Meet Tajana Mesic, a Green Economy Post Featured Green Career Success Story. Tajana comes to the green economy with a more than decade long career focused on managing compliance engagements for large Fortune 500 multinationals operating globally where she implemented and managed a large number of complex multi-country compliance engagements, spanning over 70 countries worldwide. During the last 7 years she spent with Ernst & Young she developed an interest in sustainability. Tajana is currently the Managing Director for the Green Grove Group. Read about her Green Career Success Story.
What are the responsibilities of your job?: As the Managing Director of Green Grove Group, I engage corporate clients in a dialog and provide them with cost effective consulting services for development, design and implementation of sustainability strategies. My goal is to support clients in gaining an understanding of the environmental, social and financial challenges that are transforming business today and guide them towards designing a sustainability strategy that will help cut costs, reduce risks, generate revenues and enhance their brand value. I make sure that they enjoy the benefits of a sustainability officer without the ongoing cost. On a typical week, I spend about one-third of my time on billable sustainability consulting work (sustainability research, strategic planning and stakeholder engagement, greenhouse gas inventory, results-oriented collaboration building, assessments and training). The other two-thirds of my time are reserved for running the business.
What do you enjoy most about your job?: The favorite part of my job is visiting with clients and helping them develop and implement their sustainability strategy. I love seeing their faces light up when they realize that inserting a sustainability strategy into their existing strategy makes business sense. It is not easy for most clients to step outside their comfort zone and think about sustainability, but once they do, it is truly transformative and they rarely choose to revert to “business as usual”. Seeing how their employees embrace sustainability at work and then transfer it to their homes as they start recycling, actively participating in community initiatives such as gardening and start making healthier lifestyle choices is very heartwarming for me. Most recently, an employee at a client company joined a community gardening project, which gives 50 percent of the harvest to a community food pantry. Her children joined her in weekly gardening chores and are getting their school involved in the program.
Note from the editor: Tajana just finished a 4-month project as the Sustainability Adviser to Earth Day Dallas, which ended up being the largest Earth Day this year, hosting 48,000 people in 2 days.
From what career specialty did you transition? I have over 10 years of experience in implementing and managing a large number of complex multi-country compliance engagements, spanning over 70 countries worldwide. My last 7 years were with Ernst & Young, focusing on managing engagements for large Fortune 500 multinationals operating globally.
What, if any, certifications, training, degrees do you have that have helped you in your obtaining a position in the sustainability/green section and when were they obtained? I hold a Masters in Business Administration Degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Dallas and Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Business from the University of Alabama. For the past year, I have been taking courses towards International Society of Sustainability Professional’s Sustainability Professional Certificate, which provides a very holistic and systems approach to sustainability. Some of the classes in my program include: Zero Waste, Responsible Purchasing, Sustaining Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development, Measuring GHG Impact, and Climate Action Plans.
Why did you decide to make a career change into sustainability? I recognized the possibilities two years ago, when I was a management consultant with Ernst & Young, one of the country’s Big Four accounting and management consulting firms. I volunteered on a national team to conceptualize Ernst & Young’s sustainability offerings across service lines and collaborate with business leaders across the organization to assess whether Ernst & Young was ready to help companies meet the emerging standards for social and environmental performance, looking at their energy and water use, recycling numbers, and workplace diversity.
What steps did you take that were the most effective in helping you make the transition to a career in sustainability? Joining the trade associations will help you grow and learn. I am a proud member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) and am working towards my Sustainability Professional Certificate. Besides professional development, benefits include sharing of resources and best practices, as well as special reports, salary surveys, and competency studies. The close second is networking and educating myself by reading. I have attended a number of national conferences, including Green America’s Business Conference, Bioneers, and numerous local sustainability conferences and expos, where I have also volunteered. The only way to stay current in the industry is to continuously study latest developments. There is a great number of brilliant authors and books on the market, both domestically and internationally. I strongly recommend sustainability classics such as “Natural Capitalism” and “Biomimicry”.
What are your long term career goals? As the Managing Director of Green Grove Group, my goal is to grow my firm to be one of the leading go-to sustainability corporate resources for companies that are willing to take the leap and explore how adding environmental and social aspects to their business can help them increase their financial bottom line. It is important to me that they understand what it takes to create a more sustainable enterprise from the systems perspective. Not just from the accounting, marketing, and human resource management standpoint, but also to really understand the implications that their supply chain and social investment have on everyone involved, including the shareholders.
Please share any additional thoughts that you feel might be helpful to someone seeking to make this type of career transition? Community involvement is very important and doing something to help others get engaged is key. If you are community-minded, it is a great idea to dive in and give back by participating as a leader in your local and global community of choice. My current and past involvement has included president of the local chapter of the international organization Greendrinks, chairman of the Plano Community Garden Junior League of Plano project, advisory board member of Texas Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Association, sustaining advisor of Kollo Collaborative, and member of Global Reporting Initiative and Green America.
I’d like to end with a quote by Paul Hawken: “Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.”
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