Evelyn Contre (MBA ’06) knows the importance of sustainability – and its value.
What was once considered forward thinking has now become a movement of its own, creating an entire industry where companies are rushing to fill in the gaps.
Contre believes businesses should do more than practice sustainability; they must let the community know what they are doing to reduce their environmental impact. At the same time, she understands the challenges companies may face in trying to achieve this.
“Companies want to do the right thing; they just maybe don’t know how to go about it. By helping them navigate that and take their first few steps, I can show them what’s possible,” she said.
Contre is founder and managing director of Springleaf Strategies, which helps businesses grow by communicating their sustainability objectives, values, products and services. She started Springleaf in April and has advised architects, developers, distributors and specialized consultants on how they can get the word out about their efforts to fit into the growing sustainability industry.
“I work with companies in the real estate industry who have sustainability-focused projects, and I work with companies in other industries who are trying to find the best ways to reduce their environmental impact,” she said. “If they are not letting potential customers and other businesses know that they take sustainability seriously, they are missing an opportunity.”
Contre works with her clients to market their sustainability-focused products or services, help them incorporate sustainability into their business model, develop a social-responsibility plan and show them how to be efficient with the resources on hand.
Sustainability is not about just the building a business operates from – its facilities, equipment, cleaning products, indoor air quality – and how much energy it consumes. “It’s also about the decisions that are made inside the building,” Contre said.
Contre credits Kenan-Flagler with giving her the tools she needed to think through a business plan, to evaluate the market and to understand services marketing.
“Having the opportunity to learn about and understand how different industries all work together enabled me to think strategically about how to accomplish my own goals as an entrepreneur. That’s what Kenan-Flagler did for me.”
Contre says that since the current generation – she calls them the millennials – were raised on recycling and with environmental-impact awareness, they expect businesses to be sustainable. She says this generation will look for companies that are friendly to the environment; companies that adopt sustainability practices into their business model will attract some of today’s brightest and most creative minds.
The sustainability tide has even washed ashore overseas, where companies are embracing sustainability at the corporate level.
“It’s to the point where it’s no longer about being a nice guy or doing something that’s different or cool,” Contre said. “It’s standard operating procedure. It’s just good business. It enhances profitability, and it will help companies in defining markets.”