Holli Alexander is a Strategic Initiative Manager of Global Sustainability at Eastman and has been instrumental in many of Eastman’s efforts to minimize environmental impact. We sat down with Holli to get the scoop on what she does and who she is—in and out of Eastman.
Give us some background on what you do at Eastman.
I’ve spent my career helping create behavior change through different channels—education, training, marketing, and now sustainability. Currently, I’m focused on understanding what’s happening in the world and bringing that back into Eastman to influence how we do things. I work as a connector, internally and externally, with the goal of creating a more sustainable world.
What is your business known for?
I’m part of Corporate Sustainability. I think we’re known for being the people who create the Sustainability Report, but I’d love for us to be known throughout Eastman as change agents and thought leaders around sustainability.
What is the next project or product that you are most excited to explore?
We are in the process of digging into the European Union Waste Directives and the recently launched EU Plastics Strategy. And while this may not seem to be a super exciting topic, the fantastic part of this is really assessing our plastics portfolio and determining how we should evolve over time. When faced with these sorts of directives and mandates, I think companies have the option to choose how they respond. You can look at the situation as a risk mitigation exercise or a growth/innovation driver. I choose the positive and can’t wait to figure out how we might be able to do things differently to influence more sustainable materials that adhere to many of the tenets related to circular economy.
What are themes that you find yourself addressing over and over again?
Perception matters, even if it’s not true. This is true not just in interpersonal situations but also in health and science related to materials and products.
How do #materialsmatter to you?
I love materials. Materials enable nearly all the amazing things we have today. The right materials can enable elegant solutions. Unfortunately, most people seem to take materials for granted until there’s a problem.
Who is doing work that you find inspiring?
There is so much amazing work being done, but I think I’m most encouraged by the smart highway technologies that are being developed because it can help promote safer roadways and generate electricity while making dual use of the huge swaths of land we have dedicated for roads.
What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
Be your true and authentic self. Allow yourself to have fun. Don’t lose yourself in the attempt to make everyone else happy. Oh, and buy Amazon stock.
What technology gets you excited?
Plastic sortation. We need to be better at sorting a wide range of materials to be able to incorporate them into new products. Innovation will necessitate a wide range of materials, and we must find ways that are technical and economically feasible. Driving out innovation will not be the best way to meet the demands in the future.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you deal with it?
The biggest challenges are always people. We can solve technologies and systemic challenges if people are willing to come to the table, work together, and compromise to find the best solutions. And the best way to deal with these solutions is to recognize the wicked problems when they present themselves so that you can start to find the right people to come to the table. Be willing to admit, “This problem is bigger than me, and I’m not going to be able to solve it alone.” That first step will make the rest so much easier.
What’s something you want to get better at?
Remembering names! I’m fantastic at remembering situations, stories, and faces, but names elude me. I’m open to suggestions . . .
What’s your go-to reference book?
Who relies on a single book when you have the Great Google in the sky?
Coffee or tea?
Droid or iOS?
Kindle or book?
Handwritten notes or computer notes?
What are you reading right now?
The Handmaid’s Tale