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Monday, August 21, 2023

Environmental Stewardship: the business perspective

The Temple of Understanding (ToU)* invited Elemental Impact (Ei) to host the May monthly Eco Justice for ALL Dialogue. With the topic, Environmental Stewardship: the business perspective, Ei Founder & CEO Holly Elmore orchestrated the following panel of Ei Advisors as the dialogue speakers.

  • Stephanie Barger -TRUE Certification for Zero Waste / U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Global Director of Market Transformation
  • Simon Lamb -, author of award-winning Junglenomics
  • Tim Trefzer - Honeycomb Strategies Event and Venue Sustainability VP, Sports & Venues.
Holly served as the dialogue moderator.

The entire Environmental Stewardship: the business perspective Dialogue is available for viewing on YouTube.

In addition to Ei Advisors, the panelists are members of Lambda Alpha International, a 90-year-old land economics honorary.

* The ToU is an international interfaith organization that advocates for interfaith values in the secular setting of the United Nations.

Eco Justice for ALL Dialogues (EJAD)
According to the website, EJAD are special intimate discussions about the climate emergency with international ChangeMakers.

The EJAD series is an ongoing ToU-project focus for past 12 years; the focus is to increase awareness among religious leaders of the climate crisis and its negative impact on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, the EJAD focus is on peace, justice, women's health & safety, food sovereignty, and environmental sustainability.

In her welcoming statements, ToU executive director Alison Van Dyk mentioned that the Environmental Stewardship: the business perspective dialogue was the first time the EJAD hosted a business-oriented topic.

As she closed her welcoming statements, Alison turned the program over to Holly as the dialogue moderator.

The Overview
Within her opening remarks, Holly established herself as a seasoned business woman who started her career as an Arthur Andersen auditor and later served as Controller of Trammel Crow Residential, SE Division. Holly's 15 years in the foodservice industry as a restaurateur and off-premises caterer was the perfect background for the 2009 Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) launch.

In 2010, Ei was formed as the home to the ZWZ, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. From inception through 2017, Ei operated with tremendous success within the Era of Recycling Refinement (RR.) In June 2017, Ei declared the Era of RR Mission Accomplished and segued into the Era of Regeneration where Nature Prevails is the primary platform.

During the Era of RR, Ei worked closely with Stephanie and Tim; Holly and Simon support each other in the  Environmental Economics focus area, which resides within the Nature Prevails platform.

As her opening remarks closed, Holly shared the dialogue landscape: it began with Stephanie presenting a broad perspective on why environmental stewardship makes good, solid business sense. Tim followed with specific examples of accomplishments within his role as Director of Sustainability at the Georgia World Congress Center, the nation's fourth largest conference center and home to the Atlanta Falcon's football stadium, and involvement with major sporting events. 

For the final presenter, the discussion shifted gears with Simon's talk on Junglenomics and how sustainable accomplishments are no longer feasible to avoid climate disaster; regenerative solutions are imperative.

Holly turned the microphone over to Stephanie to answer a series of prepared questions.

The Broad Perspective
Stephanie Barger
Photo credit:
Holly Elmore Images
In her self introduction, Stephanie mentioned that she shares a common accounting and audit background with Holly and entered the environmental non-profit realms in 2000 with the launch of Earth Resources. As the founder and executive director of the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC,) Stephanie orchestrated the annual National Zero Waste Business Conferences from 2012 through 2016. Additionally,  the USZWBC launched the Zero Waste Certification Program (ZWCP.) 

When the USGBC purchased the USZWBC in 2016, Stephanie segued into the USGBC Global Director of Market Transformation position, and the ZWCP transformed into the TRUE Certification for Zero Waste. In her USGBC capacity, Stephanie works closely with global corporate leadership on achieving zero waste and embarking on other sustainability endeavors.

Driving Forces
Multiple factors - many consumer driven - motivate corporations to embrace environmental stewardship. Often the local, state, and federal regulations governing pollution generation, manufacturing by-product disposal, natural resource extraction, and beyond were the result of public outcry related to environmentally damaging common practices.

Astute companies realize that they must protect the limited valuable resources used in their products to ensure their long-term sustainability; thus, these companies developed internal environmental stewardship practices to protect their corporate longevity. Additionally. company products must be safe to use and free of hazardous materials to maintain a profitable customer base.

Another driving force for sustainable best practices is they simply makes good, solid business sense on tangible and intangible levels. When less resources and energy are expended in the production, packaging, and transportation cycles, lower costs are incurred and the bottom line benefits. An intangible benefit is improved staff morale, which aids in employee retention and recruitment; overall, employees enjoy working for a company that cares about their environmental impact.

Industry Leaders
For zero waste initiatives, Japanese companies were early leaders with embracing resource-recovery and waste-not practices. Limited landfill space on the island was a natural incentive for operating within zero waste standards. Japanese manufacturers Toyota, Subaru, and Ricoh Electronics incorporated their standard zero waste practices when opening U.S.-based plants across the country. 

Eiko  & Stephanie 
Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
At the inaugural NZWBC in 2012, Ricoh division manager Eiko Risch was an empowering keynote speaker who inspired the audience on "what could be done." The 2012 Regeneration in ACTION (RiA) article, U.S. Zero Waste Business Council hosts first-rate conference, highlights Eiko's impressive keynote presentation.

When their products directly impact customer health, such as personal beauty items and cleaning supplies, a manufacturer often incorporates environmental stewardship within its corporate ethics. Earth Friendly Products (EFP) is a prime example; EFP is a home-based product manufacturer who adheres to ethical standards ranging from manufacturing ingredients, employee and social equity stewardship, and zero waste practices.

At the 2015 NZWBC hosted in Los Angeles, EFP Vice-President Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh spoke at the conference and hosted Holly on a pre-conference tour of their local zero waste-certified plant; the EFP environmental policies were beyond impressive. The 2015 RiA article, Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense, features the EFP tour as well as Nadereh's and other zero waste leaders' presentations.

Beverage companies like Sierra Nevada are environmental leaders via their ingredient sourcing, zero waste practices, and supporting local economies. Over the past decade, many farms shifted to regenerative agriculture practices and incorporated agri-tourism into their business models. The 2018 RiA article, Regenerating a Bright Future for Planet Earth, features regenerative ranch White Oak Pastures (WOP) within the synopsis of The Savory Institute's Global Network Reunion hosted at WOP in south Georgia.

Corporate Culture
Corporate culture is key to a long-term environmental stewardship commitment. Beyond the executive team, the company stakeholders, including the Board of Directors and stockholders along with the supply chain, must be in alignment with the commitment. 

For TRUE certification at the highest level, the supply chain must adhere to strict zero waste practices; otherwise, there is waste inherent within the raw materials used in product manufacturing and/or services provided. Additionally, the company's product packaging must be minimal for safe transportation, reusable or recyclable, and contain no waste passed on to the consumer.

For employees to align with the culture, environmental stewardship must be discussed during the employee-interview process, included in job descriptions and evaluations, and integral to consistent staff training, similar to safety standards.

As she closed her dialogue, Stephanie explained the important role third-party certifications play with establishing industry standards, setting metric-collection protocol, and preventing green washing. Additionally, trusted certifications educate the public on environmental and health concerns within commonly accepted operating practices as well as with building structures.

While the TRUE Zero Waste Certification takes a holistic approach via supply chain waste practices and product-packaging implications, the USGBC LEED - Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design - certification addresses how buildings are designed, constructed, and operated. Internationally held in high esteem, LEED is a green-building-certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices within the USGBC umbrella.

Beyond LEED certification, the International WELL Building Institute certification focus is on the built environment's impact on employee's mental, physical, and emotional health. Focus areas include air and water quality, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.

Corporate Stewardship
During his decade-long tenure at the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA), Tim excelled in the new position that segued into the Director of Sustainability at the state-owned 220-acre campus; the GWCCA campus housed the nation's fourth largest convention center, the Georgia Dome (home to the Atlanta Falcons football team,) and Olympic Centennial Park. 

Tim presenting at an Ei Partner Meeting
Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
The RiA article, Changing of the Guard: Welcome Tim Trefzer to the Ei Leadership Team!, welcomes Tim to the Ei Leadership Team and gives an overview of his impressive environmental accomplishments during his GWCCA tenure.

Tim utilizes his extensive sporting event expertise in his current position as Honeycomb Strategies Event and Venue Sustainability VP, Sports & Venues to support venues and teams with their environmental stewardship commitments.

Sporting Event Industry Leadership
As they encompass a vast cross section of business, government, and community sectors, the sporting event industry emerged as an environmental leader early in the sustainability movement. A multitude of businesses engage with sporting event venues for a variety of services and benefits, ranging from food service to grounds maintenance to corporate-sponsorship contracts  Often local or state governments own or are otherwise financially involved in the venue; the GWCCA is a state-owned facility.

Sporting event venues are a significant local employer, especially during games or other events. Employees as well as fans are drivers for environmental stewardship, especially in the zero waste realms. Zero waste initiatives are easily observed and experienced by the employee and/or fan. Though it is an important component to environmental stewardship and a cost-saving initiative, energy efficiency is intangible and not directly part of the fan experience.

When Tim initially joined the GWCCA team, LEED Certification was pursued as a competitive advantage for winning large sporting event contracts. A decade plus later, LEED Certification is simply expected.

Georgia World Congress Center
On October 28, 2014, the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) announced the 3.9 million-square-foot conference center was awarded LEED Silver certification. The announcement thrust Atlanta into the national | global sustainability spotlight as home to the world's largest LEED-certified convention center AND the 14th largest LEED-certified building.

Holly & Tim with Gold LEED plaque

Recertifying two years early, on November 28, 2017, the GWCC was awarded LEED Gold certification, the second highest level in the rating system. In the recertification, the GWCC was thirteen points higher than the 2014 application and five points higher than the minimum requirement. The majority of the additional points related to the energy-saving performance contract.

IMPRESSIVE: the GWCC experienced a 40% reduction in energy usage via the $28 million energy-saving performance contract! Via the contract terms, the new equipment was paid for with energy savings with no upfront investment by the GWCC.

The 2018 IMPACT Magazine article, Atlanta: the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world, showcases the GWCC's exceptional environmental stewardship commitment under Tim's leadership.

Sporting Event Expertise
As host to the 2013 NCAA® Men’s Final Four®, the second most popular sporting event across the globe, Atlanta set a high standard for sporting event sustainability practices. One of the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee (ALOC) stated goals was to make the 2013 Final Four the "greenest games ever." Tim took the helm for achieving the lofty goal.

SUCCESS: the comprehensive ALOC plan culminated in impressive green footprints before, during and after the games. The ZWA Blog article, Final Four green footprints continue after the games, gives an overview of event sustainability stats; the May 2013 Final Four Sustainability Report is the official in-depth report.

Post-event, Tim and an EPA colleague drafted the Final Four Sustainability RFP sustainability section. Thus, new industry standards were established!

Tim & Jack Groh at a Super Bowl event
For several years, Tim consulted with the College Football Playoff and the Super Bowl leadership on establishing sustainability standards at their prestigious sporting events. In addition, Tim was the sustainability liaison for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and the 2019 Super Bowl host committees. The events were hosted at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS;) on the GWCCA campus, MBS replaced the Georgia Dome as home to the Atlanta Falcons and other sport franchises.

Validating Tim's significant contributions to sporting event sustainability, National Football League Director of Environmental Programs Jack Groh honored Tim, along with two other icons, in his 2017 Green Sports Alliance Environmental Leadership Award acceptance speech.

Small Businesses
For his final commentary, Tim addressed how a small business may adopt environmental best practices for their facility and operations. Power-purchase agreements are often available where a third party funds the renewable energy-equipment installation and gets paid via energy savings.

Tim recommended that small businesses shift their waste-stream perspective. Beyond reducing the waste stream, there is a market for many of the disposed materials; mini bales of aluminum, water bottles, and cardboard are three common items that may be sold in the commodities market. Thus, by shifting from a waste to a materials-stream perspective, the business may achieve an improved bottom line via reduced waste-hauler charges and revenue from material sales.

Holly advised small businesses to check with their local government for programs designed to fund renewable energy conversions or other energy savings. 

Regenerative Solutions
In the 2017 RiA article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, the below opening paragraph sets the stage for the dialogue's final speaker Simon Lamb.
Over the past decade, sustainability moved from a buzz word to a movement to a culture within leading communities, universities and businesses. Significant strides were made in zero waste practices, renewable energy technology, and reduced carbon / water footprints. Yet the glaciers continue melting, global temperatures are rising, the ocean acidification levels are increasing, and desertification is escalating.
Sustainability merely prevents increased waste, energy usage, resource extraction, and release of toxins into the atmosphere, soils, and waterways. With the tremendous damage inflicted upon the earth via human activity, regenerative solutions that repair, heal, and rejuvenate earthly resources are necessary for life as we know it to survive and once again thrive on our blue-green planet. 

Simon pursues an academic approach to economic solutions for environmental challenges. Published in 2019, Junglenomics encapsulates 25 years of Simon's study and research on how to create economic markets that support and value environmental stewardship. Within Junglenomics, social policy is equally important to environmental policy.

In his self-introduction, Simon explained how his lifelong passion for regenerative solutions based on economic markets emerged. Simon was strongly influenced and inspired by renowned oceanographer, filmmaker, and author Jacques Cousteau as well as Silent Spring by Rachel Carson published in 1962.

As a young man, Simon was enthralled with the ancient oak woodlands near his home in the North Wales countryside; the woodlands were a place of reverence, a place of joy. Simon cherished the profound diversity within the forest life cycle including a plethora of insects and pollinators, abundant flora and fauna intermingled within the elder trees, along with a variety of species from the animal and fungi kingdoms. 

Yet, Simon discovered an unfathomable alternative perspective: others only valued the ancient woodlands for the lumber derived from fallen oak trees.

According to Simon, evolution and economics are closely related within the concept of own wealth, a self wealth. Every creature perceives the world with a unique perspective based on their priorities and need to acquire resources. The economic markets flow within a similar manner as individuals are driven to acquire profitable commodities that provide basic needs for their families and businesses. Thus, individuals are constantly seeking profitable resources.

A core problem is the current commodities markets value natural resources once they are extracted or otherwise destroyed; there is no financial incentive to keep the natural resources and their related environmental services in tact.

Junglenomics presents Nature's clear blueprint for reorganizing the current economic domain,

Environmental Services Bonds
Often, the countries rich in natural resources are poor in financial stature with severe poverty, food scarcity, high illiteracy rates, and significant health challenges.

By creating commodities markets that align with Nature, Simon believes that big business will shift from extractive measures to conservative and regenerative practices. With the extensive damage to natural resources, it is imperative to create financial incentives that regenerate resources back into abundant, balanced states.

Utilizing one of the many Junglenomics policies, Simon proposes an Environmental Services Bond market where wealthy countries purchase environmental services from the poor country rich in natural resources. The capital is used to create national parks where resources and wildlife are protected, restore depleted land using regenerative agriculture practices, and create healthy communities with access to nutritious food, education, and medical services.

Closing Commentary
In the Q&A and closing commentary, the speakers addressed how consumers may take effective, individual action.

The three speakers emphasized using the power of consumer demand to influence change in corporate practices and product development. Consumers may cast an empowering vote via purchases with their financial resources and by engaging with business managers. In addition to constructive criticism, it is important to applaud businesses for their environmental stewardship successes. 

Stephanie recommends a review our own lifestyle and habits prior to looking to businesses for solutions. Supporting local small businesses builds a resilient economy where regenerative practices may flourish.

Simon recommended purchasing stock in targeted businesses to obtain a stockholder vote. Additionally, Simon emphasized that government is essential and sets the tone for corporate policy and practices and personal living choices; the Environmental Services Bond market requires government participation.

In her answer to Tim's question on the USGBC's future focus, Stephanie commented that a plethora of new third-party certifications are added to their portfolio; a primary USGBC emphasis is "lifting everyone up" by providing an array of tools that businesses may use to reduce their various footprints and increase their environmental stewardship.

Alyson closed the Environmental Stewardship: the business perspective dialogue with empowering praise and a commitment to include the business perspective in future dialogues and initiatives. 

If government, educational institutions, non-profits, the secular sector, and businesses work together, major strides in environmental stewardship will naturally flow for a WIN benefiting humanity and all life on our lovely planet.

The entire Environmental Stewardship: the business perspective Dialogue is available for viewing on YouTube.


Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 


About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

For additional information, contact Holly Elmore at 404-510-9336 |

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