SeanChron | Sean in the Loop

A little news story from my early 'Sustainable Sean' days...

Below is an article that appeared in the Nordstrom employee magazine "loop" in 2000. I started at Nordstrom in 1988, right out of high school. My first job was at the Tacoma Mall espresso bar which was one of the coolest jobs in Tacoma...Starbucks hadn't really taken off yet and Nordstrom had an espresso cart at each of their stores so we were SO hip since we were making this stylish Italian coffee. And yes, I was 'eco' way back in 1988, helping promote recycling at Nordstrom and other mall stores back in the day. I did my best to keep the graphics and formatting from the article. Enjoy!

Anniversary Sale!
May/June 2000
The Key to Customer Service
A New Partner
Sustaining Business

The unsettling headlines are hard to ignore: Global warming. Water pollution. Dirty air. Overflowing landfills. For years now, individual citizens have dutifully recycled and conserved energy and water. But increasingly, businesses of all types and sizes also are being called on to implement policies and practices aimed at protecting the environment.

Enter Nordstrom, which in 1994 was recognized by the U.S. Council on Economic Priorities as one of the top 10 companies in the nation committed to social responsibility and environmental efforts.

The Company is planning to build on that record by rededicating itself to making good business decisions based on sound environmental principles. Helping to lead that effort is Steve Kesinger, the Company's Director of Purchasing. Kesinger says a big part of his job is to make sure Nordstrom continues to be a good corporate citizen and a respected environmental steward.

"Our task will really be to produce long-term waste management policies," Kesinger says. "We're headed down the right path, and it's starting to come together now."

Kesinger points out, for example, that many employees know that Nordstrom recycled bottles, cans and paper years before it became fashionable to do so. However, few are aware that the Company also recycles printer and copier toner cartridges. And over the last six years, it has distributed the "Nordstrom Partnership, Standards and Business Practice Guidelines" to new and existing vendors, requiring those we do business with to comply with state and local environmental regulations. Also, all new Nordstrom stores built since 1990 have been constructed with state-of-the-art utility management systems designed to increase efficiency and conserve resources.

Among several Nordstrom environmental teams are: the Nordstrom Environmental Awareness Team (NEAT), a group of corporate and regional level employees involved in environmental affairs at Nordstrom, and the Nordstrom Support Alliance for Value and the Environment (SAVE), which includes store, regional and corporate employees involved in environmental awareness and activities at Nordstrom particular to the Company's support areas such as maintenance, housekeeping, clerical and purchasing. In addition to these teams, Nordstrom is now in the process of launching several other new programs to strengthen its environmental credentials.

One such initiative is the creation of a new business coalition called the Retail Apparel Association. Working together, the goal of this group - which includes Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer and other major retailers - will be to explore innovative methods of packaging new products and developing alternative disposal methods for items such as old computers, to keep such obsolete equipment from ending up in landfills.

These measures - along with other initiatives now under way - will help us achieve our goal of becoming a world-class company.

environmental facts:

  • More than 98 percent of all Nordstrom forms and stationery are made using recycled material.
  • All Nordstrom paper shopping bags are made with a minimum of 15 percent post-consumer recycled material.
  • Nordstrom gift boxes are made of 100 percent paperboard stock, containing a minimum of 35 percent post-consumer content.
  • More than 75 percent of all Nordstrom wrapping and shipping supplies contain recycled material.

A driving force behind several grassroots employee groups at Nordstrom, Sean Schmidt is often referred to by colleagues as the "Green Machine" or the "environmental entrepreneur."

Schmidt is actively involved in the Grassroots Environmental Awareness at Nordstrom, or GREAN Team; the Nordstrom Environmental Awareness Team (NEAT); and the Nordstrom Support Alliance for Value and the Environment (SAVE). These employee-initiated groups operate at stores around the country and seek to heighten awareness, offer ideas and provide information intended to help Nordstrom achieve long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Schmidt, 30, first became interested in environmental issues during the 1980s while attending the University of Washington in Seattle. With bachelor's degrees in environmental studies and psychology, Schmidt brought his interest in "green issues" with him to Nordstrom, where he started in 1988 as an espresso bar employee.

Since then, Schmidt has served stints in customer service, the stock room, sales, human resources and, currently, Information Systems.

But wherever he's been, Schmidt has carried with him a strong commitment to helping Nordstrom be an industry leader in what is known as Sustainable Business Development. Nordstrom Purchasing Director Steve Kesinger says Schmidt's loyalty to the Company and his commitment to protecting the environment make him a valuable asset. "He's had a passion for this for a long time," Kesinger said. "He's got a lot of good ideas."

Schmidt downplays such praise by saying the ultimate goal is to help Nordstrom be at the forefront of U.S. companies that make good choices.

"What we're trying to do is be more proactive," Schmidt says. "There's really some business value in doing these things. It's as much about business decisions as about protecting the environment."