Catherine Kummer - Senior Director for Green Innovation at NASCAR

Catherine Kummer - Senior Director for Green Innovation at NASCAR

As Senior Director of Green Innovation at NASCAR, Catherine directs development, adoption, and implementation of sustainability strategies across the number one spectator sport in the United States.  She integrates ESG initiatives across the industry with a program that in just under a decade has grown into one of the most visible sustainability programs in all of sports. Working with partners from the business sector, government and non-profit organizations, she also develops and coordinates programs with NASCAR sponsors and industry that advance sustainability objectives including food donation, recycling, clean water protection and the offsetting of carbon emissions for all of NASCAR's national series racing, employee air travel and quarterly partner summits. The Green Innovation platform provides both societal and business value, but also operates as a brand enhancing business.

Catherine Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Sustainability in professional sports

  • NASCAR's commitment to GHG, energy and waste reduction

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Catherine's Final Five Question Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

I would say be bold. That's commonly said, but I think it's important in sustainability. Be passionate, but be aware. And what I mean by being aware is ensure that you know who you're speaking to when you're speaking to them. Know your audience. When you're going in to pitch these ideas, know what drives them, what's going to result in them making an operational change or a culture change or whatever that may be. Just make sure that you're aware and you're humble in that approach. That is huge. I would also say that keeping the big picture in mind, always, has proven to be really helpful for me and taking one bite at a time. Do that well. Take that one bite. Make sure that you are crushing that one bite. Own it. Do your best to not spread yourself too thin because there's so much to be done, but identify where you can make the most impact and do it.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

Materials innovation, biomimicry, that all interests me a tremendously. More specifically though, how it can be advanced through sport. I'm excited to see how that rolls out. I'm excited to see how sport can be the catalyst for these new innovations, for these new technologies or these new mindsets, quite frankly. The opportunity to use sport to drive all of it. I think it's fascinating and I really feel like we're on the cusp of something so tremendous. The leagues are beginning to rally together. I worked directly with Omar Mitchell at the NHL and with Paul Hamlin at MLB, and those programs, they are doing amazing work as well. Coming together to look at how we can drive this impact, and we're so much more powerful if we all row in the same direction. I am probably most excited about how those relationships will continue to develop over time and what that will mean from an impact standpoint across the board when we look at these issues, whether it be social issues or environmental issues, economic issues, whatever that may be. That's really compelling and that's what gets me excited when I walk into this office everyday.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability leaders read?

I've thought about that one and actually spent probably more time than I should have looking at my bookcase. You can take it back to Silent Spring to know the foundation of why we're here. I think that is really, really important. Natural Capitalism, Hunter Lovins, and Amory's Reinventing Fire. I mean those are staples as well, but I gotta be honest. I find myself being more of a podcast person these days. So Greenbiz 350, How I Built This, not necessarily a sustainability podcast, but one that I just think from a business perspective is crazy inspiring for me. And then the Rachel Hollis podcast is one that I also listened to. As a female in the sports world, I think it's super important to continue to push yourself and inspire yourself and to surround yourself by other individuals like minded females specifically that are also doing the same thing. So yeah, this is probably the hardest question that you've asked me. I just have so many thoughts on things that folks should read and dive into.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do?

I've been fortunate to have a network of individuals that are just crazy knowledgeable in this space. I mentioned Allen Hershkowitz who has been a mentor for me for quite some time now. Joel Makower and the Greenbiz Executive Network, we are members of that organization. The Green Sports Alliance is doing tremendous work. Sport and Sustainability International is just kind of the global version of the Green Sports Alliance. Again, the networks that you have and learning from others that are also doing and have done this work for years and years and years. I find those to be the most valuable resources out there, and just taking the opportunity to stop and to listen and to learn and to be willing to take criticism and advice and suggestions, and raising your hand when you don't know because those networks are there to lift you up. That's been just a really amazing tool for me personally.

Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're leading at NASCAR?

So my LinkedIn page has a plethora of different information on the program and work that I personally am doing outside of the organization that kind of tie back to overall sustainability efforts. You could also check out a NASCAR.com\green, which is the website for all things NASCAR green. And then follow us on the Twitter at NASCAR Green or feel free to give me a follow up at Catherine Kummer. I definitely do my best and fore warn you that you'll probably get pictures of my kids too.