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Small business groups join Institute for Environmental Communication

February 3, 2012

Historically, the endeavor of preserving the wetlands and protecting the environment has been dominated by nonprofits, advocates or government institutions. According to Robert Thomas, Ph.D., the director of the Loyola University New Orleans Center for Environmental Communication, that standard is changing.

Thomas, who also holds Loyola’s chair in Environmental Communication, founded the Institute for Environmental Communication in 1999 as a way to bring together different stakeholders in the environmental movement to address issues and offer solutions. Now, more and more for-profit businesses have joined the institute because they want to be a part of the discussion.

“We’ve always had diverse groups of people join the IEC, such as advocates, journalists or government workers,” Thomas said. “But this year, for the first time, we’ve had people join who have set up for-profit businesses that have identified a market for environmental needs and are trying to make a living meeting those demands. As a person who believes in capitalism, it’s great to see businesses figuring out a way to earn incomes, employ workers and pay taxes, while at the same time seeking to clean the environment.”

Life City L.L.C. Chief Sustainability Officer Elizabeth Shephard is one of those people, earning her IEC Fellow in 2011.

More and more businesses are interested in becoming socially and environmentally responsible and Shephard’s company helps them get there. Life City assesses organizations and determines if they meet the qualifications to be certified as a “green” business or non-profit. Life City makes recommendations on how to reduce their environmental footprint and meet ecologically-friendly and socially-responsible standards. In addition, Life City connects their new clients with like-minded consumers, investors and donors who want to support those companies.

“Our respective professions, whether they are business, government or nonprofit, all influence one another just like our environment has an impact on the economy and our health,” Shephard said. “Businesses are becoming more interested in their social environmental impact, while nonprofits are becoming more interested in long-term economic stability. It’s in my best interest as a business person to work with nonprofits and the government in order to be successful. The IEC allowed me to make those connections, while showing that businesses can succeed, be profitable and be good stewards of the environment at the same time.”

In its 12th year, the IEC honored four speakers, designating them Fellows of the IEC, who have spoken at all annual seminars or made other significant contributions to the institute. The honorees are: Mark Schleifstein, reporter for the Times-Picayune; Patricia Andrews, spokesperson for the Louisiana Tumor Registry at LSU Medical Health Center; Janet Kester, Ph.D., toxicologist at Newsfields LLC, St. Louis, Mo.; and Tom Mullikin of Mullikin Law Firm, Camden, S.C.

For more information on the IEC, contact Thomas in the Center for Environmental Communication at 504-865-2107. To set up an interview, please contact Matt Lambert in the Office of Public Affairs at mlambert@loyno.edu or 504-861-5448.

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