The work in sustainability is what drew Chrissie Olson to the industry, and what keeps her focused is the challenge with developing a circular story for such a durable product.
Olson graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, with a bachelor's degree in environmental science, policy and management and Lund University in Sweden with a master's degree in atmospheric sciences and biogeochemical cycles. She is a sustainability manager at plastic pipe manufacturer Uponor North America in Apple Valley, Minn.
"With that," Olson said about her interest in the industry, "focusing [on] the reasons why Uponor creates deep value from a sustainability perspective in the green building space, as well as owning a genuine goal to be industry-leading in driving net zero within the construction industry collaboratively."
Olson presented at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Monitoring Laboratory division's annual conference in 2012 and has presented on behalf of her team at large conferences since then. She has also participated in a panel of experts in sustainability for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
Her current challenge is managing the possibility of achievement and time for focused workload on a daily basis.
"Sustainability in a business has such a wide scope and managing what to work on in the time I have each day (along with the growing inbox and full meeting schedule) is challenging," she said. "I believe it to be a good problem to have, as Uponor is working on so much in this space, in a cross-functional manner and I am motivated to be engaged in it all. However, finding blocks of time to focus on 'the big stuff' gets tricky some days."
Olson is a member of the American Meteorological Society.
"I am proud to be an atmospheric scientist working in a business environment," she said, "aiming to collaborate, communicate and drive positive impact."
Q: If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Olson: Read the sustainability report, communicate the company's strong commitment to sustainable business practice, build a team for ESG [environmental, social and governance] road map development, commit to science-based targets and hire experts in cross-functional departments across the company in these categories to assure sustainability does not operate in a silo.
Q: What emerging technology or market most interests you?
Olson: I am greatly interested in pathways for circularity in all plastics, both in recycling of existing materials, as well as design for materials not yet existing with the principles of green chemistry. There are many wonderful ways to approach both of these concepts, and I am always interested to hear about how industry is approaching these ideals in practice and how committed they are to scaling the solutions.
Q: What's an accomplishment of yours that most people don't know about, either for work or in your personal life?
Olson: I received a perfect score on my master's thesis, I once sang the national anthem at a Minnesota Twins game, and I have run two marathons and am actively training for my third.