Chicago Green Jobs

Green Job Profile #5: Communications Manager for PortionPac
June 7, 2010, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Green Job Profiles

Sometimes I’m tempted to think that all the really cool green jobs (Anaerobic Digestion Manager! Environmental Fate Modeller!) are for engineers, but then I talk with someone like Arline Welty, Communications Manager for PortionPac.

“Concentrates are where it’s at – they explode the idea of green cleaning.”

That’s Arline, telling you everything you need to know about why her company has spent 45+ profitable years smack in the intersection between innovation and sustainability. It’s nice to see the power of wordsmithing used for the good!

Now the interesting thing about Arline is that she’s spent most of her career in the social sector, and it took a company as sustainable as PortionPac to tempt her away. I sat down with her last week to get the skinny on what it’s like spinning words for a truly green company.

Organization: PortionPac, a local chemical company that has spent the last four decades on the leading edge of sustainability in cleaning products. While they have obtained Green Seal certification for every cleaner they can, their true innovation is in minimizing the energy and water footprint of their products.

Title: Communications Manager

Relevant Training: Years of writing copy.

What do you do all day? (click on the jump to find out!)

Reading and writing. I write news releases and industry articles, interview employees and write the employee newsletter. I’m making a style “Identity Manual” to make sure that all our communications are consistent and clear. And I do research on the industry to educate myself on chemistry issues and cleaning trends.

What did you do before you got this job?

I was the Director of Policy and Development for the non-profit Active Transportation Alliance. I worked there for seven years and for the next step in my career I wanted to learn how business can move environmental goals forward.

What is different about working for a for-profit company?

Coming from a nonprofit, I had some skepticism that a business would do anything environmentally responsible for reasons other than profit. PortionPac has proved me wrong there, and has given me some hope that businesses can have integrity when their leaders do.

Our leadership is very concerned with the environment and the effect we have on it and this is reflected both in our products and our company policies. For example, all employees get free public transit. I highlight this because it shows how committed they are to the value of a low-energy footprint.

One big difference is that we’re much more concerned about proprietary knowledge. Our competitors follow our efforts and it’s critically important to protect our business – this is very different from working in a non-profit where information sharing is common.

What impact do you have on the planet and/or community through your work?

I am a gear in the machine. Improving our style and media presence can lead to more business which means more organizations using our sustainable products, but I’m removed from direct impact. Our sales team is another story.

What 3 essential skills are needed to do your job?

To be:
1. An assertive, active writer
2. In charge of my own learning
3. A persuasive communicator

What 3 essential personality traits help you succeed in your job?

1. Curiosity
2. Interested in the industry
3. Belief in what I’m doing. I know why our product is good and I want other people to know too.

What is the least glamorous aspect of your job?

Adding up price lists in Microsoft Excel.

What is the most influential reading you’ve done in sustainability?

The most influential experience has been with our national sales rep, Jerry Goldman. He’s spent the last 20 years with PortionPac and has spent years in the industry. He showed me around his accounts, notably about a dozen hospitals in the South Suburbs. Touring those facilities with him showed me the quality of the PortionPac system. Floors were gleaming. Our product took up a tenth of the space that other products do in the utility closet shelves. Since it’s based on simplicity and right-sizing, people don’t overuse the cleaning products, and there’s never 15 gallons of product sitting around taking up space. And seeing him in fellowship with the clients, restocking anything that needed attention, and just supporting them was really nice.

My most influential reading is actually an instructional video called “Cleaning Ecology: The Science of Dust Removal” with Michael A. Berry, Ph.D. The Ecology of Cleaning. (note from Kate: sadly, there is no link online).

What do you do to keep current on your field and/or expand your knowledge and skills?

I go on site visits to see our system in action. Tomorrow I’m going over to our factory to check out our formulation process.

What else should we know about your job?

PortionPac is a finalist for the 2010 Best Small Company Workplaces award offered by Inc. magazine. We are featured in the June issue!


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