Why I Left the Best Corporate Sustainability Job in the Business


I have a habit of leaving my dream jobs. Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to have multiple. And my pattern of leaving each of them behind befuddles my peers, mentors, and friends.

Last month, I did it again. But lest you think I’m just an unsatisfied, ungrateful job-hopper, let me tell you why…

I was director of sustainability at Walmart, and while many of my San Francisco bubble-based friends would debate this point, it’s pretty much the best corporate sustainability gig around.

Thanks to a legacy of CEO-level commitment, the conversation at Walmart is never should/if/why do things, but how do we “get after it.” In fact, that’s true across most of the company. There’s a culture of getting things done, and that’s a great place to be when you are working on some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Everything is viewed at scale. You can make so much impact working within a supply chain from ingredient to finished product and beyond. Now imagine how much impact you can make when you work across hundreds of supply chains.

There’s really no place like it. So why did I leave?

We’re at the dawn of a new era in sustainability. Reaching zero waste to landfill at your corporate headquarters, reporting energy efficiency targets for your facilities, or launching a cause-marketing campaign for your leading brand was laudable circa 2005. Today, these are table stakes. As we look toward 2020, 2025, and beyond, it’s evident that individual corporate action alone cannot achieve the results our society and planet needs. Now that corporations have grasped the importance of this, it’s time for the next step.

The solutions we need to tackle sustainability challenges will come through new business models of innovation that will require fierce competitors, skeptical stakeholders, and inspiring entrepreneurs to combine forces to change the rules of the systems we are operating within and constrained by.

That’s why I helped start and have now officially joined The Closed Loop Fund. The $100 million impact investment fund is uniquely positioned to be a beacon in this next chapter.

At CLF, we are investing in recycling infrastructure to create economic value for cities by increasing recycling rates in communities across America. It’s no small feat, but we’re up to the challenge.

In my new role, I’m drawing on varied experiences to work across the public and private sectors with some of the largest companies in the world, including Walmart. Our investors recognize that the recycling system is too big and complex for any individual actor to change. Collectively, however, we might have a chance!

If (and when) it works, imagine how such a platform could be applied to scale solutions to other challenges around the world. That’s what I’m thinking about today… and to me, that’s reason enough to have left the best corporate sustainability job in the business.

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