The Sustainable Growth Coalition begins another chapter

  • January 25, 2021
  • |
  • Amy Fredregill and Shane Stennes

Reflections from Amy Fredregill

As you read in Bridget Rathshack’s blog about our top annual accomplishments, we ended 2020 strong at the Sustainable Growth Coalition. Thanks to our collective hard work, the Coalition is well-positioned to evolve and succeed in its next chapter. Although bittersweet, I want to share that I have accepted a new role outside of Environmental Initiative. I will work on many of the same issues from a different perspective to advance sustainability and continue building on what I have learned from my cherished time with the Coalition. I’ll share more below on my new role, but first I want to underscore my commitment to a successful and thoughtful transition. We are accomplishing this by partnering with the Coalition Steering Committee, the Environmental Initiative Management Team, and Coalition members. Shane Stennes offers his comments below.

The Coalition accomplishments I am proud to highlight demonstrate our growth and thought leadership within the past three years.

  • Creating a tightly knit community of sustainability leaders who have kept each other going through challenging times, even sparking one member to write us a poem!
  • Development and adoption of our three vision statements on energy, water, and materials.
  • Increasing our role on policy through testifying at the capitol three years in a row, convening our first legislative breakfast, hosting legislators as speakers at member meetings, and convening member policy-focused educational webinars.
  • Facilitating tough conversations regarding racial disparities and inequity, highlighting the importance of building intercultural competencies and relationships with communities.
  • Hosting a C-Suite Roundtable on equity and sustainability, a major milestone in building our influential Executive Network.
  • Refreshing our Steering Committee member leadership model, including partnering with these leaders to guide the development of our first ever multi-year goals.
  • Adapting workplans due to Covid-19 to keep our work relevant, including developing Guiding Principles focused on economic development and equity.
  • Growing our visibility through member blogs, social media, articles published in Finance & Commerce, the Star Tribune, and press statements featuring quotes from members.
  • Developing Transmission Guiding Principles with our workgroup, which guided strategic meetings with regional power grid leaders, the Midwest Governors Association, and focused our public relations work on supporting a strong grid to meet climate goals.
  • Co-hosting discussion forums with Uponor at the Minnesota Zoo featuring Andrew Winston and with the Water Main at Minnesota Public Radio.
  • Publishing our Utility-Customer Collaboration case study and promoting this nationally relevant resource through our first ever public webinar with over 100 participants.
  • Raising awareness regarding the business case for electrifying the transportation sector, and systemic gaps and barriers standing in the way, based on feedback from our member fleet survey.
  • Building competencies with members and staff alike regarding systemic approaches to circularity, such as tackling gaps and barriers and focusing projects on how to scale up our impact as change agents.
  • Publishing a web-based Circularity Toolkit including case studies highlighting member leadership and publishing our Corporate Guide to Sustainable Landscaping thanks to the work of our Water and Habitat Teams.
  • Submitting multiple rounds of comments to the state energy regulators on the Xcel Integrated Resource Plan to continue to equitably decarbonize over the coming decades.
  • Increasing our impact with our 5th Anniversary branding effort including a name change and crisp new logo.
  • Sharing our business case message with business and economic development leadership groups and especially our member engagement with the MN Chamber of Commerce Energy Committee.

I’m confident the Coalition will accomplish great things in 2021 and beyond, because of all the investments you have all made these past three years. I get excited to think about a future in which the Coalition’s vision—the circular economy—is met. What would that look like? How do you want to collaborate to get there?

I am so grateful for our time together, and in the next phase of my career I know we will continue to partner to advance sustainability from our respective vantage points. My last day is Jan. 29. I hope you will join us for our member Happy Hour Jan. 27 so I can thank you and celebrate our work together.

In my new role I will serve as the Senior Director of Sustainability at WSB, a design and consulting firm that specializes in engineering, community planning, environmental and construction services. I will lead the strategy development and execution of both WSB’s renewables and resiliency markets to benefit WSB clients in both the public and private sectors. WSB is an active member of Environmental Initiative; this relationship will be further strengthened with my transition as both organizations continue to work with sustainability-focused leaders.

Once again, thank you for your engagement and leadership over the last three years. I look forward to this next chapter of our sustainability journey.

-Amy Fredregill

Shane Stennes shares next steps

Over the course of the past few months, as we’ve lived through a harrowing election season, post-election turmoil, and this past week’s inauguration, I have been finding comfort in voraciously re-watching my favorite television show of all time – The West Wing. For those of you that haven’t seen it, the fictional drama written by Aaron Sorkin follows the day-to-day triumphs and struggles of President Josiah Bartlet and his senior advisors in the White House. In one episode, President Bartlet, borrowing from Margaret Mead, comments to a newly appointed advisor, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed people can change the world. Do you know why?” and the advisor replies “Because it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The Sustainable Growth Coalition is one of those small(ish) groups of thoughtful and committed people (and organizations) trying to change the world for the betterment of all; and for the past three years Amy Fredregill has been a key part of our group. Amy is an essential leader and animating force bringing the Coalition’s vision and aspirations to life as Managing Director. In my role as Chair of the Sustainable Growth Coalition Steering Committee, I have had the opportunity to frequently witness Amy’s tireless commitment to and passion for the work of circularity and the SGC’s success. She seemingly has limitless energy, knows everyone in the field, and is adept at pivoting quickly and frequently to new opportunities and member needs. The Coalitions’s work has been immeasurably enriched by Amy’s leadership. Please join me in extending a heartfelt and hearty thank you to Amy, and in wishing her the best in her new role at WSB.

Transitions are always hard. However, we are well positioned for success in 2021, for several reasons, two of which I’ll highlight here. First, our work will continue to be supported by an exceptional staff team. Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager, Sustainable Growth Coalition, will be continuing in her role providing indispensable support. In addition, because we are a program area of Environmental Initiative we can also draw on the larger staff team to provide targeted support when and where needed. Second, as a primarily member-funded organization, we have the flexibility to direct our efforts and resources to issues that are most important to members.

On both points, the Steering Committee met mid-January and is working with the Environmental Initiative management team to plan short and long-term responses to account for the transition. Within this effort, prioritization of work will be a primary focus for the Steering Committee in the coming months, which calls to mind another of my favorite recurring quotes from The West Wing. When the President was ready to move on to the next topic he’d always say to his staff “What’s next?” It’s a question I hope each member will pose to themselves and their organizations as we collectively contemplate what set of activities are most important in the next year for the Coalition. As always, your input is invaluable to advance the goals of our Coalition. Please reach out to me or any Steering Committee member with thoughts on “What’s next?” or any feedback, questions, or concerns.

I am looking forward to working with you moving forward to advance our mission. I hope you can join us Jan. 27 for a Coalition member happy hour to wish Amy farewell.

Shane Stennes
Steering Committee Chair, Sustainable Growth Coalition
Director of Sustainability, University of Minnesota