Helping Organizations Deepen Their Sustainability Efforts

In an interview with the MIT Sloan School of Management, I had the opportunity to share some of Pure Strategies' greatest accomplishments - including helping companies like Walmart, The North Face, and Seventh Generation deepen their corporate responsibility efforts. I’ve been privileged to help these companies and hundreds of others to make a meaningful difference.

I can pinpoint the moment when I decided to devote my career to sustainability. It happened a little over two decades ago, when I was traveling in Southeast Asia. I was sitting in a bus station in Jakarta and—amidst the traffic congestion, the crumbling infrastructure, and a thick layer of pollution—it suddenly seemed so obvious. I had always had a deep connection to the environment. I found my calling.

So I moved back to Massachusetts and landed a job helping manufacturers cut waste and reduce their use of toxic chemicals. It was revolutionary at the time, believe it or not, to prevent pollution rather than just simply try to treat it before discharging it into the environment.

I had an undergraduate degree in engineering already, so I decided to enroll in the Architecture and Planning School at MIT. In my second semester, I took courses at the business school. MIT Sloan helped me learn how to learn—how to make intellectual connections, think through problems, and come up with new solutions.

Back then, there was no formal training in sustainability, but social and environmental issues were covered in many of my classes. I did a project at a chemical company where I looked at incorporating environmental costs into pricing models; and wrote my thesis on the environmental management of the paint and coatings industry.

Soon after earning my degree, Bob Kerr and I co-founded Pure Strategies. At first, we worked on life cycle assessments and supply chain projects for niche companies. But in 2005, when Walmart announced its aspirations for zero waste and a more sustainable product line, sustainability went mainstream. 

My work moved from facility-specific opportunities to a focus on game-changing solutions through collaboration across industries, innovation, and tackling the most significant impacts, many of which occur deep in the supply chain during raw material extraction or harvesting.

From a scale perspective, my proudest accomplishment is helping Walmart develop and deploy its Sustainability Index which has pushed sustainability down into the supply chains of thousands of the world's largest companies.

Today, Pure Strategies specializes in building environmental and social integrity into products, brands, and businesses by helping companies deepen their corporate responsibility efforts. Some of our current clients include Annie’s, The North Face, and Radio Flyer.

Pure Strategies has also played a key role in the transparency movement. Most notably, we've helped Seventh Generation—the eco-friendly personal products company—on its efforts to provide consumers with information about the chemical content of its products. That move led many other companies to make similar disclosures.

Along the way, I’ve been privileged to teach CEOs and other company leaders how to find the business benefits of sustainability.  I feel fortunate that I've been able to make a meaningful difference.

This article originally appeared on the MIT Sloan School of Management website.

Written by Tim Greiner

Tim  Greiner

Tim Greiner, a Pure Strategies Co-founder and Managing Director, has pioneered approaches to building environmental and social integrity into products, brands, and businesses. His experience spans the spectrum from developing sustainability strategy, drafting sustainability goals, designing product sustainability programs, creating approaches to transform sustainable supply chains and fostering collaborative mechanisms to lift the sustainability performance of entire industries. He is currently working with several progressive businesses on developing science-based targets and comprehensive climate strategies. He is a co-founder of the Chemical Footprint Project and has guided sustainable chemicals management strategies for companies across diverse industries. He has also led regenerative agriculture projects with food brands and retailers. Current and former clients include Annie’s, Walmart, Seventh Generation, Ben & Jerry’s, The North Face, Stonyfield Farm, MilliporeSigma and U.S. EPA.

Tim holds Masters’ degrees in Environmental Policy and Business from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor's degree in Materials Science Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a founding member of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Planners Association and a former Board member and President. He is also founder of the Cape Ann Climate Change Network and is a Research Associate at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production. Tim has experience in industry as a Process Engineer for Fairchild Semiconductor. He also worked for the Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance as Project Director and Chief Engineer.

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