Going Green: Environmentalism in Business
By Irish America Staff
December / January 2010
As we present our annual Business 100 list, a celebration of the best and the brightest Irish-American executives and their standout achievements in the corporate world, we remain committed to highlighting progressive and innovative examples of business and industry. The following companies and executives are pioneers in using ecological thinking to fuel successful business. From electric cars and green energy production to sustainable cleaning products and free-range fish farming, this year’s Irish greens represent Irish Americans on the cutting edge of eco-friendly development.
Brian O’Hanlon, President, Founder and Board Member, Open Blue Sea Farms
Open Blue Sea Farms’s mission is to feed the growing premium fish market with all natural, healthy, delicious branded seafood, through environmentally safe and sustainable free-range open-ocean farming methods. Their fish are cultivated in native waters far offshore in the open ocean and raised in a strong flow of pristine waters that have not been impacted or influenced by land. Further, their sustainable methods can satiate growing appetites without poisoning the environment, our oceans, sea life and us.
Brian O’Hanlon is an open-ocean aquaculture veteran who has had multiple milestone successes in culturing and farming species of fish. Through his first venture, Snapperfarm, Inc., he was one of the first to move fish farming into the open sea. His fascination with the sea is no surprise, coming from a family that has for three generations worked in the seafood industry, beginning with his grandfather John, who spent his professional life at New York’s famous Fulton Fish Market. As a youngster, Brian became aware that our oceans would no longer be able to supply enough food for the world, and his passion focused on fish farming as the best way to alleviate the condition of our emptying seas.
Brian, with plans to significantly expand his proven seafood cultivation technology and market acceptance under the Open Blue Sea Farms banner, is actively pursuing investment for Open Blue’s deep open-ocean aquaculture launch of branded, upscale and gourmet seafood products. He calls it “The Open Blue Revolution,” cultivating seafood far from shore into the open ocean where strong currents and deep water support biomass without damaging sensitive ecosystems. This translates to environmental and social impacts reduced or eliminated, stakeholder impacts being avoided, reduced energy consumption and improved coastal conditions in addition to creating a reliable, year round and sustainable supply of nutritious, healthy, safe, and delicious seafood.
O’Hanlon is a founding board member of the Ocean Stewards Institute and is on the Steering Committee of the World Wildlife Fund’s Cobia Standards Dialogue. He is a fourth-generation Irish American with roots in Kerry, Clare, Louth, Limerick and Galway.
The Green Mr. Clean
Adam Lowry, Chief Greenskeeper and CEO, Method Products, Inc.
Method Products, Inc. combines the efficacy of powerful cleaning products with the safety of naturally derived, non-toxic ingredients. Their entire line of home and personal care products is biodegradable and safe for people and the environment. They offset carbon emissions by planting forests and by buying electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind energy.
Adam Lowry believes that business is our greatest vehicle for positive social and environmental change. First and foremost an entrepreneur and change agent, Adam has a proven track record of innovation across multiple categories and consumer segments.
Prior to founding Method, Adam worked as a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Science, developing software products for the study of global climate change. As CEO and chief greenskeeper of Method Products, Adam’s focus is bringing sustainable innovations to the business. He also directs the sustainability aspects of product design, sourcing, and production, and provides strategic input for consumer marketing and the press.
A third-generation Irish American whose great-grandfather Thomas Kirkpatrick Lowry was born in 1889 in Cork, Adam says that his Irish heritage means “you go after the things you believe in and make sure to enjoy yourself while you’re in the fight.” Adam holds a BS in chemical engineering from Stanford University, and resides in San Francisco with his wife, Mara, and daughter, Kenning.
Charisse McAuliffe, Founder and CEO, GenGreen LLC
The goal of GenGreen LLC is to be the most comprehensive and diverse resource available for people looking to live a locally focused, environmentally conscious lifestyle. This is accomplished through GenGreenLife.com, the largest database of accredited green businesses and organizations in North America, where over 60,000 listings in the GenGreen network form a multi-faceted platform for communication, education and connection, from green news headlines, job listings and events, to tips helping consumers live a sustainable life. GenGreen is one of the preeminent aggregators and distributors of environmental content online.
Born in Atlanta and a graduate of the College of Charleston in South Carolina with a degree in mass media communications, Charisse McAuliffe began her career working as a segment producer and field producer for Warner Brothers/Telepictures and as a production manager for ASAG Productions. Following a position as a broadcast producer, she got her real estate license and began brokering commercial real estate projects. Starting with green building practices, Charisse explored other areas of the sustainable lifestyle, and in 2006 moved to Colorado, where she began to pursue her environmental calling. She made it her life’s mission to make it easier for people in Colorado, the U.S., and hopefully one day the world to live sustainably.
Charisse was named one of the top 40 business leaders under 40 for 2008 by the Northern Colorado Business Report and one of the “Hottest CEOs of Cool Green Companies” by TreeHugger.com in 2009. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association and Northern Colorado USGBC. She has two daughters, Kylah and Abigail. A fourth-generation Irish American with ancestry in Cork, Charisse says, “Raised by my mostly Irish parents, I was brought up believing that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. I have often given credit for my passionate attitude towards life to my Irish roots. We put our hearts and soul into all that we do, we take great pride in our heritage, and consider it of the utmost importance to carry the message of where we came from to the generations that come after us.”
Where Coffee Goes Green
R. Scott McCreary, COO, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.
Since 1981, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. has been roasting the finest Arabica beans from coffee-growing communities around the world, creating award-winning blends. Their goal is to provide consumers with an extraordinary coffee experience that’s environmentally sound, socially just, and delicious. They work to achieve this goal by integrating their values with their business operations and allocating 5% of pre-tax earnings to social and environmental causes.
Through their business, Green Mountain hopes to inspire others to view business as a partner, and positive change agent, in the global effort to create long-term solutions and sustainability for people and ecosystems worldwide. They have developed programs around energy use and solid waste and funded grants related to jobs programs that merge environmental stewardship with poverty relief; the development of creative economies in rural areas; raising awareness and building capacities related to organic farming and fair trade as well as supporting an annual effort to clean up our nation’s rivers, among other causes.
Scott has served as chief operating officer of GMCR’s Specialty Coffee Business Unit since 2004. From 1993 until joining GMCR, Scott was employed by Unilever North American and its subsidiaries. His experiences include positions with Kraft General Foods, M&M Mars and Pillsbury.
Scott holds an MBA in marketing from the University of Minnesota and a BS in engineering. He is a fourth-generation Irish American with roots in County Down.
Patrick Lynch, Senior Vice President and CFO, Interface, Inc.
In 1994, Ray Anderson, founder of Interface, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet, awakened to the urgent need to set a new course toward sustainability. Interface committed to become the first name in industrial ecology worldwide, setting a course to total sustainability and a promise to eliminate any negative impact Interface might have on the environment by 2020. Seven of its manufacturing facilities currently operate with 100 percent renewable electricity, and more than 27 percent of Interface’s global energy consumption is derived from renewable sources.
The company, which has a subsidiary in Craigavon, County Armagh, also began a program in 1995 to identify, measure and eliminate waste in manufacturing processes, and has successfully achieved a 50 percent reduction in waste cost per unit, resulting in $372 million saved to date. In 2007, Interface became the first carpet manufacturer to implement a process for “clean separation,” allowing for a maximum amount of post-consumer material to be recycled into new products.
Patrick C. Lynch joined Interface in 1996 and became vice president and CFO in 2001. He was promoted to senior vice president in 2007. Patrick graduated from The Citadel in Charleston with a bachelor of science degree in business administration in 1992. He then went on to earn both a juris doctor degree in law and a master of business administration degree from Georgia State. A fourth-generation Irish American with roots in Cork, Patrick says that his Irish heritage provides him with “shining examples of faith and perseverance when faced with difficult circumstances.” Patrick resides in Atlanta with his wife Erica and their two daughters, Emily and Molly.
Winning the Race
Diarmuid O’Connell, Vice President of Business Development, Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors designs and sells high-performance, super-efficient electric cars. Their cars join style, acceleration, and handling with advanced technologies to make them the quickest and the most energy-efficient cars on the planet. The Tesla Roadster moves not only under its own power, but ultimately free of the existing and increasingly troublesome petroleum-based infrastructure. With a range of over 200 miles on a single charge and a supercar level 3.9 second 0-60 mph acceleration time, the Roadster is proof that the combination of passion and technology can deliver a truly groundbreaking automobile.
Diarmuid O’Connell joined Tesla in 2006, and currently serves as the vice president of business development. Before joining Tesla, Diarmuid served as chief of staff for political military affairs at the U.S. State Department, where he was involved in policy and operational support to the U.S military in various theaters of operation.
Prior to his tenure in Washington, Diarmuid worked in corporate strategy as a management consultant for Accenture, as a founder of educational software developer at Real Time Learning, and as a senior executive with both McCann Erickson Worldwide and Young and Rubicam.
Diarmuid has a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, a master’s degree in foreign policy from the University of Virginia, and an MBA from Kellogg. He lives with his wife and two children in the Bay Area and escapes to the mountains whenever possible. Diarmuid is a fourth-generation Irish American with roots in Cork, Kerry and Mayo. On his Irish heritage, he says, “Wherever I’ve traveled or worked in the world, my Irish heritage has given me entrée into networks of active, engaging and committed communities of interest.”
Dara O’Rourke, Founder, GoodGuide, Inc.
GoodGuide provides information about the environmental, social, and health performance of products and companies to consumers at the point of purchase (through web and mobile apps). They present this information through innovative visualization tools, facilitating learning, sharing, and contributing information to friends, families, and broader communities, and providing simple means for users to send signals to companies.
Dara O’Rourke is an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the co-founder of GoodGuide, Inc. Dara’s research focuses on systems for monitoring the environmental, labor, and health impacts of global production systems.
Dara has served as a consultant to international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and a wide range of domestic and international non-governmental organizations. He has degrees in mechanical engineering, political science, and energy and resources, and was previously a professor at MIT.
Born in Dublin, Dara became a U.S. citizen at age 12. His father’s family is from Roslea, County Fermanagh, and his mother’s from Belturbet, County Cavan. He says, “I’m very proud to be Irish and am continually inspired by Ireland’s culture and achievements. I personally inherited the ‘gift of the gab’ and a love of debate from my Irish parents.”
Producing Alternative Energy
Dr. Jason Pyle, Founder and CEO, Sapphire Energy
The goal of Sapphire Energy is to be the world’s leading producer of renewable petrochemical products. The team has built a scientifically superior platform that uses photosynthetic microorganisms to convert sunlight and CO2 into carbon-neutral alternatives to conventional fossil fuels. This domestic crude oil can be produced at massive scale on non-arable land.
Dr. Jason Pyle, founder and CEO of Sapphire, holds an appointment as adjunct professor of bioengineering at Vanderbilt University where he has worked to develop cross-disciplinary programs of biological and engineering research. He was named Innovator of the Year (2006) by Frost and Sullivan, and holds numerous pending and issued patents in the engineering and biological sciences and has worked in diverse cross-discipline areas such as nanofabrication, optical engineering, and structural biology. Dr. Pyle holds a PhD in molecular and cellular physiology and an MD from Stanford University, and received degrees in optical engineering and physics from the University of Arizona.
Dr. Pyle, whose Irish roots lie in Co. Donegal, says, “Beyond my own heritage my wife is second-generation Irish. She’s a Staunton from County Mayo. Her father, Vincent, came to the U.S. as a young doctor. His story reminds me that all our families came to this nation at one point largely because of great hardships. We have a lot to be proud of.”
Casey Sheahan, President and CEO, Lost Arrow Corporation and Patagonia, Inc.
Lost Arrow is the holding company for the highly successful Patagonia brand of outdoor equipment and clothing. The company operates a small number of freestanding Patagonia stores in the U.S. and abroad, and sells its line through roughly 1,200 dealers in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. A design leader in several areas, pioneering specialized synthetic fabrics as well as bold, bright colors widely imitated by other outdoor apparel manufacturers, the company is dedicated to environmental preservation. As a member of “1% for the Planet,” Patagonia pledges to donate at least one percent of its annual sales to promote conservation and preservation of the natural environment.
Casey Sheahan serves as president and CEO of Patagonia, Inc. and Lost Arrow Corporation. Casey, a long-time industry veteran, came to Patagonia from his post as president of Kelty, Inc. Prior to his tenure at Kelty, he served as vice president of marketing for Merrell Footwear and was category marketing manager at Nike ACG. In addition to his diverse management background, Casey brings a breadth of skills in the fields of writing, marketing and sales. He has edited for several outdoor-inspired publications including Powder Magazine and Runner’s World. He is aligned with a number of environmental organizations and served as president of the Conservation Alliance. Born in Santa Barbara, Casey is a lifelong skier and fly-fishing enthusiast. He earned a BA in American studies from Stanford University. He has a personal affinity for cycling, paddling and all water-related activities, as well as backpacking, sleeping in the dirt and spending time with his family: his wife Tara and children Caelin and Aidan. A third-generation Irish American with roots in Shannon, County Clare and Cork, Casey says, “The wonderful heritage of Irish music, history and literature connects me to my past and inspires me to laugh and cry!”
The Eco-friendly Abbot
Rev. Abbot Brendan Freeman, Founder, Trappist Caskets
Located in a richly forested area near Dubuque Iowa, New Melleray Abbey, a Trappist monastery, managed to support itself through farming until the agricultural market collapse of the 1990s. Abbot Brendan Freeman launched a new venture in 1999 that would offset the shortfall in income. Taking advantage of a change in the law which allowed consumers to provide their own funeral merchandise, Abbot Brendan founded Trappist Caskets. By utilizing the Abbey’s massive timber resources and available monk labor force, the new company adopted the Irish tradition of wooden caskets. From its inception, the business has experienced brisk growth due to the vision, acumen, and oversight of Abbot Brendan.
Trappists are committed to responsible stewardship, and their methods are aimed at preserving the world as God made it. Towards this end, the New Melleray monks use wood of local origin, much of it from their own award-winning 1,200-acre forest, which is managed to be a sustainable ecosystem. A tree is planted in the forest in honor of each individual buried in a Trappist casket. In addition to its casket business, New Melleray continues its 150-year tradition of farming, particularly chemical-free crops and raising organic Black Angus beef.
Rev. Abbot Brendan Freeman received an MA in religious studies and divinity from Catholic University of America. He is an Irish citizen whose father’s family hails from Ballyhanus and his mother’s from Kiltimagh, both in County Mayo. He is the president of the Board of Directors of Cistercian Publications and has been elected abbot for six consecutive terms at New Melleray Abbey, which was founded in 1849 at the time of the great famine by the Irish monastery Mount Melleray of County Waterford in Ireland.