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Sustainable Nation

The Sustainable Nation Podcast delivers interviews with global leaders in sustainability and regenerative development three times a week. Our goal is to provide sustainability professionals, business leaders, academics and anyone interested in joining the sustainability revolution, with information and insights from the world's most inspiring change-makers.

Aug 10, 2021

As Managing Director, Global Environmental Affairs and Sustainability at United Airlines, Lauren is responsible for leading United’s efforts in environmental compliance, waste, water and energy management, sustainable aviation fuel, and overall environmental sustainability strategy. These initiatives are designed to support United’s goal of achieving a 50% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050.  

Lauren is a business leader focused on the relationship between innovation and environmental sustainability. With 20 years consulting experience, Lauren has led a variety of initiatives addressing business and digital transformation, strategic planning, and change management that yield environmental and operational benefit. 

Lauren Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • United's GHG reduction goals and its commitment to realizing net zero without carbon offsets
  • Direct air capture technology to sequester carbon and United's investment in 1point5
  • The advantages and challenges of sustainable aviation fuel
  • Eco-Skies Alliance
  • United's partnership with Archer Aviation 
  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Lauren's Final Five Question Responses

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

Please start with your passion place. I have talked to so many folks that have said to me, "but I'm not an environmental engineer, but I didn't grow up in the ESG space, well I don't quite understand greenhouse gas accounting protocols." That is fine. If you have a passion and desire to learn and a willingness to really affect the conversation and make change happen around climate change, you have a role in this world right now. This whole space is just blossoming, so don't stand down, stand up and lean in because it's a really great time to be considering a professional career around sustainability.

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

I'm excited because what used to be a single group of folks having almost singular conversation in isolation of business and in isolation of broader economic discussions is now becoming mainstream. We're hearing not just from the environmental community who has always cared about this issue. We're actually hearing from the C-suite and we're hearing from our corporate customers and we're hearing from our investors and we have a government that is really leaning into all things de-carbonization and net zero. There's a huge opportunity for us to come together and really find pathways forward that enable us to realize the goals that were set out with the Paris Agreement. That's exciting. I'm an optimist; I see a ton of potential through technology as well as the nature based solutions. I think we're going to solve for this, but I've never seen this kind of momentum and passion and focus before. Now all of a sudden what used to be the folks hugging the tree in the corner has become really about business strategy and changing the economy. That is just wildly exciting to me.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

I just finished Bill Gates book. I do recommend anybody who wants to learn about the challenges facing us in the next couple of decades take a look at that book. It breaks down quite frankly and simply the opportunities facing us in the next couple of years. But it also conveys a bit of urgency. We do need to work together to address some of these hard to abate industries, including aviation. We do need to work together to assert to goals that makes sense and are measurable and we can actually commit to. We do need to work together to figure out the infrastructure around accounting and making sure that there's integrity in what we're trying to accomplish. The last thing we want to do is think we're on the path to success and then find out a couple of decades too late that our numbers are wrong and the way we're approaching it is inaccurate. I believe there's a ton of opportunity for us to get over that threshold and really get on the positive path to address climate change through a variety of solutions. Bill Gates book was really clear and crisp in defining the Green Premium and those industries that we really need to laser focus on and the roles that not just you and I, but government and corporations and everyone can play in really facilitating this change.

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

Quite frankly, and this is probably going to sound quite lean, but conversations like this and conversations across a variety of audiences where you learn about the barriers, you learn about the challenges that each industry and each sector is uniquely facing. Quite honestly, it probably isn't unique to that industry. It probably isn't something that another group has not overcome before. I spend a lot of time talking; I spend more time listening. That's really important because this whole issue around climate change and the science and the solutions evolves every single day. It's an opportunity for those of you out there that are passionate learners, but then also enthusiasts for the climate and this beautiful planet we live on to reach out to one another and find the right communities and conversations to engage in. It is equally balanced between listening and learning and acting and doing right now.

Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work being done at United?

I encourage everyone to go to You can learn about engaging our corporate customers in their quest to reduce their scope three emissions. You can learn about all of our fun and amazing investments in electric aircraft, as well as sustainable aviation fuel and direct air capture. You can hear from our CEO, Scott Kirby about his vision and his commitment to combatting climate change and United as a leader in this space. If anyone wants to reach out to me I encourage you to reach out through that website as well.