Sustainability at the Click of a Button with Three Squares, Inc.and Women in Green Forum’s Jaime Nack

April 17, 2015

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have with us today Jaime Nack. She’s my friend. She’s back for the second time. Welcome to Green is Good, Jaime. JAIME NACK: Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Jaime, you’re amazing because you’re doing so many things in sustainability and green. Before we get talking about your great company, Three Squares, Inc., and before we get talking about the great organization you co-founded, Women in Green, I want you to share the great story behind Jaime Nack and your journey leading up to these two great organizations. JAIME NACK: Sure. I really have a lot to be thankful for. About eight years ago, I had decided to go off on my own. I was working in the environmental consulting arena for a couple of years, worked my way up to the VP position at an environmental consulting firm, and decided it was time to really step out on my own. It’s been a great, exciting, wild, entrepreneurial ride ever since. I was tapped to serve as Director of Sustainability for the 2008 Democratic National Convention out in Denver, and that really helped me and the firm, Three Squares, Inc., out on the national stage and really cue us up for international work. We’ve done a lot of great work across the globe. I was in India a couple of weeks ago, Salt Lake City last week, New York this week, and Detroit tomorrow. We are very busy, but we do great work. We help companies, cities, government agencies, on their sustainability journey. It can be anything from helping them figure out the best strategy to move forward and get funding to help their efforts move forward, to actually implementation of those efforts on the ground, in their facilities, in their buildings. We also heavily focus on employee education and getting the employee behavior lined up and tuned in with the sustainability strategy as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s incredible. I want to talk about this. You are the President and founder of Three Squares, Inc. For our listeners that want to learn more about that, they can go to threesquaresinc.com. I’m on your website. Explain to our listeners, before we get talking about other issues, what threesquaresinc.com is and what you do there. JAIME NACK: Sure. We are a consulting firm. We are well known for our sustainability strategy in the events world, so we not only produce events from start to finish with a sustainability lens, but we also get brought in just to manage the sustainability for large-scale events. We were the first firm in the nation to demonstrate compliance to the new international green events standard called ISO 20121. We’ve been doing a lot of work in the ISO 20121 space, helping large events, helping big corporations create policies. A lot of times these corporations have events throughout the year, sometimes more than once a month, so that all of their events are aligned and that they’re measuring their progress and reducing their environmental footprint across their events. We also work with companies about overall sustainability strategies, similar to working as a Chief Sustainability Officer, but externally. We work with their team in-house to set strategies and standards for their operations, and then rolling out their standards across their corporate footprint. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I know your office is in beautiful Santa Monica, California. How many years ago did you start Three Squares, Inc.? JAIME NACK: Back in 2008, believe it or not. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Right, so you’ve been doing this stuff for a long time. Talk a little about the demand for environmental consulting and how it’s increased over the last 10 years. What are you seeing? You’re one of the real leaders in this whole field. JAIME NACK: It’s actually been really a pleasure to watch the industry grow. Ten-plus years ago, I would say, to find companies that had an established Chief Sustainability Officer role, they were more the unique ones or the outliers. Now, I would say business as usual really incorporates a focus on sustainability or CSR, corporate social responsibility. If you’re a major company today and you don’t have a web page or a section on your web page about your sustainability efforts, I would say you’re more the one that’s looking out of place. You’re more the outlier. I serve on a number of committees. One is the World Resources Institute, New Innovators Council, and that group is focused on solutions for big corporates in the sustainability arena. It’s great to see, when we go to their corporate member meetings, and you see Chief Sustainability Officers there from every major brand or company that you could think of. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. With that explosion, now, with CSOs and sustainability becoming part of corporate DNA and culture, what’s your visibility on the next five to ten years ahead? What’s going to happen next? What’s the next frontier? JAIME NACK: I think the last 10 years or 20 years have really been focused on efficiency and programs like Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing has been used to really dial into efficiency of manufacturing processes and overall business processes. I think the next 10-20 years, we’ll be seeing a bit of a switch and major companies will be dialing in those systems with a focus on efficiency, where it meets up with environmental efficiency and sustainability. That’s where their ratings or their rankings on these industries, like the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and how they’re rated overall with ESG or Environmental Social and Governance ratings. There’s been a lot of focus on that. Those scores weren’t as important as they have become over the last 10 years. I also think technology and being able to use technology to help those companies dial in, the nexus of efficiency and environmental sustainability, will be on the rise. That’s where we moved into that arena and looked at how can we use technology to really enhance what we’re doing on the environmental consulting side and launched the second company, which is One Drop Interactive. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m on your website now. Again, for our listeners out there that just joined, we’ve got Jaime Nack. She’s the President and founder of Three Squares, Inc. You can learn more about Jaime at threesquaresinc.com. She’s also the co-founder of Women in Green Forum. We’ll talk about that a little later. Talk a little bit about One Drop Interactive. I’m on your website now. You’ve shared with me before we ever did this show, it’s a fascinating piece of technology. Share with our listeners why you invented it and why you created it, and what it actually does. JAIME NACK: Sure. We are really excited about One Drop. What we learned from working with Chief Sustainability Officers and serving as an external Chief Sustainability Officer for a lot of organizations, was that there’s a particular pain point in the industry around getting your employee behaviors to line up with your sustainability initiatives, and getting that employee education really out there and penetrating, especially if you have a company that spreads across a country or across multiple countries, getting everyone on the same page has been really a challenge for these CSOs. We decided to develop used technology to develop this platform that educates and engages employees, so that they’re able to learn more about recycling and water conservation, energy savings, and sustainable purchasing, and they can now feel empowered by that knowledge, and at the same time, we’re actually able to collect real-time data from these employees about what their behavior looks like in the workplace. Those data points roll up to really valuable reports on the back end. From the client perspective or client admin. perspective, they’re able to find reports after the employees take these educational courses, and see areas for cost savings and environmental savings. It’s a win-win across the board. You get educated and engaged employees, and then you’re able to see from a company perspective what can we do, how can we fine-tune our system to save both money and tons of CO2. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so interesting. Why were you compelled to create this tech platform? What was driving you towards that, in terms of the technology and sustainability and the conversions of both? Why did you want to put them together? JAIME NACK: I feel that technology has a really magical ability to scale way beyond our old analog way of doing business. We’re at that seven-year mark. We realize we’re having a great impact with our consulting work, our projects, our clients are phenomenal, and we can see the impact in our day-to-day or project-by-project approach, but we knew that we could do more. We wanted to make sure that we’ve been able to amass a great amount of expertise and knowledge in this space, and we wanted to share it with as many people as possible. We looked at technology as a way to allow us to reach hundreds of thousands of people with a click of a button, versus our project-by-project approach. That’s why we really launched into this new field, and it’s been a really exciting journey ever since. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I know this is sort of a silly question. You’re the creator and you’re the visionary here. Who were you creating this for? What types of companies or governmental entities need a tool like One Drop? JAIME NACK: Companies of all shapes and sizes. What’s great is we decided early on, we created a Founders Circle of major companies, Fortune 100 companies, and had their Chief Sustainability Officers as part of this group for six months. We were able to really test out the model, get feedback from them, and these were companies that range from 2 million employees all the way down to 500 employees. They all had very, very similar needs, they just needed a product or tool that would be able to scale from the 500 employees to the 2 million employees. That was something that was really interesting for us. Their needs are very similar, but we needed to make sure that we have a scalable platform. Definitely technology was the conduit to let us do that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: When did you actually launch One Drop? I know you did a lot of beta testing and you were really careful on how you put it out there. When did you officially launch it, and are you happy with the traction you’ve gotten so far? JAIME NACK: Yeah, we launched in 2014, and our initial launch was for our Founders Circle pilots only. That was part of the agreement with them. Since then, we’ve gotten a lot of interest. We have talent agencies, we have large foundations, we have city governments, we have automotive companies, we’ve got interest coming from many, many different avenues. We also have a lot of interest coming from overseas. Most recently, we were referred to a company out in Ireland. They’re a large $30 billion company, and their Chief Sustainability Officers are at their headquarters in Ireland, and they were looking for a tool or a platform to allow them to educate and reach their employee base, and they found us. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so exciting. Are you happy with how the technology has been performing? Is it performing against your vision the way you wanted it to? JAIME NACK: Yeah, definitely. I would say the thing that always surprises me is we learn from every customer or client engagement, and we’re able to enhance the platform. For me, that’s really exciting because it’s constantly evolving into something better. For example, one of our customers has a big wellness focus, so they wanted to be able to incorporate a dashboard from their FitBit challenge into our dashboard. We’re able to build these custom widgets so that we can pull in the wellness activities, the leadership activities, into their sustainability platform in One Drop Interactive. Being able to make it even go beyond just the core sustainability focus and tie it into wellness has been something that we didn’t plan for, but we love the fact that we’re able to expand and incorporate that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is just amazing. I know you and I have had this discussion offline before. Talk about the potential of your software, One Drop, and integration outside of just corporate, but for cities and residents that want to learn about their recycling rates and their engagement and overall sustainability engagement overall. Could that work as well? JAIME NACK: We’ve talked to several cities, the city of Los Angeles, the city of Santa Monica, and others, about actually rolling out the One Drop platform for their city employees. We’ve talked a bit about how can we bring this to the residents, because we know that there are people that don’t work for large companies that have rolled out One Drop already, so they might want to be able to access this education and learn more. Apps like Recycle Nation would be a great way to link the residents who are already looking for solutions and ways to recycle more and learn about energy and allow them to dip into this education piece as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So there is going to be a broader application. You feel that it’s going to be both good for beyond corporations, government and also for apps like ours, that want to bring it right into the homes of America. JAIME NACK: Yeah, definitely. We’ve also gotten a lot of questions about the K-12 market. Again, that wasn’t our focus, just like wellness wasn’t our focus initially, but I think that as we grow, we have this amazing platform and we have really great, really clean educational content that’s exciting and engaging, that I don’t see why we won’t be able to expand into these other areas as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Jaime, you’re a very humble person. It’s not enough that you’re one of the leading women entrepreneurs in sustainability with regards to Three Squares and then One Drop and all the things you’re doing there, but honest to gosh, Sheryl Sandberg has nothing on you because, you were really leading the lean in generation before that book ever came out. Now you also created, while you were running Three Squares, you were the co-founder of Women in Green and the Women in Green Forum. We’re down to a couple of minutes, but I don’t want to end the show without you sharing about Women in Green, the next conference coming up on August 25th, and how you created it, why you created it, and what it’s up to this year. JAIME NACK: Sure. I’m really, really proud of the Women in Green Forum. We launched it six years ago, so we’re heading into our sixth annual conference. This year, we will be taking it to a new unique venue at Tree People, which is up in the hills in the dead center of Los Angeles, right off of Mulholland, beautiful hilltop location. The conference series is really developed to highlight women’s impact on the environmental industry and to encourage more women into the field. That second part is really something that is close to my heart. We developed the forum with the idea of having a student scholarship program. Every year, we have a core group of students who attend the conference for free. The conference has highlighted environmental professionals from almost every major company you can think of, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel, Honda, Ford, BMW, you name it. In addition to cabinet members like EPA administrators to local, regional, and state city government officials. Really the focus was how can we get more women at the podium talking about what they’re doing on the environmental side, and showcase them as role models and allow more young women and women who want to switch careers the opportunity to see that there are these great opportunities in the environmental space. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Unbelievable. This is your sixth year coming up, August 25, Women in Green. To learn more about it, go to womeningreenforum.com. You can sign up on their website. Jaime, last thoughts here. For people out there that want to be the next Jaime Nack, what blogs or books do you find inspirational for the next generation of millennials and wannabe leaders who are listening to the show today in the United States and around the world that want to follow your footsteps? JAIME NACK: I’m big on social media. I would say check out those who I follow on Twitter. My Twitter is @jaimenack. If you’re also looking at careers in this space, there’s a great recruiter who posts a lot of jobs in sustainability. She’s @sustainablejobs on Twitter. There are a lot of great, again, on social media and Twitter, and blogs online like Habitat and Dwell and others that post articles constantly. Now with Twitter, you’re able to see a very quick snapshot quickly and figure out you want to click to learn more. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. Any favorite books? JAIME NACK: I have a huge stack of books that I’m in the process of getting through. There are interesting ones on the topics that I’ve mentioned today. There’s one called Six Sigma for Sustainability, which is a little bit of a tie-in between the efficiency piece for businesses and sustainability, so that’s a real great one. I know you mentioned Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In earlier. There’s also a great book for business negotiations called The Power of a Positive No, which is one of my favorite negotiation books, so I want to plug that one as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. Good for you. Jaime, we’re so thrilled to have you back and you’re always welcome on Green is Good to talk about all the great things you’re doing. For our listeners out there that want to learn more about Jaime and also her great products and her great company, please go to www.threesquaresinc.com. You can learn about One Drop Interactive there, and also learn more about all the great consulting work she’s doing there. For those of you who want to sign up or come to the Women in Green Forum, you can go to www.womeningreenforum.com. Thank you, Jaime Nack, for being a sustainability superstar. You are truly living proof that green is good. JAIME NACK: Thank you, John.