Written by Siobhan Mullally
Calling all young people starting their careers in environmental business and marketing!!! It’s environmental entrepreneurs’ time to shine and step forward in the green movement. We are experiencing a pivotal moment as businesses and corporations change for the better and realize that sustainability is the only way forward. Take it from environmental change agent Laurie Simmonds. Her company, Green Living Enterprises, exists to guide businesses and show them the way towards a sustainable future. Laurie has graciously provided a window for us to look into her successful and inspiring career. So, let’s look in and accept the many valuable takeaways her experiences have to offer.
Siobhan Mullally for A\J: What was your vision for Green Living Enterprises?
LS: When we launched Green Living Magazine, there was a tremendous interest in living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, but it was very difficult for people to find products and services easily available and affordable to achieve that goal. There was a big appetite for the information. I found it incredibly interesting to research and discover fantastic products and solutions from all over the world. We found all kinds of ways to get that magazine out and into people’s hands, and very quickly. Shortly after that, we also launched the Green Living Show, which we built and ran for 12 years. The Show had over 400 exhibitors, a fully programmed stage, electric vehicle test drives, tastings of local, organic wines and foods, and covered just about everything to do with health, wellness, and sustainability. It was very successful and we had a lot of companies and non-profits coming to us because they wanted to reach the audience we had built. This resulted in the business quickly expanding into the full-service marketing agency that we are today, Green Living Enterprises. My vision was to build rich content that entertained and inspired, and to educate people on how easy it is to live a little more lightly on the earth.
SM: How did you make that vision come to life?
LS: As an entrepreneur, when you have a vision, you can picture it in its entirety in every detail in your mind, and you stay true to that vision. You work extremely hard – there’s no getting around it. You must stay very focused on your vision, undeterred. I believe that Green Living Enterprises is so successful for two reasons – we had a very clear vision of what we were trying to achieve with unwavering commitment to high quality work, and an unbelievable team that we trusted and enjoyed working with. You can’t be the type of entrepreneur that tries to control everything and do everything yourself. You must have a good support system and a talented team. You must work together with that team and share the credit – it’s imperative. My style is not top-down, my style is collaborative. Let people shine, let people do what they do best, let everybody have their moment; they deserve it and they’re all contributors to something much bigger than me.
“My vision was to build rich content that entertained and inspired, and to educate people on how easy it is to live a little more lightly on the earth.”
SM: What were some of the obstacles that you faced when starting your career?
LS: I would say that the language of sustainability kept changing and people didn’t really understand what it meant. 20 years ago, we talked a lot about “environmentally friendly”. That was the term. Then it became “eco-friendly”, then “eco”, then “green”, then “sustainability”. Then, it became “ESG”, which is the conversation now. We had corporate social responsibility (CSR) divisions in companies, but we didn’t have fully integrated commitments to ESG. It’s much bigger than a CSR department now; it’s become the cultural fabric of a company. I would say the obstacles back then – people really didn’t understand climate change, so we spoke about things very specifically, like water conservation, endangered species, forests, asthma rates, clean energy, pesticides, GMOs. It was a way to get the conversation going. It was a way to educate consumers on the issues that actually culminated into the connection between health and the environment.
“As an entrepreneur, when you have a vision, you can picture it in its entirety in every detail in your mind, and you stay true to that vision.”
SM: What do you wish you knew when you were starting your career in business?
LS: It won’t always be easy. You have to stay the course. There’s going to be ups and downs in your career – if you’re an entrepreneur, there’s going to be ups and downs in your company. Sleepless nights are a waste of time. Don’t look back, only ever look forward with that vision of what your goals are, and if you have obstacles, that’s an opportunity to learn how to do something differently or find a different path. If you can turn off your work day, take some time for yourself to be in nature, to be with your friends and family, to have other parts of your life that are rich and meaningful and not focus on your business 24/7, you’ll be much more creative and have much more to give your business. There’s a saying that I will often say to my staff and say to myself, and that is, “You’re working hard, but you’re not working smart.” In other words, if you get tired, you slow down, you are less creative. Stop, go have a break, then come back to it. There has been a study that actually proves that your subconscious mind continues to work on problems when your conscious mind is doing something else. So, if you have a problem and you can’t figure it out, get up and walk away from it. Don’t lose sleep, don’t worry, don’t regurgitate the past, just look forward.
SM: What are your golden rules to making change and getting people to care about environmental issues through business?
LS: My golden rules are that it has to be authentic, it has to be credible. Also, you must reward those companies for what they are doing, illuminate what they are doing, and inspire them to do more. You don’t want to focus on the negative, you want to focus on the positive. Inspire them to do more, show them the return on investment, get them to eke out a little more. I feel that it’s the same with consumers. With consumers, you want to educate, entertain, and inspire. You don’t want to criticize or preach. You want to let them know that if everyone did a little bit, no one would have to do a lot. It’s cumulative. It’s the same for corporations. Reward and inspire them to do more. That’s always been a golden rule for Green Living Enterprises – to focus on the positive, to entertain, to delight, to inspire.
“You can’t be the type of entrepreneur that tries to control everything and do everything yourself. You must have a good support system and a talented team. You must work together with that team and share the credit – it’s imperative.”
The experiences and wisdoms that Laurie Simmonds shares are a beacon to look to for the next generation of environmental leaders. She has paved a way for businesses to create partnerships in tackling environmental issues, to connect with conscientious consumers, and to thrive in sustainable innovation. For those of us looking to make progress in the environmental movement, Laurie’s advice should be taken to heart. Let’s look to beacons like hers to guide our way, shape our work going forward, and help us all stay the course.
Note: Laurie Simmonds’ company, Green Living Enterprises, is a social impact agency – they market solutions to social and environmental issues. The magazine and show, which were sold in 2018, are an important part of the story and origin of Green Living Enterprises, but now, Green Living Enterprises is solely owned by Laurie and works exclusively on social and environmental marketing communications.