Ideas and insights > The women of JK forging change.

The women of JK forging change.

Our thought leader:

Chris Milan
Chris Milan
Director of Branding and Messaging

In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked a few of the women at JK to tell us about some of the inspiring sustainability projects they’ve worked on. From their clients to their communities – they’re making a tangible difference in the world. 

Creating change for a more sustainable future can feel like a heavy task to take on but these ladies are perfect demonstrations of how we can all take on little pieces of a bigger puzzle and have a measurable effect.

Timarie Diehl, Account Manager

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you do at JK?

I work as an account manager for our largest client. On a daily basis, I focus on building and maintaining relationships with contacts across the enterprise and developing communication campaigns. One of my favorite contacts helps to establish the Sustainable Packaging requirements for the enterprise, so we’ve been working closely with him to ensure his resources tell the right story in a visually engaging way. 

I have also been helping to facilitate volunteer days with America Gives Back, a local NJ non-profit farm that works to “positively impact as many lives as possible through a volunteer effort of planting, picking, rescuing, and delivering free fresh produce”.


2. How do you collaborate with others to promote sustainability and make positive changes?

I studied botany and environmental science, so I am pretty much always down to talk about sustainable living! My greatest passion is getting people involved in and aware of the food movement.

One of the simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to grow some of your own food. You can feel good picking your own produce in your backyard knowing that this one salad or snack required so few carbon emissions compared to one purchased at the grocery store! Not only did it not require packaging and shipping, but changing spaces of your lawn into productive plants increases the amount of carbon being sucked from the atmosphere and the amount of oxygen being created! Plus, it tastes better too. It’s a WIN WIN WIN!


3. How do you see sustainability evolving in the future, and what trends or initiatives do you see emerging?

One of the biggest changes happening right now is the boom in the production of electric vehicles. The variety recently available right now is astounding compared to 2-3 years ago, and that will only continue to diversify which will help to reduce the price allowing more consumers to switch to EVs. 

I also am so excited about the future of sustainable plastic production. There are so many companies trying to make a dent in our plastic problem either by creating new biodegradable plastics or by limiting/eliminating their use as a company. We as consumers can make our impact by prioritizing those companies and products.


4. Can you tell us about your work and how you’re helping to promote sustainability in your community and beyond?

I started Twisted Root Organics last year as a way to get back involved in the sustainability movement. At TRO, I help people grow the food they love in their own space, helping to reduce their involvement in the traditional agricultural system and reduce their carbon footprint. Plus, home-grown food gives you agency over the types of vegetables you consume, which helps diversify your diet and boost overall wellbeing.  

My goal is to show people how fun and easy it is to grow their own food, get people reconnected with how food is produced, and all the environmental and health benefits of eating locally grown food.


5. What makes it a sustainable practice? 

The US food system is not sustainable the way it currently works. Everyone is so used to having all produce available at all times, no matter their location or time of year, which requires huge expenditures on shipping, fuel, and water. Realizing all that goes into the process will help reduce waste and people can also begin prioritizing local farmers and buying food that’s in season in their area, which will help reduce their carbon footprint. 


6. Do you have a sustainability goal for the next year or so? Can you share?

Personally, I am going to continue to grow my own food and spread the word. My partner and I are also looking into getting an EV! Additionally, I hope to continue to expand my client base as well, teaching families the joys and benefits of growing the food they love. 

Chris Milan, Director of Branding and Messaging 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you do at JK.

In my role, I help to shape and evolve our branding and messaging offerings and related initiatives. Social good storytelling—which includes sustainability as well as DEI, ESG, and CSR—is an important part of our capabilities. I think we bring a unique and really powerful combination of skills to these projects, where our goal is to help clients make their social good efforts more meaningful for both their external stakeholders (like customers and shareholders) as well as their own employees.

Many companies have lots of great sustainability goals, initiatives, programs, etc., but lack a cohesive narrative that ties them all together and also relates them to their overarching mission and purpose—and importantly, really connects with their audiences in an emotional way. We help them move from numbers and facts to a story wrapped in emotion.

I’ve also been involved with various volunteer events through the JK Gives Back program since the beginning. About seven years ago, I organized the first JK sock drive in conjunction with a free dinner event I help run with a local nonprofit group—and I’m so proud that as of 2022, we’ve collected and distributed over 2,000 pairs of new socks to people experiencing homelessness and poverty in our community (as well as hundreds of hygiene items). I feel lucky to work with such a generous group of people here!


2. Tell us about how you collaborate with others to promote sustainability and make positive changes.

Before joining JK over 16 years ago (!!), I actually worked in the environmental field. I’ve been passionate about sustainability issues for many years, and especially in the power of action at the local level. There are so many actions we can take as individuals and in our communities that really do have a direct impact on the environment and on people’s lives, whether it’s becoming involved with local government, organizing and participating in efforts like beach cleanups, or even writing letters to your elected officials about sustainability issues. 

I’ve done all those things, but the effort I’ve been most closely involved in for the last 10 years or so is a free Thanksgiving dinner event (which we expanded to a second springtime BBQ-style dinner during the pandemic). Our core team of about six people serves close to 200 people at each dinner, supported by a small army of volunteers from the local community—doing everything from donating money and food to cooking the meal to giving out socks and other items from our biannual JK Gives Back sock drive. 

To me, serving people in need, especially those experiencing homelessness, is an important way to promote sustainability. A community can’t really be sustainable when it includes people who don’t have a home or enough to eat, and a town can’t adequately focus on reducing its long-term environmental impact when it has to address the immediate—and often desperate—needs of its residents.


3. What advice would you give to individuals or organizations who want to get involved in sustainability efforts?

Don’t wait for someone to come to you—look for what you can do, whether it’s joining a group involved in sustainability efforts or attending an environmental commission meeting. People who run these groups are often overwhelmed and understaffed, and usually very grateful for volunteers who want to help. Search online, look for groups on social media, and ask around and see where your skills and time are most needed.


4. Do you have a sustainability goal for the next year or so? Can you share?

My husband and I are trying to reduce our plastic consumption as much as possible, so we’ve switched to buying things like biodegradable garbage bags, surface cleaner concentrate that comes in glass bottles (we pour it into our refillable glass spray bottles and add water), and dishwasher and laundry pods made with clean, plant-based ingredients packaged in cardboard boxes instead of plastic containers. We also put plants and trees in our yard that attract bees and butterflies and provide shelter and food for many kinds of birds and animals. 

These are small efforts at the household level, but I hope that we’re making some kind of positive impact along with all the other people doing the same things!

Allison Kroepfl, Designer

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you do at JK.

I am a designer at JK. I work on a number of projects on a few different accounts in the medical/pharmaceutical space.

I also worked on a Board of Directors gift to showcase our client’s different products and how the company is moving to create more sustainable packaging. Featured products would be placed in a basket that was packaged in a box and shipped to leaders in different parts of the world. 

I did extensive research on different materials that could be used such as mushroom packaging, cocoform, and dissolvable foam. I used my knowledge of sustainable online retailers to source baskets that were handmade by a women-owned co-op in Oaxaca, Mexico, ethically made from 100% dried palm and cotton thread. We secured the products with seed balls made from paper-pulp-packed wildflower seeds. We used a foam lining that can be easily dissolved in water. The 100% recyclable shopping box was packaged with tape made from recycled kraft paper with a water-activated, corn-starch-based adhesive.


2. What advice would you give to individuals or organizations who want to get involved in sustainability efforts?

Companies of all sizes should look to get involved and advance their sustainability efforts. All companies, regardless of industry, should try to set sustainability goals for themselves. 

Organizations may consider:

  • Offering remote or hybrid work to reduce emissions
  • Reduce waste; go paperless or eliminate unnecessary printing
  • Invest in machines with a longer life span and when needed use sustainable waste disposal options
  • Optimizing energy efficiency (fuel efficiency, insulation, and lighting)
  • Engage employees in sustainability initiatives
  • Eliminate single-use plastic (install water refill stations and reusable dishware)
  • Donating a portion of the company’s earnings to environmental conservation organizations
  • Purchasing carbon offsets
  • Offering educational opportunities on sustainability (how to properly recycle, etc.)


3. How do you see sustainability evolving in the future, and what trends or initiatives do you see emerging?

Sustainability will hopefully become more intertwined with how organizations operate day-to-day. As new and innovative technologies come forward, individuals and companies will have a choice in how they adopt cleaner practices. I think companies are taking a much more proactive and serious approach to sustainability largely because the consumer is showing a greater interest and supporting organizations that are more responsible. 

One initiative that I see taking off in the future is the global reuse platform, Loop. Loop is creating a circular supply chain with everyday products. They collaborate with brands and manufacturers to offer refillable versions of single-use products. It’s currently online and in-store in a number of major retailers across the world. When the online “pilot” program came out online, I used the service and it was a unique experience and an interesting way to view the future of consumerism. 

One trend or “technology” I also see growing is in renewable construction products. This is something I discovered and learned about through the Board of Directors project and I find it to be fascinating. Watch video here.


4. How can we as individuals and as a society work towards a more sustainable and equitable future?

Individuals can work towards a sustainable future with their buying power. Consumers can shape the future by directing their money toward companies that support sustainable practices. Once consumer buying habits shift, other organizations will take note and understand that they must adapt in order to compete for market share. 

Education, I believe, is the key to a more sustainable and equitable future. Most individuals I’ve met don’t have a thorough understanding of how their everyday lives have a direct or indirect impact on the world around them. I think once there is a better understanding and education on the importance of sustainability, consumer buying habits will follow and allow for a more tangible, sustainable, and equitable future for all.


5. Can you share an example of a sustainability project you’re particularly proud of and why?

For a more personal project, I redesigned my room and used that as an opportunity to source everything sustainably. About half of what I purchased was second hand and when I purchased new items, I always made sure they were from brands that make sustainability a top priority. This sometimes requires more research and oftentimes items cost a bit more, but it provides peace of mind that I’m doing my part and helping to reduce my carbon footprint.

Angelica Mazariegos, Senior Account Manager

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you do at JK.

In my role, I have the opportunity to partner with Communications Leaders across the world and help them shape and deliver communications to their global employee audiences. Many of the people I partner with lead Sustainability and DEI corporate communications. Our role is to bring their strategy and engagement efforts to life through impactful messaging and meaningful design that connects with their employees and customers.


2. How does your work help create a more sustainable future?

The most meaningful aspect of the work we drive is the impact we are helping our partners make. We are raising awareness and educating thousands of employees across the globe. In my opinion, establishing a strategy/purpose/mission and educating your employees and customers about your company’s vision is a good first step in making an impact.

The work we drive can vary/range from simple email communications to integrated campaigns, and everything in between. We support our partners with strategy and creative services, collaborating with them on communications planning, creative messaging and design, and the development and production of all communications assets.


3. Where have you seen your work make a difference?

Throughout the years I have been able to see how our partners have expanded their sustainability efforts and have positioned their employee communications to be action-oriented. They are not only raising awareness but empowering their people with the tools and resources to become more informed and conscious decision-makers. 

For example, one year we created a campaign that encouraged the reduction of single-use plastic. Another year we created a campaign that raised awareness about how everyday actions can lower carbon emissions. Whether it’s small actions or broader business initiatives, the purpose of the sustainability efforts we support is to make an impact.

If there’s anything we can learn from these ladies – it’s that we are all powerful enough to reduce our footprint on Earth and inspire others to do the same. Contact us to get involved in the future.

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