Meet the Sustainability Sisters

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing not one, but two, Longsworths. Meet sisters Annie and Amy. Annie (the one on the right in the accompanying photo) joined Saatchi & Saatchi S as CEO a year ago. Amy is a Managing Director in PwC’s Sustainable Business Solutions practice. I met with them recently to better understand the paths that led them to similar positions.

Ellen: How did you get to where you are today?

Amy: The way I think about what connects the things I've done professionally is that I've always wanted to be on the side of the solution. Environmental work has a deep emotional and spiritual importance for me, but it also addresses a very practical problem: how we can live, work and thrive harmoniously with the earth and its systems and not be completely stupid by screwing everything up, destroying a lot of economic value and probably killing ourselves in the process. I've chosen to focus on leverage points in the private sector, both for-profit and nonprofit.

My career path follows a clear trajectory starting as a grant-making assistant in land and water conservation at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, through Harvard Business School, then a decade with The Nature Conservancy, board service with the American Farmland Trust, co-founding a sustainability strategy consulting company, Viridis Strategy Group and then selling it to PwC.

Annie: For me it’s about finding work that I love. I think back to 2006 when I was running the San Francisco office of Cohn & Wolfe. I'd just had my second child and going back to work was tough. I loved the agency, and had quadrupled the office in four years and needed something new to keep the momentum going. That Christmas, Amy and I were walking through the woods at our parents’ house in western Massachusetts. Our father was in the process of putting a conservation easement on their land and was also building an off-the-grid cabin using wood from trees he cut himself. Amy had just joined Esty Environmental Partners [which later changed its name to Viridis Strategy Group] and was telling me about her work. It just clicked for me. I wrote the business plan and launched the practice.

Ellen: Is it serendipity that your careers are so similar? Are the paths similar too?

Annie: Our paths are not very similar. I graduated from the College of Wooster with a liberal arts degree and went straight to the Bay Area as a journalist, becoming immersed in technology and the dot-com boom. I have a strong business intuition and a love of doing old things in new ways. But, in retrospect, it’s not totally surprising that our paths have now come together. We were brought up with both a consciousness about contributing to society and an entrepreneurial understanding of creating change.

Amy: I’ve always pursued mission-focused work by leveraging commercial business opportunities. I've got a good grounding in the broad corporate sustainability issue set, as well as conservation — my first love.

Next page: A ridiculous amount of confidence