…a Trade for Good day in the stock markets. I think we should get all the financial services company to encourage people to trade on a particular day of the year and use the commission dollars to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We could do this on every exchange in the world. Financial organizations would win. Awareness would be raised, and more people would be brought into the markets to trade. And the world would win.
I had the distinct pleasure to interview Thomas M. Kostigen, JConnelly Director of Sustainability. Thomas is a globally recognized sustainability expert, a New York Times’ bestselling author, award winning National Geographic writer and renowned environmentalist who has traveled the world studying the impact of individuals, government and business on the overall health of the planet. Tom speaks widely at environmental, social value, and corporate governance events. As Director of Sustainability at JConnelly, Tom continues his work with organizations large and small to refine and communicate their purpose.
I began my career as a typical journalist: daily newspaper, wire service, then magazines. Eventually, I became a columnist and started expressing my opinion about social issues. That led to an opportunity to work on a documentary in Africa. When I was in Ethiopia, I saw up close pretty much all the social challenges waged at humanity. But I also saw opportunities and hope for change. That’s when I decided to shift from merely creating awareness to empowering people and organizations with tools that — hopefully — help create a more sustainable world.
I was exploring water reuse — a missed opportunity for a lot of organizations — and I visited in southern California the Orange County Water District, the premiere model for water reuse in the world. When I say water reuse, by the way, that is a nice way of saying reusing sewage water. I went inside the sewage pipes to where they sift water from raw sewage. I was shown the whole process from sewage pipe all the way to an industrial sink. From the tap, you can sample the water — drink it. I did, and it tasted fine. Of course, when you think about it….
There are a lot of acronyms in the sustainability space that you have to learn. And when you are just starting, I didn’t want to seem ignorant of any of them. I was at a meeting where everyone was talking about CGI, CGI, CGI. I kept thinking was is everyone talking about animation? CGI is, of course, the Clinton Global Initiative. I should have admitted I had no idea what people referring to. I missed out on an invitation to attend. Lesson: admit that you don’t know everything.
We deep dive into cutting edge issues. And we understand how to communicate those issues in ways that are relevant and incite interest. For example, a global retailer was interested in unique ways to offset the carbon emissions in their supply chain. Most offsets involve engaging a third party to plant trees, or whatever. Then credits are purchased. By suggesting a new way to leverage the oceans as a carbon offsetter, we brought something fresh into the conversation that could be messaged in a unique way. Moreover, our oceans are our biggest carbon sinks, so why not help to save them? We always strive to raise awareness and be effective at the same time.
One of the biggest bats that can be used to foster sustainability is capital. We are working with financial services firms to shift the way they think about socially responsible investing — and to create impact in ways people may never have imagined. There are ways to promote gender equality, mitigate human trafficking, help refugees, and much, much more. These areas used to be relegated to philanthropy. On that note, we are also working with some major benefactors to change the way they allocate their assets; we encourage and advise impact investing as an alternative.
Collaboration is a really important thing to encourage. Employees, especially millennials, want to work for companies that make a socially positive difference in the world. In fact, a new study just came out that found this group would actually sacrifice income for ethics. I’d say promote purpose over profits.
Authenticity combined with authoritativeness.
Don’t just do it — you need professionals. Checking the box and saying that you are socially consciousness doesn’t cut it. There needs to be a deep practice that is imbedded in all areas of your business.
William McDonough is a man I look up to. He created the Cradle To Cradle concept, where every product should be designed as recyclable from its beginning. He famously says there is no “away” in thrown away. (Hence, cradle to cradle, versus cradle to grave.) He wrote the foreword to one of my books. When he came to my office, he took a look at my laptop, which was old and heavily used-a pretty banged up old mac. He loved that it was old, and that I was still using it and hadn’t traded it in for a new model.
I try to do things that will help the next generation. I wrote a kids book that won a big writing award and I received a lot of feedback and messages from kids in elementary school. That means a lot to me. I express to business owners and people interested in the sustainability space that it’s not about us. It’s about kids. That’s who we should be trying to create a better world for.
A Trade for Good day in the stock markets. I think we should get all the financial services company to encourage people to trade on a particular day of the year and use the commission dollars to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We could do this on every exchange in the world. Financial organizations would win. Awareness would be raised, and more people would be brought into the markets to trade. And the world would win.
“Never freak out.” I grew up sailing off the coast of Cape Cod. The guy who taught me to sail was an old salt. First lesson, he said: never freak out. That will only make things worse and you won’t think straight. Saved my life a few times, that advice. In harrowing or super tense situations, it’s important to remain calm.
Bill Gates. He does so much good in the world — and he does it in a very sophisticated fashion. Making the greatest impact isn’t easy. It takes a lot of research and management and oversight and due diligence. The amount of money he puts to good use is staggering. But he does it in a sustainable way. I really respect that he has dedicated his life to good causes. He didn’t have to. He could have carried on at Microsoft or just did things that were fun for him and his family. But he took doing good big. He made his philanthropy a sustainable business.
You can find me on LinkedIn or read my blog on jconnelly.com.