Welcome back to “Women in Circularity,” where we shine a light on women moving us toward a circular economy. This month, I spoke with an entrepreneur with a background in finance and commercial design who brought her business acumen back to her hometown of Indianapolis: Pam Francis.
Pam is the vice president of Schott Design, one of the largest commercial interior design companies in Indiana and a market leader in sustainable design. She also serves as a board president of the Indiana Recycling Coalition.
What drew you to the circular economy?
Learning that the built environment accounts for more carbon emissions than any other industry and then realizing that as a large design firm we were in the driver’s seat when it came to one of the key solutions. Designers have the voice and the buying power to bridge the gap between manufacturers and building owners and have the unique ability to effect change through redesign collaboration and education. In my leadership role at Schott, I was able to gain organizational buy-in. As a market leader in this industry, we have the responsibility to pave the way for change and we do this through the creation of simple, cost effective and scalable solutions for our state.
Looking at the “toolkit” you have developed from past jobs, which items do you use daily?
Success in the circular economy relies on education and the ability to inspire; being comfortable talking with other industry stakeholders is essential in those efforts. Having the right information and helping those around you find their power as consumers/professionals increases the success rate for all of us and is instrumental in bringing change.
What will most impact circularity in the near term?
That would be reuse. Most items in the built environment are designed to last much longer than they are used. Extending the life of existing resources not only helps the environment but also significantly increases return on investments.
What work-related initiative most affected you and why?
The creation of, and growing success of, schottXchange, a marketplace for commercial construction reuse. Our industry is not only the largest contributor to carbon emissions, but also the largest contributor to landfills in America. With these realities facing us, increased participation and excitement around material reuse serves as a daily inspiration for our continued hard work.
What is a favorite piece of advice to share with others?
You have to ask for what you want. No one can read your mind and, typically, organizations won’t spend money to change or redesign unless they know why it is important to you. If you want to create solutions, reach out to those involved and ask to collaborate. You might be surprised what you can accomplish.
What education recommendation do you have for emerging professionals?
No matter your field of study, couple it with sustainability. Every field intersects at some point with sustainability, and in future years, we will not be able to separate them.
MaryEllen Etienne is the creator of “Women in Circularity.” Etienne works on the Market Transformation and Development team for the U.S. Green Building Council. She has over 20 years of experience in sustainability and is a champion of the circular economy.