Sustainability in Business - An Interview with Kathy Sue McGuire
In 1989 Kathy Sue McGuire returned home to Florida after living in England for 3 years. It was then that she realized the amount of waste produced in her beloved state, compared to England. Deciding something needed to be done, in 1991, she asked her boss at BellSouth Telecommunications, now AT&T, if she could start a recycling program. It was the first corporate recycling program in the state of Florida. For this program she was recognized with the “Count on Me Award of Excellence.”
In 2006, Kathy took on a new role at PGA National Resort and Spa, where she again began a revolutionary change in her industry by implementing sustainable policies. With the integration of the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meetings and Events international standard, the resort received certification in the Venue and Accommodations category. Over 10 years she helped save the resort over $1.4 million dollars. Kathy then decided to begin helping other businesses with sustainability, predominantly focusing on the hospitality industry and the events sector.
Kathy describes herself similar to a teacher, who helps show businesses how they can be profitable, and environmentally and socially responsible at the same time. By working with Kathy, businesses have an opportunity to incorporate environmental and social programs into their business models, which she says benefits businesses in a myriad of ways, like the ability to market themselves as being green or sustainable.
“Sustainability is nothing more than being efficient—with your money, your resources, your purchasing, and your waste. It’s no longer okay for business to be wasteful, because it affects everyone in the community.”
When it comes to food policy, Kathy lamented the amount of food insecurity and food waste she sees in her community and around the world. She pointed to a 2016 French law which requires surplus food in stores and restaurants to be donated rather than thrown away, “We grow enough food around the planet to feed 18 billion people, yet one third of the 7 billion people are starving. Food waste is a major problem, and when you know people are food insecure, or actually starving in many countries, it’s just unconscionable.”
Although the U.S. does have federal laws, like the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Act, that protect those that donate food from civil and criminal liability, many aren’t aware of these laws, or are still afraid of possible legal retribution.
When asked specifically about Florida food policy, she felt that implementing similar laws requiring businesses such as supermarkets, restaurants, or hotels to donate food could be one solution to the food waste issue. However, she felt that these kinds of policies would be difficult to see put into law given the anti-regulation climate. Therefore, leaving industry and consumer demand to lead the change.
For businesses that want to become more sustainable, Kathy recommends, “Look at what you are spending your money on. You should look at what kinds of products you are purchasing and the waste you are generating. If businesses want to differentiate themselves from their competition, going green is a great way to do that.”
Going green is not without its challenges. In 2013 Kathy began working with a hotel, but it took nearly 6 years to get all the data necessary to assess their situation. What she found was that by simply reducing their use of disposable items by 30%, they would save over $50,000 dollars a year. Do the math and that’s $300,000 that could have been saved. Time, interest and effective communication are just a few of the obstacles she has confronted.
When asked about the future, Kathy believes that if just one prominent, influential person in a local community got involved, they could inspire other businesses to do better. She is currently looking for someone in the Palm Beach county area who would provide the leadership for sustainable business.
If you are interested in seeing how sustainable your business is, check out Kathy’s website https://www.3pillarsolutions.com/ where you can take a Hotel Sustainability Assessment.
If you have questions or comments for Kathy, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathy is an award-winning Sustainable Development Professional (ISSP-SA), and Climate Reality Leader with 15 years of progressive experience and a proven track record of implementing sustainability projects to reduce energy, water and waste, in all its forms, engage stakeholders, and increase brand awareness. Recognized as an industry leader in meeting the highest standards and being among the first in the nation to achieve sustainable business certifications for her clients, she is a trusted source of knowledge on established practices and cutting-edge trends that benefit organizations and the community.