Tamay Kiper is a global sustainability professional with over a decade’s experience in net positive strategy, science-based solutions, corporate citizenship, and risk management. She has progressive experience in managing revenue-driven sustainability programs, and integrating sustainability into the core business.
Committed to optimizing human potential and tapping into the immense power of nature to find solutions, Tamay shows how, with the right tools and virtuous intention, everyone and every organization can unleash their full potential to create good in the world.
1.You are a systems thinker, with experience in managing sustainability-related programs. Where should sustainability and business strategy align?
Sustainability and business strategy should align from the very beginning, but I understand that it is easier to say than done and every company is on its own journey. It is very common to see companies or startups that are just building their businesses eagerly embrace purpose because the business case for sustainability is proven. Today, we know that companies that are focused on environmental, social, and governance factors perform better financially, have higher employee retention rates, and improved customer loyalty. And not only that, but they also outperformed the broad market, even during the current pandemic, and sustainability is an innovative growth driver for the business. As for the older, more established enterprises, they should go back to their roots, questioning their purpose and ask why they exist.
Investigate if the company’s purpose has changed over time, and question what the company is currently contributing to. Are they making the world a better place, or are they merely depleting resources and contributing to inequality? And that will allow companies to align business and sustainability strategy and practice long-term thinking.
Thanks to the pandemic, we’re in a significant moment in time, where we can leave the past behind and build resilient and regenerative business models for future generations, tapping into the circular economy and rebuilding industries the right way this time around.
2. How should companies and authorities collaborate to foster better consumption models and inspire behavior change for a cleaner environment?
As I mentioned, once the company unearths or recreates its true purpose, it will reveal what kind of future the company wishes to operate. Another question that helps leaders ask themselves is: “What kind of future do I want to live in?”. Do I want to live in a future where I get richer, while the vast majority of the world gets poorer?
According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, CEO compensation in the United States has grown 940% since 1978, where typical worker compensation has risen only 12% during that time. Will manufacturing our products require an immense amount of energy, and can we use renewable energy instead of fossil fuels? Will our products create waste at the end of use, or can they be repurposed or reused? Answering these questions helps companies and authorities collaborate to foster better consumption models and inspire behavior change for a cleaner environment. Companies should frequently assess their position in sustainability, similar to how they evaluate their financials, and course-correct as needed.
For those who are looking for a quicker solution, in my previous role at Sustainable Brands, we partnered with BBMG and created the Pull Factor Framework for brand innovation to increase brand relevance, build authentic connections and make sustainable living more accessible and more rewarding for more people around the world. We created a workshop to put this framework into action, and the companies that went through the exercise greatly benefited from this framework.
3. Would you generally recommend brands to have environmental or social objectives? What are the main benefits of this approach?
Yes, without robust, measurable environmental or social objectives, a company is rudderless. We can’t think of starting a business without having a business plan. Similarly, it is difficult to measure the brands’ contribution to sustainable development without having environmental or social objectives.
4. Do you think salary increases linked to achieving sustainability objectives will create a revolution in creating a more sustainable world?
Absolutely. I think all roles within a company should embed KPIs around sustainability, so that will motivate employees to think creatively and come up with solutions. It will also give voice to everyone in the company. Most of the time, employees have better solutions than leaders, because they’re so immersed in their job, and they know what kind of changes in their day-to-day tasks will create a positive impact in the world and that should be rewarded.
5.Which are the top 3 lessons the pandemic taught you?
I have been working in the sustainability field for over a decade, and despite being involved in daunting topics such as climate crisis, water scarcity, factory farming, inequality, etc., I have a very positive outlook in life.
While it is indeed easy to be overwhelmed by the vastness of the problems we face today, we must remain hopeful and keep the focus on our goal. We must change how we approach problems, change how we think, and recognize that we are all on the same planet.
The same thing goes for the current crisis we’re in right now. The pandemic has changed many of our lives in various ways, and there has been a lot of disruption and uncertainty for many around the world. I lost my job at the beginning of the pandemic, like many others.
Luckily, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I ended up joining McDonough Innovation and now have the opportunity to work closely with William McDonough, “father of the circular economy” and co-creator of Cradle to Cradle Design™- and his brilliant team.
Overall, it has been a very sobering experience for me. It made me question some of my choices and beliefs in life, which I find a good thing because questioning our beliefs and digging deeper helps us to grow as human beings.
In the USA, we saw corporations benefit more than individual citizens from the coronavirus aid package. We saw the health care systems on the verge of collapse, and unfortunately, wearing a face mask became a political issue. On the other hand, we saw countries like Taiwan, New Zealand, and Iceland handling the initial outbreak response better than others. This personally made me question if the American dream still exists. If anything, this pandemic proved that we can come together when faced with adversity, and governments can redistribute the funds for the greater good. I wonder what keeps us from using those funds to address the climate crisis or create effective programs such as universal basic income and free healthcare today.
Second of all, the pandemic proved to all of us that we’re stronger than we think. It brought so much disruption to our everyday lives, and we somehow managed to overcome it, or still try our best to do so. And lastly, it has proven once again that we as human beings are a very adaptive species and can come together when we’re faced with the same challenge, and that has given me so much hope.
The interview will also be published in the bilingual yearbook Community Index Magazine no. 2.