A Q&A with Sustainability Graduate Coley Schiro (MA’16)

Coley Schiro, a Sustainability Graduate alumna from Lindsay, California, is the newest team member to the London Stock Exchange’s Green Solutions team.

Schiro pictured at the end-of-semester Sustainability Graduate Program celebration where she received the Director’s Award.

During her time at Wake Forest, Schiro flourished under her personal motto: say yes to every opportunity. From being the first student to simultaneously write a thesis and pursue an internship, to becoming a LEED-certified green associate, to traveling to both Washington, D.C., and Belize with the program, Schiro’s motto and go-getter attitude defined her time within the Sustainability Graduate Program.

In between Schiro’s previous position as the sustainability technician at Sealed Air Corporation in Charlotte and her upcoming position as the North American representative for the London Stock Exchange’s Green Solutions team, she shared about her experience within the Sustainability Graduate Program, shed light on her position, and offered advice for current sustainability job-seekers.

Where are you from and what brought you to Wake Forest?

I am from Lindsay, California — a small, rural farm town in the Central Valley. Before attending Wake Forest for my Master’s degree, I had taught Biology for six years. I had always wanted to go back to school to get my Masters and knew I wanted to live on the East coast. After being accepted into the Wake Forest Sustainability Graduate Program, I received a call from Dan Fogel, director of the program at the time, who explained to me the benefits of the program. I was attracted to the one year time-frame with an emphasis on giving sustainability professionals an interdisciplinary overview of sustainability — it was a perfect fit.

As the Green Solutions Analyst for the London Stock Exchange Group what are your primary responsibilities?

FTSE Russell is part of The London Stock Exchange Group. FTSE Russell has been a pioneer in Sustainable Investment services since the launch of the FTSE4Good Index Series in 2001. The FTSE4Good Index Series is designed to measure the performance of companies demonstrating strong Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices. These indexes can be used by a wide variety of market participants when creating sustainable investment products.

I look at my new position in two parts. First, I’ll be promoting thought-leadership components for sustainability and determining how FTSE4Good measures companies and their sustainability initiatives. In my role, I will aid in ensuring the London Stock Exchange Group meets the FTSE4Good criteria as well as engaging with corporate sustainability teams in environmental stewardship.

The other portion of my new position focuses on helping the internal data analyst measure sustainability efforts. Being a teacher, I will tap into my training ability to educate other analysts on how to read sustainability data.

Why are you interested in this kind of work?

My focus at Wake Forest’s Sustainability Graduate Program was on how we communicate about the environment. I am a firm believer in the power of information. Especially in the United States, I feel that we do not do a good job explaining what sustainability is and why the environment is so important. This is an area I foresee growth.

Tell me about your time at Wake Forest and your experience within the Sustainability Graduate Program.

Wake Forest was a whirlwind. I took as many classes as I could, I said yes to almost every opportunity, and I launched myself into a deep discovery phase. During the program, I wanted to be as much of a sponge as possible. I was the first person in the program to write both the thesis and take an internship. My thesis focused on how newspapers reported extreme weather events and whether or not these newspapers mentioned climate change.

Additionally, I went to Belize and aided in the communications plan for their Coastal Management Plan. I became LEED certified as a green associate. I took Dan Fogel’s sustainable construction class. I went to Washington, D.C. where I got to hear from Stan Meiburg, who at the time was second in command at the EPA. I learned questioning and investigation techniques from WFU journalism professor Justin Catanoso. I seasoned my sustainability degree with an Ecology class to better understand biodiversity. I also had the opportunity to take an international human rights course with U.N. special rapporteur John Knox.

How did the Sustainability Graduate Program prepare you for this exciting new step in your career?

The Sustainability Graduate Program taught me where to look, who to talk to, and gave me an opportunity to assess sustainability for myself.

Dan Fogel’s class was extremely valuable as it allowed me to think about sustainability value propositions. I feel this one course in particular helped prepare me the most for my future in sustainability. Dan taught me to think of sustainability from a business lens.

What advice would you give to others pursuing jobs in sustainability?

Sustainability is all about innovation and being a change-agent. We have to be ready to take a chance and be wrong. We do not do ourselves a favor by going into the sustainability profession and expecting there to be a blueprint, because one does not exist. The world and businesses are both dynamic and sustainability is an iterative process rather than a defined destination.

Schiro presented this year’s Director’s Award at the 2017 Sustainability Graduate Program celebration.

Schiro will begin working in her new position as the Green Solution Analyst representing the team in North America this month in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.