As one of the first five full-time employees, Nancy Bsales helped build TerraPass from a startup into a well-respected leader in sustainable solutions. A sustainability manager for many: from large corporations to small businesses, she continually helps partners reduce their environmental impact with comprehensive knowledge and effective tools. Her current role is TerraPass’ Manager, Business Development, Carbon Management and Sustainability.
Terrapass provides the resources necessary for companies and individuals to understand and take responsibility for their climate impact. They do this by providing educational tools and resources (such as carbon footprint calculators); create, implement and operate emissions reduction projects at facilities such as dairy farms and landfills; and work with businesses to develop custom renewable energy solutions for their operations.
She is an inspiration to our team and I believe you will find this interview thought provoking, insightful and inspiring as well.
Has your industry changed dramatically in the past five years?
The industry is ever changing, the biggest change I have seen is the change in attitude from corporations. What used to be handled by marketing is now an understanding that corporations are climate citizens and have a responsibility to the world around them for themselves, their employees, their customers and the job of making the world a better place. We still have a long way to go but we are moving in the right direction.
What changes do you anticipate in the next five years? Are there any trends (e.g. demographic, social, legal) that concern you?
All of those and more, but it doesn’t concern me, it makes me smile. Not only are we seeing a shift in buying habits from millennials but a shift in expectations for their employers. Millennials are redefining the environmentalist, no longer a small group of tree-huggers but a generation looking for a multi-prong approach to fighting climate change and global issues. Using their power in their buying habits, in the workplace, in their everyday activities and creating opportunities for new innovative businesses like Uber (why own a carbon guzzling car, use Uber when you need it). As a society, we need to respond to this. On the regulatory front, I think COP21 will start to unravel what to expect in the next five years. We are already seeing hints of progress, the US-China joint statement on climate change, RE100 commitments, the growth in CDP reporting, and of course COP21. RE100 now has over 40 companies from all over the world making the commitment to go 100% renewable and COP21 will bring together 195 nations to come up with a plan, an international agreement, covering emission reductions. We all need to continue moving forward. No one entity can take care of this global issue. Corporations, individuals, and nations need to all be working together; so my biggest concern is that everyone starts to say, “I’m good, they’re taking care of the problem.”
Which stakeholders are the driving force in carbon reduction/CSR/sustainability initiatives?
The influencers, it is not a new term, but these influencers are the driving force. I wish I was able to say I could pinpoint one stakeholder or one influencer within a given organization that is the driving force but it changes every time. In some cases the driving force is the C-Suite with a top down sustainability initiative, in other cases it is an employee with a deep desire to make a difference or it could be driven by concerned customers. All of those come in to play, but I think our real heroes, the real driving force are the people that live and breathe sustainability for their companies, the small group that spends every day looking for ways to drive down emissions, reduce impacts while also engaging employees, customers, the C-Suite while considering the bottom line. It’s a tough job, with many obstacles but these are the people making real change, influencing business in a new climate.
Tell us about an initiative you championed that was implemented?
In ten years at TerraPass, we have implemented many initiatives but I actually want to share the proudest initiative I championed while working closely with National Park Trust. Together with National Park Trust, we built the Buddy Bison Carbon Reduction Contest for children in urban areas. The contest entailed education, carbon and energy knowledge as well as impact metrics. Along with the support of Caesars Foundation and dedicated employees, these children were able to understand climate change and the equivalent emissions of their everyday activities. These lessons were shared with the whole school as well as their families, learning that by thinking about consumption they could also save money. The winning class was able to enjoy a national park for a day, an activity that would not be available to them. The ten week contest brought together classes, families, and employees to build a better environment at home and in the world around them. I was not the champion, but the lucky one to be part of this great experience and helping to shape a generation that will think about the world around them and getting an opportunity to enjoy nature. The program continues today.
What have you learned from this process?
The most important thing I learned was about myself, I love what I do! On the business side, I learned that influencers exist in every situation. The engaged teachers with the desire to make a difference came out champions and in the end educated their children and afforded them an experience that money can’t buy by visiting a national park. This is no different than an event, a company, or a head of household. Champions make the difference in success and influence others, whether for a child’s future or to help their company meet goals.
What is the biggest obstacle still to be overcome?
Education and buy in, we have come so far in the last ten years but education is key. We are not selling “green”, we are shaping a better future for our world and for our children. Understanding your impact and how you can make a difference is the first step and on the corporate side, more businesses need to embed sustainability as part of running a successful business, no different than keeping the lights on at home.
What personal attributes are essential for success?
Live, learn, and share. These are the attributes I believe bring success. Live your life in a way that reflects the message and the world you want to see in the future; we chose this because of our desire to be the change we would like to see. Learn and never stop learning. Learn from the industry, learn from programs, and learn from your colleagues, peers, partners, and friends. There is so much information available, constantly read. Share your successes and your failures. We don’t need to always reinvent the wheel but we need to be aware of our successes and failures so we continue to move forward, be a benefit to our partners and help others on their journey. You can be an asset to every person you speak to, every program you build, and every company you help.
Any words of advice for someone just getting started?
Sustainability is not a sprint it is a journey. By building great relationships and increasing your knowledge constantly, you will be part of a movement that goes beyond a successful career and can change the world we want to leave for generations to come.
As a change agent and hero in your organization, what inspires you?
Others. I am inspired by those around me, seeing the passion and the thirst for knowledge. My peers, colleagues, other leaders in the industry I work with. Alsomy children. They are the fuel that keep me going in hopes I leave a small legacy on each and am part of a time of change.
The testimonials for Nancy’s work here at MeetGreen are many and Shawna McKinley sums it up best, “Nancy is a carbon strategist who generates creative and strategic ideas that maximize the value of offsetting programs for event projects. She’s a trusted adviser whose mentorship I’ve greatly valued on multiple projects. She’s personable, passionate and sincerely invested in sustainability.”