GreenBiz Group has just established a beachhead in Europe as we expand the scope and reach of our events, digital media and peer network platforms, and I couldn’t be more excited about who will be leading the charge.
Lori Gustavus, a Houston native who’s been living in Paris since 2000, has signed on as director of our European activities, which will begin next month with the inaugural meeting of the GreenBiz Executive Network Europe, an offshoot of our nearly 15-year-old U.S. peer network, which boasts more than 100 large companies. A self-described "intrapreneur at heart," she brings deep expertise in sustainability market and trend analysis, communications and branding, and strategy.
Gustavus, the first in her family to go to college, studied international politics and economics at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, about 15 miles from where she grew up. It was as captain of the debate team — which took her to Barbados and Belize — that she was first exposed to the idea of sustainability in the late 1990s. "It was in Barbados that I first heard from their tourism industry about the threats to their resources from the water-intense tourism that both held up their economy while presenting risk to its sustainability," she told me. "I was fascinated." In Belize, she learned about sustainable farming practices.
I immediately saw how I could use my business and communication skills for sustainability.
After college and travels, Gustavus decided she wanted to live abroad. "I sent my application to teach English to France and Japan and decided that whichever came back first would be where I went," she said. "It was the first time ever that the French administration was fast!" Once in France, Gustavus met "an amazing French man that is still my biggest supporter after 22 years together." They have two daughters, 15 and 18.
Bright green light
After taking time off with her girls when they were young, Gustavus ventured back into the work world. She had aspirations to start her own business and joined a women’s entrepreneur group. It was there that she met Sara Pax, "who would change the trajectory of my career and reconnect me to my passion."
Pax was developing Carbonostics, a life-cycle assessment tool for the food industry that considered cost, carbon and nutrition — a truly innovative idea back in 2009. A bright green light lit up for Gustavus: "I immediately saw how I could use my business and communication skills for sustainability."
After Carbonostics, Gustavus joined the sustainability consulting firm Quantis, where she built the marketing and communications function. "My goal was to align the great work and ambition for change internally with the external image and recognition of the company." She helped put Quantis on the map, opening the doors to expand the types of projects it took on with a more strategic and impactful focus.
After eight years at Quantis, "it was time for a new challenge." Gustavus finished her MBA degree, writing a thesis on "Leadership for Sustainable Business." At Quantis, she had met GreenBiz, and chose our GreenBiz 17 event to relaunch the Quantis brand. She saw great potential to expand GreenBiz’s platforms to the European market.
And the rest, as they say, is history — or soon will be.
"Our primary goal in Europe is to support the leaders that are driving sustainable transformation in their companies," she said. "I look forward to working with our European community to bring networks, news, analysis and events that will be both useful and impactful. The question that guides my day is: ‘How can we do our part to make your corporate sustainability job easier?’"
The GreenBiz Executive Network Europe, open to sustainability leaders at large companies, is the opening salvo of what we expect to be a growing presence in Europe, our largest market outside North America. As Gustavus noted, there will be more news, analysis and events emanating from her base in Paris.
First up, as I said, is the launch of the European network, taking place Sept. 13-14, at the headquarters of a well-known French luxury brand, attended by 15-20 large companies.
"Joining the GreenBiz team is a dream come true," Gustavus told me. "I’m thrilled to work alongside the premier voices in sustainability and to spread the GreenBiz magic in Europe."
We’re thrilled, too, Lori.
To learn more about the GreenBiz Executive Network Europe, email Lori Gustavus.