Pamela J. Gordon is president and founder of Technology Forecasters Inc., a Bay-Area based strategic sustainability consulting firm. After interning for her this fall MBA candidate Tina Baylis took the opportunity to ask Pam about her work, her involvement with PGS and her thoughts on career opportunities in her field.
When did you decide to become a sustainability strategy consultant? Did you have an “aha” moment?
Ever since I started going on annual family backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada Range at the age of eight, I’ve felt it’s important to preserve our natural environment here and around the world. Then in 1997 – 10 years into running TFI’s consulting and market research specializing in electronics supply chains and manufacturing – I brought my sustainable values into my work. My research on tech-industry sustainability and resulting book Lean and Green: Profit for Your Workplace and the Environment (2001) attracted tech industry clients including the Consumer Electronics Association, Tellabs, and SAP.
Focusing on sustainability has been a dream come true – many client companies have gone on to substantially reduce the environmental impacts of their products and operations while at the same time benefitting profitability.
When and how did you connect to PGS?
My relationship with Presidio Graduate School began in 2013, years after hearing about the school from family, colleagues, and clients in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley. I was attracted to PGS’ laser focus on sustainability and began hiring PGS students as part-time paid interns. This has created a win-win- the interns acquire real-world experience in a sustainability consulting firm, and Tech Forecasters gets the benefit of their skills, fresh perspectives, and ideas. The PGS interns have made substantive contributions to our client projects and design-for-environment training.
This fall I got more involved with the school as one of the MBA program’s Experts-in-Residence, through which I guest lectured on sustainable products and economics, and contributed to faculty discussions.
Are there opportunities for PGS graduates in your field?
There is an urgent need for consultants and in-house executives skilled at driving global companies of all sizes to achieve profitable sustainability — in tech and all other industries. A client manager can leverage an experienced consultant’s knowledge of cost-reducing and revenue-enhancing sustainability practices to drive real change into their organization. We are often charged with creating a high-ROI “sustainability roadmap,” resulting in training existing managers in sustainability leadership and sometimes creating a Chief Sustainability Officer position.
What interests our clients is what I call the intersection of sustainability and profitability. They usually don’t have the goal of saving the planet– they’re motivated to discover ways to use fewer resources, efficiently comply with regulations, and find opportunities for competitive advantage through this lens. To support them we have developed proprietary tools that include a sustainable-product training course (DfE Online) and a life cycle assessment program (Ecofly).
PGS students are fortunate to be located in the tech-focused, sustainability-trend-setting Bay Area. This region’s innovations are disrupting numerous sectors of the global economy– from food and water to energy and healthcare– and I think this will drive much of the leading edge of sustainability practice. There are just so many opportunities here to network, gain experience and build a career in sustainability.