It was a breezy evening on Lake Champlain, and the sun was sinking behind the blue and gunmetal gray Adirondack Mountains. Inside the ECHO Science Center, we gathered at round tables to celebrate the 2013 Terry Ehrich Award for Excellence in Socially Responsible Business. Jan Blomstrann, Renewable NRG Systems' president and CEO, was the honoree.
Named for the late owner of Hemmings Motor News and a founding member of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR), this award is given to a business leader who exemplifies Terry Ehrich’s commitment to the environment, workplace, progressive public policy, and community.
Julie Lineberger, owner of LineSync Architecture and a VBSR board member, stepped on stage to explain why she nominated Jan for the award, throwing her arms into the air to wake everyone up. With electric energy, she shared Jan’s story.
Here are her remarks:
What a gift to introduce Jan Blomstrann, the well deserved 2013 Terry Ehrich Award recipient given by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. Jan, by allowing yourself to be so honored and sharing your journey to this day, you inspire others. Thank you.
As some of you know, Jan is an accidental leader. With a background in science and a full-time nursing position, Jan took Champlain College business and computer classes in the 80s to assist the then fledgling company, NRG Systems, create its very first balance sheet from shoeboxes of receipts.
She was not too excited by wind energy at the time. Trade shows were comprised of 50 male engineers talking about the attributes of gearboxes. She was, however, fascinated by the numbers and the business aspects of the company, most especially human resources and business models.
First following along and learning, she soon started standing on her own and finding her voice to run the company in a way that honored all team members, contributed to the community, and environmentally walked their own renewable and sustainable talk. As Jan said, “It does not cost money to have integrity.” However, it was not easy to change the typical top-down management paradigm.
Step by step, she persevered and did just that while raising two children with whom she continues a good relationship, that in itself of worthy note! Furthermore, Jan is also the most decorated woman in the renewable energy field in our country. Named the first “Wind Woman of the Year” by Women of Wind Energy, last year the White House honored her as a Champion of Change for renewable energy. Co-founder of the American Wind Wildlife Institute, Jan has been involved in and invited to add her two cents in so many policy decisions and presentations that if I listed each here, my time allotment would not allow me to say anything else. Now, as Jan says, the wind is in her blood.
Jan is one of our own who met the criteria for the Terry Ehrich Award long ago. As VBSR members, we encourage and support each other to be the very best we can be and push our socially responsible initiatives and accomplishments further. Jan’s empathy, cooperation, mutual respect, and sense of fairness demonstrate, in the words of Madeleine Kunin, the success and need for women in leadership roles. She exemplifies empathy, cooperation, and integration with nature.
By lending her name and presence to inspire each and every person here to push forward the ideals not only of Terry Ehrich, but of social responsibility both through VBSR and in daily life, Jan continues in service, putting her efforts toward the health of our business and statewide community. We are so very grateful.
The key point in this introduction for me, though, is this: with Jan’s ability to translate her moral compass into business practices during difficult times as well as good times, her determination in caring for all Renewable NRG Systems team members, and in sharing that story, we each have been introduced to ways of furthering SR principles and strengthening our own businesses through intelligence and compassion.
This is Jan’s gift to the business community, and our society, for it is in compassion for others that we heal not only ourselves, but support others in their own healing.
In this instance, it is showing compassion for people during a paradigm shift and in a difficult economy while continually striving for excellence and new markets. Thank you, Jan, for your willingness to show warts and all, for your “ounce of practice worth more than a pound of preaching,” for sharing your journey and being a true leader.
About Julie Lineberger
Julie Lineberger guides LineSync Architecture, a green and sustainable firm in southern Vermont that has garnered numerous awards for both design and business management.Her previous career in international development included managing and participating in projects for the United Nations Development Program, the International Rescue Committee, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees throughout the world. Past chair of the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility board of directors, Julie has led many workshops and is a consultant on various aspects of business management.