As Vice President, Marketing and Client Brand Strategy at Cohn Marketing, Cindy was well aware of the challenges and opportunities faced by current and prospective clients. In particular she felt that by encouraging her clients to be more sustainable they could (and would) increase the value of their underlying brand. By attending and graduating from the DU program, and in the process sharpening her understanding of the many different aspects of sustainability, she would effectively become more valuable to her own clients.
From the very beginning Cindy and I hit it off. In the early 2000s, I had been editor-in-chief of "Corporate Environmental Strategy: The Journal of Corporate Sustainability." In that role, I had written about and given a great deal of thought to the intersection of business, environment, and society more broadly. Thus, in many respects, Cindy and I were kindred spirits. However, there was one big difference: Cindy was actually a "practitioner" while I was more of a "writer" when it came to the topic.
During Cindy's time at DU we often talked about these issues both from a theoretical perspective as well as from a practical standpoint. Cindy was a student in one of my courses, "European Union Law & Policy," and as part of the requirements of the course she wrote a very interesting final paper entitled, "How EU Environmental and Climate Change Law and Policy is Causing Innovation and New Avenues of Prosperity in the Business World." In this paper, she considered "Making Europe a Pole of Excellence on Corporate Social Responsibility," which had been published in 2006 by the European Commission. In summary, Cindy took (and effectively presented) the argument that companies can in fact benefit from corporate social responsibility, not least of which in terms of how they are viewed by their markets and stakeholders.
Yesterday afternoon Cindy, her colleague Kate McDaniel, Lucy, and I set down and talked about the highly interrelated nature of brand development, environmental impact, and sustainability. Cindy, who is responsible for Cohn's sustainable and clean tech client initiatives, and her team at Cohn Marketing are leaders in this nascent -- but quickly emerging -- field of encouraging companies to align their business objectives in a manner that is sustainable in the long term. One of her projects involves Lend Lease Communities. Cohn describes the project in this manner:
"Lend Lease is an Australia-based development company with projects worldwide. The company puts a premium on sustainable operations, using a broad definition of sustainability that encompasses a social, economic and environmental focus. In 2006, Lend Lease established Denver as its headquarters for Lend LeaseLeaders are often life-long learners who are always seeking to improve their own skills and expertise. They are also perceptive, often identifying trends and opportunities where others might see only impediments. Cindy clearly is a leader who combines marketing expertise, a passion to "do the right thing," and an understanding of how a firm or company can in fact benefit from doing things right.
Communities development business in the United States. With two major projects in Colorado and an eye toward national expansion, Lend Lease Communities turned to Cohn Marketing for PR services and to produce much of its marketing materials."
Questions and Answers with Cindy Jennings:
How long have you been at Cohn?
Two and a half years.How has your approach to your job changed, if any, based on what you learned at DU?
I wouldn't say my approach has changed as of now - but has certainly been enhanced. I'm bringing a completely new set of knowledge to the agency that has helped both bring in new clients and expand current client relationships from a sustainability/corporate responsibility perspective. Without my education/credentials, we could not have pursued sustainable projects as effectively. In addition, my education is setting us up to establish a core competency in sustainable brand development with a focus on renewable energy/clean technology, sustainable real estate development and sustainable food and beverage operations.What is your philosphy about what you try to bring to clients? In other words, what do you think the link is or should be between a brand and sustinability?
The link is business - doing good business responsibly and with the long-term in mind. In a culture that focuses on the next quarter's profits, I try to help clients understand the long-term benefits of incorporating sustainable business practices into their organizations. Many are good at the cost-cutting/energy-saving measures, but are not as familiar with the health and well-being of workers or their communities to help them be even more prosperous through increased productivity, a higher level of engagement at work. Additionally, statistics are starting to show that consumers trust NGO endorsements of companies/products at a higher rate than most other resources, so being an authentically good corporate citizen can lead to benefits in this regard as well. Finally, we stress that the pressures and demands are coming. For example, we work with a small supplier trying to land business at a Fortune 100 company. We incorporated their new sustainability plan into their sales pitch and it gave them "extra credit". Our client will still have to produce a quality product, on-time and on-budget, but the fact that their competitors are not paying attention to sustainability - even a little - is playing some role in the decision.Where did you earn your bachelor's degree?
I have a B.S. in Hotel Administration from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Cornell University in New York and UNLV are largely known as the top schools for Hotel Restaurant Management - although perhaps DU would object to that...:)