Managing Director, Sustainability & Social Impact
With more than a decade of experience as a sustainability and social impact storyteller on both sides of the podium — as a journalist, and as strategist and communicator — Mike is committed to helping companies advance while addressing the world’s pressing social and environmental challenges. As Managing Director, Sustainability & Social Impact, Mike leads business development in the San Francisco Bay Area, and provides strategic counsel for thinkPARALLAX clients.
Previously, Mike was senior writer for GreenBiz, Sustainable Brands and Triple Pundit, where he covered every topic under the sustainability sun — from clean energy to climate policy and the circular economy. He also served as a sustainability and social impact subject matter expert at Edelman, where he worked with The North Face, HP, Dow and Kashi on sustainability and social impact strategy and execution. With clean energy being his “first sustainability love,” Mike has led clean energy communications efforts at Pacific Gas & Electric and technology cleantech startups. Passionate about advancing forward-thinking climate policy in the United States, he has lobbied on Capitol Hill with Environmental Defense Fund and other organizations.
Mike holds a Masters in Public Affairs and Strategic Communication from The George Washington University and a Bachelors in Political Science and History from the University of California, Davis.
A firm believer that you must ‘know the world if you wish to save the world,’ Mike is an avid traveler and adventurer. He spent a year living and volunteering in a community in Bogotá, Colombia, and has visited more than 30 countries across 5 continents — most recently making the trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
Mike Hower is tagged in 832 stories.
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Supply Chain /
SB'19 Detroit was full of rich discussions from brands, technology providers and alliances driving holistic changes in supply chains and other complex systems — and shining light on problems along the way. - 7 months ago
Behavior Change /
SB’19 Detroit was off to an engaging start this week, with powerhouses including
Allbirds, Cisco, Eileen Fisher and Timberland comparing notes with rising craft
brands and even Little Miss Flint on the most effective ways to continue to
drive change toward a healthy, sustainable future. - 7 months ago
It’s been a good couple of years for the solar industry. In 2015, some 7.5 megawatts were added to the grid in the United States, according to the Solar Industries Association (SIA), which fueled 19 percent in the photovoltaic market over 2014. - 3 years ago
Marketing and Comms /
Are traditional gender norms of “manliness” slowing the advancement of the sustainable economy? Turns out, they might, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research.
But while prior research attributes this gender gap in sustainable consumption to personality differences between the sexes, the new study proposes that it may also stem partially from a prevalent association between "green" behavior and femininity, and a corresponding stereotype — held by both men and women — that sustainable consumers are more feminine. - 3 years ago
The California State Assembly last week approved sweeping legislation that extends the state’s targets for reducing greenhouse gases from 2020 to 2030. Under SB 32, California would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
The new legislation builds off of the projected success of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which calls for California to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 — a target the state is expected to reach. - 3 years ago
Transportation accounts for around one-seventh of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And globally, greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster in transportation than in any other sector, with rapid motorization — more cars and trucks — being the principal cause. - 3 years ago
Product, Service & Design Innovation /
Carpet might not seem like a major player in the climate change fight, but the process of making it actually is quite impactful on the environment. Most carpets are synthetic — nylon, polyester, acrylic — all of which are petroleum-based products. Throw in other petroleum-based adhesives and materials used to back the synthetic fibers, chemical dyes to repel stains and fire, and a lack of reliable recycling methods, and you’ve got a recipe for some unsustainable practices. - 3 years ago
California’s aggressive climate policies — combined with the sheer size of its economy — have helped it create the most clean energy jobs of any state in the country, according to a new study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center.
The report, The Link Between Good Jobs and a Low Carbon Future, says the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) — California’s principal climate policy — has created 25,500 blue-collar job years — or around 53 million hours of blue-collar construction work. Many of these jobs have been created in regions of the state where they are most needed, with high unemployment and low income. - 3 years ago
Waste Not /
More than half of the United States isn’t recycling, and PepsiCo is setting out to help change that with a brand new ad. Designed to motivate people to recycle, the ad depicts a series of humorous examples of people doing activities halfway — like dog-grooming, running a race and mowing the lawn — as a way to remind them to take the extra step to recycle. - 3 years ago
Sometimes innovation comes from unexpected places — a father-son duo in Chino Hills, California has transformed a family furniture business into Sunflare, a solar energy company that produced solar “wallpaper,” among other high-efficiency PV products.
For more than a decade, Len Gao and his son, Philip Gao, used the furniture business to finance their research on flexible solar panels. After much trial and error, they developed solar panels that are so lightweight and flexible they can be installed on nearly any building surface with little more than double stick tape. - 3 years ago
When Stan Avery founded Avery Dennison in 1935, he set out to create a values-based business admired as much for its ethics and integrity as for its innovation. Eight decades later, the company still strives to adhere to its value-based mandate and is working to ensure that its employees and business partners know, understand and live up to its high ethical standards, according to Helen Sahi, senior director of Sustainability at Avery Dennison.
“Key to our progress has been treating sustainability not as something we do, but how we do everything,” Sahi told Sustainable Brands. “We’ve integrated sustainability into our underlying business strategy, from our people to our products to the communities we serve.” - 3 years ago
“Facility managers are at a premium these days and are overtaxed,” said Julien Gervreau, director of Sustainability at Jackson Family Wines (JFW) during a Thursday breakout session at SB'16 San Diego.
That’s why the winery is benefiting from Tesla Energy’s stationary energy storage systems, which currently stores 4.2 MW of electricity. Partnering with Tesla has been helpful because the energy innovator understands how the winery is trying to be disruptive, Gervreau said. - 3 years ago
Product, Service & Design Innovation /
“I think in an organization, when you’re trying to do something different, it’s important to take up that shared risk,” said Alex Thompson, VP of Communications & Public Affairs at REI, during the Thursday morning plenaries at SB'16 San Diego. - 3 years ago
Behavior Change /
“Failure is temporary but change is real,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, head of Sustainability at JetBlue Airways, during the Wednesday evening plenary at SB'16 San Diego.
While many Silicon Valley tech firms wear failure as badges of honor, many brands shy away from admitting their defeats. But this is beginning to change, as companies learn that confessing and even celebrating failure is is key to building sustainability strategies and purpose-driven innovation.
“We need to communicate more about our failures,” said Monique Oxender, Chief Sustainability Officer at Keurig Green Mountain. However, this is easier said than done. - 3 years ago
Chemistry, Materials & Packaging /
“We’re an emerging sector. We’re the cool kids. And that takes time,” said Kathryn Sheridan, CEO and founder of Sustainability Consult, during a Wednesday morning breakout session on the rise of bio-materials and bio-based products at Sustainable Brands 2016 San Diego.
Bio-based alternatives to plastic and other fossil-based materials can be used for a variety of applications, including construction, manufacturing and apparel, among others. However, many have yet to reach scale, largely due to industry clinging to classic chemistry.
“Bio-based materials work, it’s just a matter of economics,” Sheridan said. - 3 years ago
Behavior Change /
The purpose of business is changing. While historically, business students have been taught that the purpose of business solely is to increase investors’ profits — known as the Friedman Doctrine — the most successful brands are searching for a deeper meaning. Defining and activating purpose in business was the key theme of Tuesday evening’s plenaries at Sustainable Brands 2016.
While Millennials often receive credit for compelling companies to embrace higher ideals, this actually is something all generations of demanded, said Shannon Schuyler, Chief Purpose Officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). However, because Millennials are such a large demographic and constantly communicate via technology, their voices are being heard. - 3 years ago
New Metrics /
“I think we’re upright and we’re walking, but there’s no higher cortex functions yet,” said Gregory Unruh, sustainability editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, discussing where we stand in sustainable business evolution during a Tuesday breakout session at SB'16 San Diego.
While awareness and valuation of sustainable practices continues to grow overall, investors are demanding more data, better data, and deepening engagement with their investment prospects. - 3 years ago
Waste Not /
“It didn’t make sense to me — to make a bunch of products that use a lot of materials, and then throw it away,” Scott Hamlin, co-founder at Looptworks, said during a Tuesday breakout session on partnerships in the circular economy at Sustainable Brands '16 San Diego.
What Hamlin saw was a broken apparel industry, which focused on the traditional take-make-waste model. That’s why the social entrepreneur decided to found a company that doesn’t use virgin materials at all — and Looptworks was born.
“We are called Looptworks because we are working toward a closed-loop system,” he said. - 3 years ago
Organizational Change /
“Our goal is to make the intangible tangible, which is what we have to do with culture,” said Pamela Wilhelms, founder of Wilhelms Consulting Group, during a Monday workshop at SB'16 San Diego.
The workshop, “Understanding and Measuring Cultural and Systems-Change Dimensions within Companies,” focused on how forward-thinking companies can initiate cultural shifts toward sustainability — and how to measure success.
As the world moves toward a more sustainable economy, leading brands will be those capable of identifying and measuring healthy cultural dynamics. But culture often is too subjective and intangible to measure. - 3 years ago
The motor vehicle industry in the United States spends about $3.6 billion on energy annually, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In the U.S., over 70 assembly plants currently produce 13 million cars and trucks each year.
While energy expenditures are a relatively small cost factor in the total production process, energy-efficiency improvements are helping manufacturers gain an edge in an increasingly competitive environment. - 3 years ago