Starting out as a corporate journalist at LM Wind Power back in 2007, Lene Mi Ran Kristiansen, Senior Manager, Communications & Sustainability, remains determined to keep telling the story of why sustainability matters - for LM Wind Power’s business, employees, and partners alike. And there is no shortage of news coming from the leading supplier of rotor blades to the wind industry: the company recently announced its milestone of reaching carbon neutrality, a global first in the industry.
Our team had the pleasure of speaking with Lene on leading an organisation-wide sustainability program, engaging with suppliers - and being a stubborn and impatient optimist.
What inspires you to get you out of bed in the morning (literally and professionally)?
Lene Mi Ran Kristiansen (LMRK): You could say I have a dual role: on the one hand, I’m a mom who really needs to get her kids out of bed for school! On the other hand, I wake up every day knowing that my work (and long hours) will make a difference. And I’m privileged to be able to do this work at a company whose mission resonates with my personal belief - to create a more sustainable planet for all. This sense of purpose and having the opportunity to collaborate alongside colleagues, partners, suppliers and experts to drive tangible change [in sustainability] is incredibly motivating. Hopefully, something that also inspires others!
Tell us about a typical working day…
LMRK: My mornings usually kick off with a run - to stay fit, to reset, and to organise my thoughts for the day ahead. In my role as Senior Manager for Communications & Sustainability, I focus my time on leading and finding ways to evolve our #CleanLM program - to source 100% renewable energy, to reduce emissions from all of our activities, to compensate for unavoidable ones...to be more ambitious! At the same time, I want to make sure we are actively campaigning and sharing in our communications what we actually do in terms of sustainability - both internally and externally.
What skills do you need in your role and what are the biggest challenges you currently face?
LMRK: The most important lesson I’ve had to learn is that change does not happen in a linear way. Regardless of whether you’ve lined up a perfect process [to address sustainability], people will always come to this at their own pace. We’ve had to tell the story about why #CleanLM is important, why we’re doing this…many more times than I would’ve thought. We’ve had to be persistent. Driving sustainability, even at a cleantech company such as LM Wind Power, did not happen as fast as I would’ve liked it to!
"The most important lesson I’ve had to learn is that change does not happen in a linear way."
Christiana Figueres, the woman who oversaw the landmark Paris climate agreement, says it all starts with stubborn optimism. So you’re a stubborn - but impatient – optimist?
LMRK: Haha I guess so! In addition to accepting that change does not happen in a linear way, I’ve had to draw on my communications background and networking skills - finding creative ways to make the case and tell the story to the particular person in front of me that I needed to convince. Convincing engineers - who already design and build the most amazing structures to power a cleaner world - to do even more is a tall task! And people often perceive sustainability programs coming with an extra price tag. I’ve also had to leverage my ability to look across the business in a holistic way. Key to any successful sustainability program is being able to connect the dots between activities and impact and make the commercial case for all business units.
What goals do you have, and what are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
LMRK: I would say that our goals, in a nutshell, have been to deliver on our carbon neutrality commitment [Scopes 1-2, and some Scope 3], and inspire our new owners [GE as of 2017] and employees to follow our ambitious path on sustainability. Having a change of ownership shortly after having launched our #CleanLM program was not exactly what I had expected - so it’s immensely gratifying that we did, in fact, deliver on this ambitious goal! And even cooler – our new owners embraced our program and helped us accelerate work particularly on how we get green electricity to our sites. We have our new senior leadership on board, and the continuous stream of ideas and initiatives from within the company is a testament to our success in getting buy-in. For example, our teams working with suppliers have begun asking questions on the environmental impacts of components - which, alongside quality and price, might’ve not necessarily been questioned before! Today, environmental friendliness is a criteria when we shop.
How do you drive and manage change in your organisation?
LMRK: You need leadership, belief, and commitment. It seems so obvious, but these are the decisive factors in making change happen. You can only do so much with a grass-roots-only approach. This is not to say you cannot initiate change bottom-up! But without commitment and direction from the top, you will only get so far. Our biggest push happened when we got Marc de Jong as our CEO in 2015 - he was key in supporting and raising the bar for our sustainability agenda. Last but not least, the stubborn optimism is also very important: you absolutely need to keep telling the stories of how sustainability drives your business, to state the obvious. You have to get all stakeholders, also the sceptical ones, to buy in.
"You absolutely need to keep telling the stories of how sustainability drives your business, to state the obvious. You have to get all stakeholders, also the sceptical ones, to buy in."
How do you work with your suppliers to achieve that change?
LMRK: At present - not as much as we would like to. We’ve really had to focus on making sure we address what we can manage, but supplier engagement is a top priority for us. We’ve always had sustainability as an agenda point in our annual supplier gathering and it has received a great deal of positive feedback. Engaging with suppliers was also part of our #CleanLM pledge – we want the rest of our supply chain to take responsibility for their direct emissions and impacts. That also applies to other parts of the value chain by the way!
One of the most useful exercises for us really was the GHG accounting – it’s excruciating! But you absolutely have to do it. It reveals all kinds of opportunities and sets the basis for your discussion with suppliers. You will have to, all of a sudden, ask questions that give transparency to your processes that you didn’t have before, on how you’re actually doing business. We want to initiate this dialogue with more of our suppliers and ask them to think with us about how we can improve, what processes we need.
"GHG accounting – it’s excruciating! But you absolutely have to do it. It reveals all kinds of opportunities and sets the basis for your discussion with suppliers."
What books or articles do you read for professional inspiration? Who or what inspires you?
LMRK: Kate Raworth’s Donut Economy – this should be mandatory reading for anyone in business. Or actually, just anyone. Why is this approach not common sense already? I’ve also been very privileged to meet Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs, Philips Lighting, who really nailed the way of talking about the imperative of business to become sustainable: “Business cannot thrive in a society that fails” – such a simple, clear way of articulating the urgency to act. We [businesses] all have to change if we want to be around for the long term. I would also mention Elon Musk. He dares to be bold and ambitious. This is hugely inspiring! Daring to be bold and going after your vision – not caring if others say you’re crazy.
Through our ambitious work, we are also trying to be the inspiration!
What advice do you have for people who want to drive change by working in global communications?
LMRK: Apart from the storytelling and continuous communication, there is great untapped potential in employee engagement: the collective power of employees is just incredible – it can really be leveraged for creating ambassadors who can articulate our vision, share our work, and hopefully inspire others to follow suit. Communications can really help inspire which is the first step for any change!
What are your environmental sustainability priorities for the years to come?
LMRK: There is an abundance of things we would like to do! We’ve had a number of opportunities revealed to us during the process of the GHG accounting that we now need to pursue.
We also want to keep developing the #CleanLM program – always with the aim of making it even more ambitious and stronger from a sustainability perspective. And there are so many ways in which you can achieve carbon neutrality. For example, we would like to evolve our own offset portfolio – could we have more of the social impact-driven projects? Could we perhaps even engage in developing our own tailor-made projects? Could we have a bigger employee engagement element in how we select what we invest in?
There are many things we can do in addition to finding ways to green our electricity supply, to improve our energy efficiency and emission reduction work - from developing recyclable blades, which would be a longer-term goal, to considering setting science-based targets.
Another key component of #CleanLM is sharing knowledge, making our knowledge about this carbon neutrality process available to anyone who is interested. We’ve started doing this by trying to design communications assets that can be deployed for others, such as our carbon-neutral game.
Ultimately, I believe the most important thing is to just get going and set ambitious goals. Committing to carbon neutrality by 2018 put pressure on our team to act, and to act fast. This is key. You won’t act on it unless it’s urgent.
Keen to hear more?