green Forum. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is just amazing and you’re a very humble person. Along the way during your journey, you also, in 2007, won the Young Global Leader Award by the World Economic Forum and in 2013, the Environmental Conservator of the Year Award given out by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce so you’ve had quite a journey there, Jaime. JAIME NACK: I have. I have to say the young global leader community is a really vibrant, really amazing community to be a part of. We meet annually once a year. Last year, it was in Myanmar. This year, it was in Mexico and the group consists of everyone from we have Chelsea Clinton. We have Will I Am. We have leaders from across the globe. You have to be under 40 when you’re nominated. It’s a very competitive process but it’s also served to be a great both networking group for me and also just I’ve made some of my best friends through this group as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know Jaime, for our listeners out there that want to follow along and see a lot of the great work Jaime’s working on, please go to www.womeningreenforum.com. I’m on your website now but before we get talking about Women in Green Forum, let’s talk a little bit about your environmental consulting business. You said it’s been really busy for the last six years. Where is it now? Obviously, in 2014, the world has changed so much from Inconvenient Truth and all the success that Al Gore had in terms of the visibility, in terms of Emmy Award, Academy Award, and all that kind of great stuff, Nobel Peace Prize. Where are we now with regards to the sustainability journey and how your environmental consulting business works and what’s your visibility on the next 10 years in front of us? JAIME NACK: Yeah, so I’m happy to report that I feel like we have a lot of work to do to get ahead but we’ve come a long, long way so we’ve served for a number of different companies almost as an outsource to a sustainability officer partly because five, 10 years ago, that title didn’t exist so major corporations didn’t have a person managing their sustainability efforts so it was either piecemeal or you couldn’t really find anything that talked about sustainability on their website. Now today, we have tons of conferences talking about sustainable brands and Newsweek lists their top greenest companies and so it’s really almost a race to the top and people want to showcase what they’re doing but a lot of companies don’t know how to take the first step so we’ve worked with them along the way and then in the last year or so, we really realized that there was a need to help these folks who were now taking on this role of sustainability officer, help them with this new big job ahead of them and so version 2.0 of Three Squares is we started developing out using technology a tool to help sustainability officers train and engage their employees in sustainability and so we launched a sister company called One Drop Interactive last year and that is an online employee engagement tool which educates, trains, engages employees so they’re part of this sustainability effort and part of both environmental savings and cost savings. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How is that working and who are your type of clients for One Drop Interactive? JAIME NACK: When we were building out the tool last year, we assembled a founders’ circle of chief sustainability officers from major Fortune 500 companies. They range from companies with employee bases of about 2 million all the way down to a thousand and they gave us feedback as we built out the tool and now we’re running pilots. Many of those companies then also here in LA, just because of our relationships. The City of LA is interested. Metro is interested so we really thought this would be something for corporations with large employees but when we started to talk with some of the folks we work with locally, cities and government agencies, they also have a need to educate their employees and part of it is there’s ISO 14,000 and 26,000, which are environmental management systems which demand that you have a process in place for continual education and continual improvement and so this allows them to align their people element with their strategies as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Very cool, so One Drop Interactive is a product that came out of Three Squares and you started the beta and you expect that to be adopted at a lot of the companies that you’re introducing it to because they all need a sustainability program in house to socialize their employees to all these type of regulations and ISOs and other things that are out there right now. JAIME NACK: Exactly. Yeah, and one of the things I’m sure many of your readers have seen something that’s been really popular in the news lately is the solar roadways Kickstarter campaign with the solar so what’s great about that is we have a partnership with a really cool film company called Focus Forward. It’s GE Focus Forward Films and they develop these really slick clean tech videos on new technologies and innovation and so with each One Drop Course; with energy, with water, with recycling, we have a quick focus forward film on a new innovation in that space that the employee can get excited about what the future holds so Solar Roadways is actually our film that’s featured in our energy course so it was really neat to see it pick up some mainstream support via that Kickstarter campaign. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, and will One Drop be something that you think is gonna be picked up nationally or it’s something you feel that the beta is working also in international companies as well? JAIME NACK: Exactly, so a lot of our big corporates are multinational and also thankfully, through my network with the Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum, we know a lot of corporate sustainability officers from multinational corporations with headquarters abroad so we’ve launched the platform in English. I’m also reminded by our British colleagues that it’s American English but phase two is to roll it out in other languages with culturally sensitive content because as you know, if we have a recycling course here for the U.S., the content will be very different if we take that course to Argentina or to India, for example. Their recycling infrastructure is very different. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is so cool. I’m on your One Drop website right now and it is so cool in terms of all — I’m looking at solar roadways. I’m looking at your 1.0 series and built in game mechanics and teen challenges. It’s fascinating what you’ve built here. This is really exciting stuff. JAIME NACK: Yeah, it’s great. The behavior change — I studied international economics as an undergrad, but behavioral economics, to me, is just a fascinating field and Harvard has really done some great work in this space about how to motivate people toward the behavior you want or toward the behavior that could have a greater public good so we’ve tried to bake in a lot of those nudge. Nudge is a popular blog or website about a book that was written by some Harvard professors but you can create little nudges that get people toward a behavior that can really have a lot of positive impact. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it. So, now let’s move on and talk a little bit about the founding of Women in Green so go back to the epiphany. What was your real aha or epiphany moment for the founding of Women in Green Forum and when did that come about again and explain the whole impetus behind that launch. JAIME NACK: Sure. I remember it very vividly. On the Three Squares side, we produce a lot of sustainable events and environmental conferences and we were producing one that was a clean tech venture conference and about 800 attendees in Pasadena in 2009 and we were at the conference and one of the things that I noticed and my staff noticed is that as much as we try to separate names of folks, we know for the agenda that the people at these conferences end up being 99% male speakers and so I was there at the conference greeting one of the keynote speakers. His name was John Picard. He was one of the founding members of the U.S. Green Building Council. He’s a really well known environmentalist and architect and visionary and we were having a conversation and he was showing me photos of his daughter and talking about a trip that they had just taken where he was explaining to his daughter the importance of being educated about climate change and he said, “I really hope that my daughter grows up to have a career like yours in this space,” and then he said, “but when I look around at these conferences, it’s all men and they all look the same,” and I said, “I know. It’s something that we struggle with as well,” and he said, “You need to do something about this, Jaime. You need to create a space and you need to start to encourage more women to come into this field so they can see what a vibrant space it is,” and I said, “You know what, John, I agree and I’m gonna take on that challenge,” and so that was the conversation that started it all, John. He gave a keynote at the first Women in Green Forum that we had so we brought him back to speak at the first forum. He actually was at the next one as well. He was brought to tears. A lot of people in the audience were as well when he was telling that story because it was really something that was close to his heart and he was so happy to see that there were 500 women in the room supporting the concept year one as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it. For our listeners who just joined us, we’ve got Jaime Nack. She’s the Founder of Women in Green Forum and also the President of Three Square, Inc and to check out more of what Jaime’s up to, please go to www.womeningreenforum.com. So this year’s forum is called Design Your Impact. Explain what that means. JAIME NACK: Sure. Every year, we like to have a theme and we like to challenge our attendees and so this year, what we’re doing is we’re realizing that there are a lot of people who might not have sustainability in their title but they want to figure out a way to bring it into their work or to their home or to their community and so what we wanted to do was focus on how every person can design their own unique impact within their life and within their spheres of influence so a lot of speakers will be talking about how they’ve been able to work sustainability into their day to day so for instance, there will be a speaker from Honda who will talk about how their focus was on dealerships and the dealership experience but they were able to develop and design this whole program on how to green their dealerships and then they want to open source that and push it out to a larger audience so it’s great how if you have these ideas and bring these new ideas and bring these ideas to a more traditional space, especially I think because the market has opened up to that idea of sustainability and understand the benefit from environmental savings to cost savings, that you’re able to have a greater impact in your work, whether it has an environmental focus spelled out or not. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. The next conference is on August 26, this year, 2014, in Los Angeles. Is it for both men and women or just women only? JAIME NACK: Definitely, so it’s open to everyone, all ages, all career levels, men and women attend every year, so it’s a really great, vibrant, energetic audience. We’re also for the first time this year, we always like to have something new so we always have a clean vehicle ride and drive where guests can check out the newest models of clean vehicles but then we also are launching a wellness lounge this year so attendees will be able to walk through the wellness lounge and try out different products and samples and try out tasty treats from local sustainable chefs and so it’ll be a really great experience in addition to the content. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That sounds awesome. I’m getting excited just hearing about it so talk a little bit about who the speakers are besides the Honda person. Who else is coming to speak at this year’s Women in Green Forum? JAIME NACK: Sure, yeah. What was really interesting, I’d like to highlight one of our male speakers actually. Council member Mike Bonen from the City of Los Angeles, his office actually reached out to us and said that the council member was really interested in being a part of the event and supporting it so we’re excited that he’s going to be there to open up the day. Again, the event is open to men and women. We need the united front to help bring more diversity into this space. We also have a great partnership with Care2. Care2 also awards a Trailblazer Award to a leading woman in this space and so we can’t announce who that awardee will be yet but Care2 also helps us give out the Care2 Impact Award to the same awardee who we give out our Trailblazer Award to. In addition, Care2’s site is all about impact so Care2 is a petition site where they have about 25 million members and what they do is they help nonprofits and causes raise support and kind of create a ground flow of support around their initiative and so what we’re going to do is feature several just everyday people who created petitions around environmental causes and they were able to have a major impact by launching a petition on Care2, getting the signature, and affecting change that way so that’s something new this year. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m looking at your whole schedule. It’s fascinating and for our listeners out there, you gotta go. Men, women, if you can make it, go this great forum. This sounds like a great event and you gotta be there to see it in person and also, support Women in Green Forum. This is great stuff. Jaime, we’re down to the last couple minutes, unfortunately, and there’s a lot of listeners around the United States and around the world, young ecopreneurs, young students in waiting who want to be the next Jaime Nack. In the last minute and a half or so, give a couple pearls of wisdom on how to take the first step to getting a successful environmental career going or any blogs, books, or any inspiration that you could leave behind for our young listeners out there that want to become the next Jaime Nack. JAIME NACK: Okay, great, fantastic. I love engaging with youth and the first thing I would say is make sure you have a profile on LinkedIn and then make sure connect with me on LinkedIn. I always will accept someone, especially if you mention that you heard me on the radio show today. That’s fantastic. I’d be happy to connect with you on LinkedIn. Make sure that your profile is as professional as possible so a professional photo. If you’re young and you don’t have a lot of job experience to list, that’s okay. You’re just starting out. Go ahead and list your educational experience. This is also a great time to start interning or finding someone that has a job that you think you want and just see if you can schedule an informational phone call or coffee with them and really get to know people and start to build your network now. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is awesome. That’s great advice and Jaime, I really appreciate you coming on the show. I want you to feel free to come back on anytime you want and continue to do all the great work you’re doing and highlight Women in Green Forum and for our listeners out there that want to learn more, please go to www.womeningreenforum.com. Sign up, go if you can, and support all the great things that are going on right now in the sustainability world. Thank you, Jaime Nack, for being a visionary, an inspirational leader, a woman in green. You are truly living proof that green is good.