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"Like so many consultants, my path to success was not direct..."

Heather Burns


. . . In fact, it took me downsizing into a tiny storage unit and buying a one-way ticket to Greece where I would continue to travel the world for nearly three years to find my purpose. . . but that’s another story altogether.  For many years, my sustainability consulting journey was full of fits and starts and tough times in between when I almost quit.
The rejection, the pressure of finding billable hours to support my family, and feeling like an outsider as I struggled had me close to giving up more than a few times. Yet every time I was tempted to throw in the towel and get a “real job”, I remembered there was another reason, more important than me, to succeed. Something bigger than just me alone . . . 

The Ah-ha (or Oh, S*#!)

When I first learned about the science of climate change, I was newly divorced with two children under the age of five. The realization of what a 2 degree (Celsius) temperature increase would mean to their future struck a deep chord within me and I knew I needed to do something.

It was 2006 and I was generally unhappy in my job as an editor where every day I traded precious time away from my children to build someone else’s future. I was unfulfilled and growing resentful so for distraction, I read everything I could about “green” and started a blog called CT GreenScene.
From a desk wedged between the washer and dryer, the blog was my way of cataloging what I was seeing around me and featuring people who were making a difference. Eventually, my content appeared in a leading environmental magazine and my phone began to ring with like-minded people wanting to gather. I began organizing monthly networking events which were featured in The New York Times and aired on local television. My email list shot up to over 10,000 subscribers within a year which was great, but I had no idea how to monetize it. 

Writing for the blog gave me a reason to reach out and forge relationships with many of the pioneers who created the ESG industry sector we know today. And while I was grateful for the accumulation of relationships and knowledge, it had been over a year since the “ah-ha” and I still wasn’t making any money. 
One day a publisher I’d met at an event said, “The trade association my company belongs to needs someone to write a sustainability report.” A few weeks later I had a contract for $30,000 to write my first report. “I can make a go of this,” I thought, and I quit my job the next day.


ESG Woman Consultant Image
I spent every spare minute during that first contract figuring out what to do next. I read consulting books by Alan Weis and others, wrote a business plan, ignored the nagging self-doubt in my head, and launched a consulting website. 
It feels silly to admit this now, but the idea that companies would pay me to help them with their ESG seemed far-fetched. After all, I was new to the field of consulting – and the world was just waking up to the value of business sustainability – so the idea I could build a lucrative business from ESG consulting seemed like a stretch. 
I leveraged that first report, networked, and cobbled together paying contracts. One engagement was as a strategic consultant to the American Sustainable Business Network, which led to membership in a network of visionary social entrepreneurs and impact investors behind brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Eileen Fisher, and Seventh Generation. I quickly realized that by understanding how responsible business practices benefited the bottom line, I could make a compelling value proposition to show others in the mainstream how to do the same.
I packaged an ESG offering and developed a process to walk clients through discovery, design, and implementation of an ESG program into their core business. Over the next seven years, the business grew and my team and I were working with household brands and helping US EPA develop sustainability standards to be used in federal procurement.

I was asked to speak at events around the country and excelled at what I’d set out to do – grow a successful ESG consulting firm – but I couldn’t stop wondering how I could reach more companies, even faster.

In 2016, I was invited to form a state-based sustainable business association to work with business leaders wanting to deepen ESG.  It was an opportunity to scale impact so I wound down the business and started a non-profit called the CT Sustainable Business Council.

The Council is a robust network of hundreds of companies working to scale solutions to climate change and once again, I am aware of an opportunity to level up and exponentially increase my impact — which is why I want to help you!