Jenni Grant is Manager of Global Sustainability and Real Estate Programs at Oracle. After more than 10 years working in the not-for-profit space, she decided to challenge her assumptions about corporations and search for a way to change the business practices that impact people and the environment. She spearheaded Oracle’s very first Sustainability Program for Global Real Estate & Operations, which addresses more than 9 million square feet of space, in more than 70 different countries, to reduce the company’s impact on the environment. In 2013, her team was presented the Outstanding Corporate Leader award from Sustainability Roundtable. In 2014, she was featured in the Amazon best seller book The Quarter-Life Breakthrough.
Tell us more about yourself – how did you become involved in your current career?
My journey in environmental conservation began in 2006, when I left my home in Atlanta (Fine Art degree in-hand) and drove 2,500 miles across the country to photograph the fabled California Redwoods and gaze at the Pacific Ocean. Determined to stay close to my place of awe and inspiration, and do my part to protect it, I continued northward another 150 miles and knocked on the door of the Sierra Club’s National Headquarters in San Francisco, where I got a position in Operations. In 2008, after years of work in not-for-profit stretching back to arts and education programming in Atlanta, I decided to challenge a belief I’d always held, that I would never work for a corporation. It was clear to me that more significant impact was possible by changing business practices from the inside of companies, instead of pressuring them from the outside. The language of profit-driven business was something I wanted to learn in order to understand what the real obstacles were to change. Inspired, I moved to Palo Alto in 2009, where I spent the next year learning everything I could about the unique culture of corporations in the Silicon Valley. In 2010 I made my transition to the tech world as a Business Analyst at Oracle, assessing the energy use of their global real estate and data center portfolio. The following year, I began managing projects that reduced Oracle’s environmental footprint and operational costs through implementation of innovative building technology. In my third year, I had carved out a role as Manager of Global Sustainability Programs. My work allows me to fulfill a strong desire I’ve always had to protect the things in life that provide people with wonder, inspiration, and refuge. To me, the most powerful of those things is nature and the environment.
What drew you to WEN and our events?
What I love most about WEN is the diversity of experiences and strengths amongst the members. The varied backgrounds encourages a fantastic kind of cross-pollination of ideas during networking events. I’m always interested to see how a strategy used in one field could inspire a solution for a challenge in another field.
What environmental issues are of most concern to you?
Corporate environmental responsibility and accountability is an issue that I would like to see more environmentalists working on. Not only through government regulation, but also by working inside corporations, in order to better understand how we might be able to change corporate culture so that protecting the environment becomes a standard value.
What are your suggestions on how WEN members can become more involved in your sector and the environmental movement?
One of the most important things you can do to become more involved in corporate sustainability management is to challenge any assumptions you may have that corporations profit by defeating the environment. This doesn’t have to be true. There is a certain language and set of values in every sector. You can learn the different languages and then become skillful at translating between them. The environmental conservation space could benefit from using business strategies found in Fortune 500 companies and those same companies could benefit from incorporating the mission-driven, impact consciousness found in the environmental conservation space. Once you understand how conserving resources equates to operational cost savings for corporations, you can begin pushing for change through reduced energy and water use, waste generation, and carbon emissions.