BECOMING A CHANGE AGENT

By: Jennifer Ballen 

February 7th, 2019 

Chocolate may cease to exist. Or so I warned on my blog, www.thesustainableinvestor.net. Driven by a desire to accelerate sustainable change, the goal of The Sustainable Investor is two-fold: 1.) inspire positive environmental and social action, and 2.) convince business leaders and consumers that profitability and social impact need not be mutually exclusive.

Awareness is vital to ignite change.

Paradoxically, Friedman’s theory that a company has no social responsibility to society because its sole concern is to maximize profits is not contradictory with sustainability if consumers and investors account for social needs in their decisions. I write to inspire others but candidly, my blog is a byproduct of my utter fascination with the intersection of human behavior, financial theory, and business objectives.

Hunger for website content has led me to Iceland to observe geothermal plants, London to learn about carbon capture, and Brazil to train at Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps. It was then, as Amazon natives pleaded for help, that I truly comprehended the disparity between developed and developing countries’ ability to weather the effects of climate change. As I witnessed poverty and hunger caused by climate-induced destruction of vital crops, such as cocoa, I felt an urgency to be part of the solution. Climate leadership has allowed me to arrive at a vital conclusion: business has massive power to affect environmental and social deficiencies while maximizing long-term profitability. As such, my mission has been to motivate action from within.

I am grateful for the truly rewarding experiences I have had building sustainability programs and attempting to drive action at inspiring companies such as Drinkworks, Anheuser-Busch InBev, The National Hockey League, and Before It’s Too Late.

Today during Wharton IGEL’s Women in Sustainability Leadership Seminar Series we talked about becoming a change agent, and the many ways one can ignite change within a company. We talked about the fact that one does not need to have “sustainability” in his/her title to be a sustainability leader. We talked about the four equally important areas where one can fashion impact:

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We talked about the sometimes-arduous path to implementing your ideas, and the importance of understanding and appreciating broader business objectives. The theory that impact and profitability need not be mutually exclusive came to life in today’s discussion about driving change within a for-profit company. We wrapped up today’s discussion with three key pieces of advice for future change agents:

  1. Grow your network. You can learn from anyone and everyone.
  2. Do it with passion or not at all. Find YOUR passion.
  3. Always understand the incentives of the person across the table.

About the Author: Jennifer Ballen

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Jennifer leads sustainability and packaging quality for Drinkworks, a joint venture between Keurig Dr. Pepper and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Jennifer’s professional background spans corporate sustainability, investment management, operations and lean manufacturing, and technology entrepreneurship.

Jennifer is also the Founder/Writer of http://www.thesustainableinvestor.net, an editorial blog which demonstrates through data-driven research that profitability and environmental/social impact need not be mutually exclusive. Jennifer is the Co-Founder and President of Board of Directors of “Before It’s Too Late,” an AR/VR arts and technology prototyping lab.

In 2014, Jennifer became trained as a Climate Leader with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2016, the Center for Development and Strategy recognized Jennifer on its “30 under 30” global list of sustainability leaders for her expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility. In 2018, Jennifer was named a “Waste Fit Champion”, by Sustainable Brands, Rubicon Global, and the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, for her efforts in driving forward circular economy initiatives. Jennifer is the Co-Author of the 2017 MIT published case study “First Solar”, which won the Bringing Technology to Market Case Study award from EMFD. Jennifer holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from Lehigh University (summa cum laude honors), and an M.B.A. and Sustainability Certificate from MIT Sloan School of Management.

Jennifer resides in Boston, Massachusetts with her fiancé. When she is not driving sustainable action, Jennifer is a Sommelier-in-training, Co-Founder & President of the Drinkworks Toastmasters Club, and an avid swimmer and basketball player.

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