5 Women to Watch

5 Women to Watch

Top Women in Sustainability: 5 Women to Watch

By Caroline Cox

The concept of sustainability is about looking ahead and making changes now that will improve the future – for the environment and for business. With that in mind, we’ve also compiled a list of “5 Women to Watch” along with PINK’s list of the Top 10 Women in Sustainability. Remember their names: you’ll be hearing a lot from these women in months and years to come.


Britta Gross



Britta Gross: Director, Global Energy Systems and Infrastructure Commercialization, General Motors

It’s clear that both GM and Gross make sustainability a top priority. Gross, mother of two daughters, says her goal is “to see that we eliminate most of the need to use fossil fuels in [GM vehicles] within my children’s lifetime.” But, to have any significant impact, solutions should appeal to mainstream consumers – “not just a small group.”

  • What she’s done: Gross says she’s excited about GM’s Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle, which she calls “arguably the most ambitious vehicle GM has ever developed.” Available nationwide by 2012, the Volt can go about 35 miles on pure electric power, and another 344 miles using its gasoline-powered engine generator before stopping to recharge or refuel, according to EPA estimates. “We expect as many as 75 percent of Volt owners will be able to commute to and from work each day without using gasoline,” says Gross.

  • What’s next: Along with reducing gasoline and oil dependence and vehicle-related emissions, GM plans to increase their production of electric and FlexFuel-capable vehicles (which run on gas that is 85 percent ethanol), and eventually introduce electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Kathy Hopinkah Hannan



Kathy Hopinkah Hannan: National Managing Partner, Diversity and Corporate Responsibility, KPMG LLP

During Hannan’s tenure, KPMG launched its first-ever Living Green Champion Awards program in 2010. The program recognizes KPMG partners and employees who excel in environmental stewardship and make significant sustainability efforts within their communities.

  • What she’s done: Hannan prides herself on having courage to challenge and expand the definition of sustainability and corporate responsibility. Her personal and professional goal is for KPMG to be recognized as a leader in the area. “Sustainability is more than the environment,” she says. “We believe it also includes diversity – the sustainability of our communities and our business depends on our workforce readiness and filling the pipeline of future talent.”

  • What’s next: In 2008, KPMG launched “Living Green” to reduce the volume of natural resources it consumes and its carbon footprint. They reduced their carbon footprint by 26 percent by 2010. KPMG has also reduced electricity consumption by 9 percent and paper consumption by 33 percent, while recycled paper used has increased by 85 percent. Their upcoming Green Ambassadors project will educate employees about sustainable practices in their personal lives.


Elizabeth Johnson: Reconnect Program Manager, Dell

Dell’s partnership with Goodwill, called Reconnect, allows people in the U.S. and Canada to donate unwanted computers and equipment for responsible recycling. Under Johnson’s management, the program has created about 250 jobs, and more than 170 million pounds of e-waste have been recycled since the program’s inception in 2004.

  • What she’s done: “Over the last five years, I’ve nurtured our relationship with Goodwill, and led improvements to make it easier for them to work with us,” explains Johnson. “We now have more than 2,000 participating Goodwill locations working with Dell.” In addition, Dell became the first major computer manufacturer to ban the export of non-working electronics to developing countries in 2009.

  • What’s next: Dell plans to make their five free recycling options easier and more convenient for customers. The company has already eliminated the use of more than 8.7 million pounds of packaging material since 2009. “Every day, you have the opportunity to make greener choices,” says Johnson. “When choosing technology, you don’t want to compromise on cost, performance or reliability. We strive to ensure people don’t have to make trade-offs to be green.”

Pat Rayl


Pat Rayl: Second Vice President of Technology Services, Aflac

At Aflac Incorporated, Rayl leads the Database Administration, Network Operations Center, Computer Operations Center and Technical Services Organizations. Since joining the company in 1992, she has risen from various IT positions to run Aflac’s Smart Green programs, focused on data center power management, hardware recycling and reducing paper use. More than 33,000 pounds of electronic equipment have been recycled so far.

  • What she’s done: Rayl coordinates information technology efforts in support of the company’s sustainability initiatives. “I developed the ‘Green IT’ policy, which outlines how IT measures performance, evaluates energy conservation and sustainable manufacturing practices, and encourages less travel for cross-campus meetings,” she explains. Rayl also measures power usage and has tracked virtual server implementations to reduce the company’s energy consumption.

  • What’s next: “By year-end 2012, we will certify at least 70 percent of Aflac-owned facilities as Energy Star Rated buildings,” Rayl says. Aflac also plans to increase the amount of waste recycled by 70 percent and increase marketing materials printed on paper from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests to at least 70 percent.


Alison Taylor: Vice President of Sustainability – Americas, Siemens

Taylor is serious about sustainability. She’s responsible for driving the sustainability program for Siemens in the Americas and advancing sustainability knowledge, tools and capabilities company-wide. She strives to embed sustainability into the company’s daily operations and business strategies.  Harnessing the energy and great ideas of the 60,000 employees in the U.S. who stand behind sustainable technologies like wind turbines, efficient lighting and appliances, light rail trains and smart grid technology – it’s a big job.

  • What she’s done: Before her job as Siemens, Taylor was Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for five years, and counsel to the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce for six. “I’m proud of Siemens’ rankings on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the Carbon Disclosure Project,” she says. 

  • What’s next: Taylor says the good performance of Siemens’ environmental portfolio last year – in addition to their high rankings on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and Carbon Disclosure Project – show that, even in a down economy, environmentally sound innovation is important. “We’re having great conversations with our customers about collaborative efforts to meet their sustainability goals.”


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