A consultant with a cause
Jean Baumann's new business takes aim on global warming
Jean Baumann is now combining her career with her cause.
The Lake Oswego woman was so committed to the crusade against global warming that for a year she gave up Present Dynamics, her thriving practice as a business consultant, so she could join Al Gore's '1,000 Person Volunteer Army.'
Baumann's 'enlistment' is now up, but she intends to keep fighting the good fight in a new way. In turning Present Dynamics in a new direction, Baumann is channeling her skills as a business adviser into achieving sustainability.
'I've been in the consulting world since 1994,' Baumann said. 'Then I took much time to crusade about climate change and public service. Now I'm relaunching my consulting work with a new focus.'
This is a new business that she feels can prosper. Many companies now want to drastically reduce carbon emissions and, in general, achieve sustainability. Baumann can help them do it.
'When a company is in the midst of change and transition, I can help them create a clear vision and achievable objectives, and monitor progress,' she said. 'If you don't do that, how do you know if you are successful?
'I've been called to action to a whole new arena - climate change, environmental degradation and the whole notion of sustainability. I have a compelling desire to work with organizations moving in that direction.
'I'm really a change management strategist. When an organization, an institution or a school is moving toward more sustainable practices, I can transfer to them all of the techniques and approaches I've learned since 1994.'
Talking with Baumann about this topic is fun. Her ideas about promoting climate change and sustainability are intricate but clear. Best of all, she believes the times are ready for this kind of business.
'I see it in the mainstream,' Baumann said. 'Most people are recognizing we can't do business the way we've always done it. We've typically done business without concern for the long-term viability for our natural resources. But now we're extracting them at a faster rate than we can restore them.
'There's only so much oil and zinc in the ground. There is only so much fresh water. This generation has a new mindset. It's a turnaround time.
'Any business in the Northwest is going in this direction, from a pizza joint to an auto repair shop to Microsoft.'
Baumann has one statistic that she likes to use to boggle people's minds: If every nation on earth used as many natural resources as the U.S., it would take 13 planets (which comes from the 2001 edition of Our Ecological Footprint).
Of course, a lot of people aren't ready to receive such news with open arms - or minds - but Baumann keeps working to increase the number of people that do.
'The opportunity for consultants, like myself, is there,' she said. 'I've got to tap into the hearts and minds of business leaders moving in the direction of sustainable business practices.
'Sustainability is coming from different directions. From regulations or passionate individuals, from the bottom up or the top down, it doesn't matter what starts it.'
Still, Baumann believes sustainability cannot be achieved in a hit-or-miss way or be like a flavor-of-the-month.
'Green teams are great, but… We can't isolate sustainability to go after low-hanging fruit only,' she said. 'That's why some quality efforts have failed. Sustainability has to go across the board to make a long-term difference in society for our way of living to continue.'
Baumann's sustainability plan for a business would go something like this:
n Prepare a clear vision for sustainable business practices.
n Getting to some of that 'low-hanging fruit' to achieve some quick results, such as in recycling or energy conservation.
n Train employees on sustainability and not just 'go green.'
'Sustainability is a more over-arching ideal,' Baumann said.
n When conflicts, differences of opinions and competing agendas on sustainability occur, help everyone involved get through them.
n Measure progress.
'Are we more sustainable today than we were a year ago?' Baumann said. 'That's a huge challenge.'
n Rewards. 'You've got to reward progress that's been made.'
Perhaps the key ingredient of Baumann's plan is: 'I have an eye for noticing the human element and seeing what's under the waterline. Instead of just seeing products made and pizzas delivered, seeing what goes on underneath is just as critical.
'Are there conflicts, resistance or grumbling about changes. What about 'Grumpy Old Fred?' What is he worried about? There are some legitimate worries, and it helps to tap into the human experience.'
Baumann's commitment to sustainability is amazing. She does 116 sustainable things a day and she is the chair of the new sustainability advisory board for the city of Lake Oswego.