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Interconnections of ESG and Earth Day: An Interview with Laura Kimes

  • Written by Laura Kimes and Taylor Harris
  • April 22, 2024

Earth Day prompts reflection on our commitment to environmental stewardship. What better way to explore this commitment than through the insights of a seasoned ESG leader? In this interview, I had the privilege of sitting down with Laura Kimes, Head of Impact & ESG at Resource Innovations. With a journey marked by impactful climate initiatives, Laura inspires and illuminates the indispensable role of ESG strategies in today's world, highlighting the transformative power of embedding sustainability into corporate practices.

TH: Can you share insights into how your background shapes your approach to driving sustainability initiatives within the energy sector and Resource Innovations?

LK: My journey into the energy sector stems from a lifelong passion for environmental protection. With a background in Environmental Science and Policy, I delved into climate science, supporting organizations like the USDA and NASA. Transitioning to policy work at the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Southern California Edison (SCE), I honed my understanding of advocacy and regulatory frameworks.

Completing my MBA, I co-founded a successful business focused on environmental justice after my team won the 2014 Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge with our company idea. This experience taught me the importance of instilling commitment to climate impact into our company culture.

The value-focused team at Resource Innovations (RI) is what led me here. Upon joining in 2020, I'm continuously driven by the opportunity to be an intrapreneur and integrate impact into our core business of reducing GHG emissions. As Head of Impact & ESG, I'm privileged to share our impactful journey.

TH: Earth Day often serves as a catalyst for raising awareness about environmental issues. What issue do you feel passionate about Resource Innovations investing in?  

LK: In one word: climate. But I'll explain more. Our business is inherently tied to reducing climate impacts, aligning growth with positive environmental outcomes. We focus on the ABCs: acting to avoid emissions, benefiting stakeholders, and contributing to solutions. While many companies prioritize emission reduction targets, RI's energy transformation core ensures our actions directly support climate solutions and stakeholder interests. And empowering our staff to see every job as a climate job (credit: Jamie Beck Alexander) is paramount, fostering a culture where employees understand and champion climate-focused decisions in the workplace and beyond.

TH: Earth Day also serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic systems. How have you observed Resource Innovations, or the industry at large, embrace holistic approaches to ESG strategies? 

LK: ESG (environmental, social, and governance) as a term is fundamentally about considering people and the environment —crucially, both working together — and developing the risk management and governance systems to avoid harm and continuously improve. Since its inception, RI has prioritized impactful decisions, such as embedding a commitment to gender diversity within our foundational legal documents. This exemplifies the integration of impact into our organizational DNA. Similarly enduring initiatives, like our ongoing ESG and sustainability policy overhaul, may not grab headlines but lay the groundwork for an ESG-focused workplace.

TH: How can companies effectively engage with stakeholders, including investors, employees, and communities, to drive meaningful change through their ESG initiatives?

LK: Engaging with stakeholders for meaningful ESG change involves both formal and informal avenues. Companies often report carbon emissions to clients, and I urge active participation and questioning in these processes. Understanding recent rulings like the SEC's can shed light on potential impacts. Many companies conduct materiality assessments and solicit stakeholder input, so engaging in these surveys is vital. While these steps may seem procedural, laying a strong foundation is crucial.

Employees can use resources like Drawdown Labs' Climate Jobs whitepaper and their fantastic Action Guides for ideas on climate action, regardless of their role. Looking for a meaningful step forward that you can act on today? Commit to at least three actions related to your job function to honor this Earth Day.

TH: How does Resource Innovations measure and report on its ESG performance, and what metrics do you consider most important in assessing progress? 

LK: I want to challenge the entire ESG industry to think less about what we measure at this stage of ESG. It's more important to craft a roadmap towards meaningful impact. I think about this way: If we do “x,” then we theorize that “y” impact will happen, and we will measure our progress towards this with “z.” As we navigate the dynamic landscape of ESG, it’s crucial to anchor ourselves to a guiding vision, understanding that metrics may evolve with our growth.

At RI, our reflection embodies our core values, encapsulated within our four pillars: climate, equity, innovation, and scale. Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) of climate action, reduced inequalities, industry innovation and infrastructure, and decent work and economic growth, these pillars serve as beacons illuminating our path forward. Each pillar boasts its own unique vision, propelled by meticulously chosen metrics to gauge our progress.

As for the most pivotal metric? I truly can't single one out, because they collectively stand as a testament to our unwavering commitment and fuel our overarching vision.

Learn more about how Resource Innovations is setting new standards in ESG impact.