Confidence to Lead Sustainably

BY ALEC MASELLA – SEPTEMBER 17, 2018

In her former role at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) alumna, Becky Long, discovered her passion for sustainability while working with international business leaders across different industries.

“I was an International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Department of Commerce from 2009 to 2015,” Becky explains, “and I had the opportunity to plan study trips for international business leaders from the former Soviet Union. In this role, I was occasionally assigned to industries with an environmental focus such as municipal water systems, energy efficiency, and waste management. I loved developing these environmentally related programs so much that I decided I wanted to dedicate my career to working in sustainability.”

Becky decided that in order to successfully transition into a new career that would allow her to pursue her passion for sustainability more directly, she needed to hone her skills related to environmental issues and leadership. From there, she reached out to a few past XMNR students to learn how the program helped them achieve their career objectives, and she was convinced that the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability would help her gain the confidence and competencies she would need to make an impact.

Within a few months of graduating from the XMNR program in May 2015, Becky landed a full-time job at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national non-profit trade association that represents the solar industry. Becky’s initial role was the Meetings and Education Manager, which allowed her to plan solar energy conferences, committee meetings, networking events, and board meetings for solar industry leaders across the country.

“The XMNR program taught me the principles of sustainability and gave me the confidence I needed to land a job in the solar industry,” she says. “It was not in my initial job description to work on organizational sustainability initiatives; however, it was clear to me that the organization would benefit from an internal sustainability program. With the XMNR degree under my belt, I felt as though I had the credentials to step up and lead an organizational sustainability initiative at my new organization. So I led the creation of SEIA’s first Sustainability Team.”

As she progressed in her role, working on events and sustainability, Becky was promoted to a new position—leading the events team and supporting the organization’s sustainability initiatives. “Now, I’m the Senior Manager for Events and Sustainability, and the idea of consciously making sustainable decisions is embedded into my team’s everyday work,” Becky explains.

“Sustainability is also increasingly embedded into decisions made across the various departments of SEIA. It’s been just over two years since the start of the Sustainability Team, and it is clear to me that sustainability at SEIA is becoming part of our organizational culture.”

On the events side of her work, Becky and her team developed sustainability guidelines to share with the event industry vendors such as event venues, caterers, audiovisual providers, and printers. Becky continues to encourage a sustainability mindset throughout her work with external vendors. As the XMNR program has taught her, consistently exchanging ideas and collaborating with a variety of internal and external stakeholders is integral to making meaningful changes.

“A recent accomplishment I am excited about is a new partnership between SEIA and WGL Energy. WGL Energy is providing SEIA with Solar Renewable Energy Credits in order to green SEIA’s office and event-related electricity usage, and they are providing SEIA with carbon offsets to help mitigate the carbon emissions related to staff travel, attendee event travel, and staff commuting.”

Becky continues, “I am proud to work for an organization that is on the path to becoming a leader in sustainability. As we continue on our sustainability journey, the potential for positive impact is significant. SEIA communicates its sustainability accomplishments to its solar industry members, and members are starting to notice. As the national trade association representing the solar industry, we have the power to lead by example and encourage organizational sustainability across the rapidly growing solar industry.”

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XMNR alumni and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Senior Manager of Events & Sustainability, Becky Long, is responsible for the development, planning, and coordination of SEIA’s solar industry events and meetings. Prior to joining SEIA, Becky worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce where she planned professional development study trips for international executives. She also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan and Moldova.

The Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability thanks to Becky Long for sharing her conference panel photo, and their gratitude also goes to the following photographers for sharing their work through the Creative Commons License: Michael Mees, and hosszuka.