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Finding Inspiration in the Corporate World

Written by Beth Heller
    Monday, 17 December 2012
Finding Inspiration in the Corporate World

Finding meaningful, inspiring stories of impactful corporate leadership in environmental sustainability for many may seem like a fantasy. From my experience, I know this kind of leadership is not only alive and well in our business community but also essential to our collective future. Forward thinking corporate leaders and employees use their ingenuity to think beyond the bottom line of the current quarter and plan for the future. This kind of leadership and the thinking that it is built upon is possible and it’s game changing.

If you have doubts, I invite you to join us to read Peter Senge’s book, The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World, and discuss the book in a course at the Center this winter. This book captures real, global stories of corporations engaging in important, holistic ecological work. It reveals that innovation can happen anywhere at a company, not just at the top, and how we all as individuals have the ability to influence our impact on the world. The stories are exciting and give me real hope for the future.

The Urban Ecology Center staff read this book over the summer. Many of these stories resonated with us, providing inspiration and changing our perspectives. Some of the projects described seem huge, but were rendered very possible through “tool box” sections peppered throughout the book that provide the reader with specific tools and suggestions for doing the same work in our own teams, organizations and businesses. We immediately put some ideas to use, influencing and improving how we manage our work at the Center. In discussion, staff members reflected on how organizations like Nike, Coca Cola and Alcoa, as well as World Wildlife Fund and The Sustainable Food Lab, collaborated across sector boundaries to make changes. Both sectors learned from each other, and together were able to accomplish more than either could on their own.

For me, this book resonated deeply. In 2003, I went to business school for two reasons: 1) I was inspired by and immersed in the promise of the Urban Ecology Center model and wanted to prepare myself for the work ahead, and 2) I believed that all sectors of our community, including corporations, could work together better to improve our ecological position. I wanted to be able to knowledgeably challenge environmentalist friends and colleagues who were in the habit of blaming corporations for our current ecological crisis and bring a new perspective to the conversation which illustrated the role I saw businesses could uniquely play in creating a more sustainable future. The Executive MBA program provided me with a window into corporate culture, management, drivers, approaches and pressures. It is here that I first became familiar with Peter Senge’s work. Graduate school, coupled with seven years of volunteer work with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce, provided me with an inside view of the business community here in Milwaukee. Based on those experiences, I see that the Milwaukee community is capable, and more than ever, eager, to work toward a sustainable future.

In the promise of the Urban Ecology Center I can see both small and large opportunities to help catalyze momentum in Milwaukee. I invite you: business leaders and employees, community organization members, parents, neighbors to join us in this dialogue. You may just find inspiration in each other, and develop the relationships, basis of understanding and the knowledge you need to help move us toward a more sustainable future. Is it the start of the Necessary Revolution? I hope you will join us and decide for yourself.  

Necessary Revolution Discussion Course
(RP) Thu., Jan. 10, 24, Feb. 7 & Feb. 21 -- This 8 week session ends on April 18 | 7 - 8pm
For adults | $20 (Nonmembers - $25) Additional fee for book or purchase your own. Limited books available free of charge so sign up early!

Beth Heller

Beth Heller

Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning, Beth received her Masters in Business Administration from UW-Milwaukee in 2005, where she received the Outstanding Business Plan award for a plan to launch a branch of the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park. She graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI in 1994 with a B.A. degree in Biology and Education. Beth began working at the Urban Ecology Center in 2000 to combine her love of the city with her appreciation of nature. Beth loves to sail, bike, sing and hike.

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