Thank you, Andrea, for providing insight into your work as a climate and leadership advisor.
The following conversation covers Andrea Learned’s career as a climate influencer and leadership advisor, with a focus on her approach to sustainability, leadership style, and ESG strategy. Emphasizing the importance of authentic social platform engagement as a tool for leadership platform development and the need for positive, hopeful, and enthusiastic approaches to making real change. And highlighting the commercial benefits of establishing a corporate ESG strategy and the need for transparency with all stakeholders.
What advice does she have for new executives, including the importance of building authentic community engagement, regular interaction, and feedback from younger generation staff? Read on to find out.
Define your leadership style:
I am a sole proprietor, but as an advisor/climate influencer and leadership advisor, I am known for being unconventionally authentic and transparent, for wanting to coach and bring others along, and for elevating the good stories and successes rather than focusing on the bad or the failures.
How would you describe the climate and culture where you work?
My work with clients and collaborators is a positive, hopeful, enthusiastic approach, with a priority on not doing things the way they’ve always been done, but rethinking and going back to basics of engaging stakeholders to make real change.
Define Sustainability in your own words. How does your definition of sustainability relate to the overall goals, values, and mission of the organization?
I take the “sustain” part seriously. What are the small things that can be done to make a big change and make it quickly, and how can we message that so that we impact others in our community? My goals with my business are to influence change in a huge way and quickly, wrapped in joy. I aim to lift others up who are aligned, without asking for anything in return – as “naming and faming” is an incredible way to grow and build social capital. My values are finding ways to live the change and forward the change – via the simplest, low-tech solutions – like biking for transportation or moving to a plant-based diet (and thinking about how to fly less, etc.). I LIVE my change, and that has really proven to resonate with my clients and audiences.
As a communicator and leadership platform advisor, the benefits are building that foundation of trust from which you can move and activate stakeholders on so many other things moving forward. As well, consumers and partner businesses are more likely to be focused on buying from organizations that have an authentic ESG aim and are holding themselves accountable. The businesses that do not address this and message it well will soon be seen as completely irrelevant.
What steps do you personally take to ensure transparency with all stakeholders?
I’ve long used my natural voice and communication style as my north star. I’ve never let corporate speak or the established ways of communicating hold me back. What I’ve found over my now 15 years in sustainability and climate leadership spaces is that audiences and stakeholders appreciate my refreshing honesty and human-ness. I’d love to see more CEOs coached to embrace their own voice and style because that is what will help move the needle in changing leadership social norms in acting on sustainability and climate.
I live and breathe it, and as a sole proprietor, have built my entire platform and reputation as someone who lives her values.
What major industry changes do you anticipate seeing in the next 5-10 years?
Those leaders who find the political will to act more urgently and boldly will absolutely win. Many of those leaders will be women – we are already seeing that in a review of the most climate-acting global mayors, congress members, and corporate leaders. Developing and using a more human-scale approach will be the new “executive positioning” gold.
Share three (or more) pieces of advice you have for new executives.
Get comfortable with and build authentic community engagement on at least one social platform, yourself (not scripted by your communications team), so you have social capital you can activate for key events, and milestones, that will also help nudge your peers. (See key leaders from the sustainability space like Mike Barry and Kevin Hagen for an example of what I mean on LinkedIn). Open yourself up to regular interaction and feedback from your younger generation staff – it will energize you and help you skip over so much of what is no longer working in managing your company. They will help you see through new eyes and finding a good focus group/advisor council that includes them will be key. Get help keeping track of how the whole systems of dots connect to your business/sector, rather than getting overly siloed. The opportunities to partner and collaborate in the sustainability and climate space are endless.
What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever shared with you?
I lived it before I read his book – but what Greg McKeown says in his book Essentialism. Make decisions about what to focus on /get involved with by asking yourself if it’s a “hell, yeah” or not. I take my own mantra from an album name by the band Idles: Joy As An Act of Resistance. It works.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Because I have an eye for spotting leaders and telling their stories in refreshing/resonant ways – I was approached by Larj Media to develop a podcast to help others learn from what I’ve seen and learned: LivingChangePodcast.com just launched in January 2023.
I re-engaged with a great group of high-level sustainability leaders during an Oct. 2023 conference. I could feel so many of them primed to get bolder and bigger, but feeling really reined in by their organizations. We don’t have time for this when it comes to the climate crisis and our dire need to reduce emissions. That’s why I think more elevation and support of these leaders is important, and generating more of that visibility and support will be public proof that their organizations/bosses need to SEE. So much potential is wasted by wasting a valuable leader’s commitment and passion.
Of note – I am known for subtle persuasion to get friends and colleagues to try/buy an eBike and try going plant-based. My energy and enthusiasm are catching, and that is felt throughout my work and all of my social media sharing. The podcast is yet another place where that influence can be felt.
Andrea Learned is a global climate action influencer with a 25-year career in marketing, communications, and thought leadership platform building.
Andrea’s innovation as a climate influence advisor has been in emphasizing the power of authentic social platform engagement (primarily LinkedIn and Twitter) as a key leadership platform development tool. She’s contributed to Huffington Post, Reuters, GreenBiz, and many other publications, is internationally recognized as a sustainability and climate influencer, and was named by GreenBiz as among the top women cultivating sustainable food systems in 2022. Andrea’s Living Change: A Quest for Climate Leadership podcast launched in January 2023. It highlights the stories of surprising validator political, cultural, and corporate leaders who are influencing scalable climate action through their own lives and their work.
Recognized marketing to women experts in her early career (during which she co-authored the book, Don’t Think Pink), Andrea has also presented internationally on that topic. Her 2011 piece, Gender, and the Sustainable Brain, serves as an informative backgrounder on Andrea’s unique journey from marketing to women into sustainability and climate leadership.
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