- What are five things that you’ve learned about leadership and sustainability in your career thus far?
Information and consumer markets move a lot faster than government, and transformational movements start there. Culture plus commerce equals change.
I learned how to “do well by doing good” from Ray Anderson, who I was blessed to have as a model and mentor at the very beginning of my career. The green building movement is a beautiful demonstration that it doesn’t cost a pound of flesh to do the right thing, and that you can build economic prosperity without destroying the place we live.
The things the sustainability movement is fighting for—from clean energy to healthier food—are analogous to a technology upgrade for our economic system. It’s prosperity and profitability that doesn’t come at someone else’s expense.
As David Gottfried has reminded us time and time again, it’s about the people. It wouldn’t be a movement without all of the individuals who’ve dedicated their time and bet their businesses on a better way.
We will fail if we don’t address the economic inequity that’s tearing away at our communities, in America and around the world. Look around when you’re at the world’s largest green building conference this year, and ask yourself what can you do about the need for vastly greater economic diversity at this and every table.
- Can you cite one or two (or more) innovations and/or innovators in sustainability that you believe has, is or will be impactful in a significant way—and why? These can be from your own organization or elsewhere.
Organizing individual consumer purchases into community power transforms market for the greater good. More than 70% of America’s economy is fueled by consumer purchases, and every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of future we want for ourselves and for our communities. We’re all in this together, and by working together, we can make even the pennies count.
To quote my friend Jeff Martin, Founder of Tribal Planet, “Social good is the new currency of brand reputation.” If you want to have a thriving business once the Millennial Generation and the “screenagers” that follow take over the marketplace, you better have your corporate social responsibility platform in place and backed up with results.
Community solar is a key to creating the equitable clean energy economy we’ve all talked about for years. Community solar is fundamentally local, distributed, and resilient; and it can make renewable energy accessible to vastly more economically diverse people than just those who own a home and have good credit. Let’s embrace community solar.
- What is one recommendation or tip you have for young women looking to develop their leadership skills (references you’ve used, books you’ve read, activities you’ve partaken in, etc.)?
Know your worth. EY’s Women Fast Forward study reported that it will take nearly 80 years to close the gender pay gap at the rate we’re going. Demand #EqualPay for yourself, and make sure the women who work for you one day are paid on par with their male colleagues.
- Please name one woman who has inspired you on your career path.
I have to name two, my grandmothers, Vivian Knopp and Mary Moore. Like my grandfathers, both of them worked in the cotton mills for more than forty years. I have a pay stub for my Mammaw Knopp from 1966, and she brought home less than $60 for a full week running an industrial loom. I will never forget how hard they worked alongside my grandfathers to raise and educate my parents, nor will I forget that their hard work is why I am here.
Moore's grandmother's pay stubs from 1966. At that time, a week's worth of work on an industrial loom brought home less than $60.
For Michelle's interview segment and full list of honorees, check out GB&D's feature.