Maria Kingery, BA English, 1999

Degree earned: North Carolina State University: BA, English, 1999
Organizations: Southern Energy Management, Kingery & Company
Titles: Co-Founder & Chief Visionary Officer, Professional EOS Implementer

Maria KingeryTell us about your current job duties, and how you’re working to integrate sustainability into your role.

As a clean energy company, Southern Energy Management has had sustainability built into its DNA from the very beginning. We’ve always said it’s not just what we do, but also how we do it that matters. For Bob (my partner) and me, it’s important that our business provides a sustainable product to the marketplace and that we embed sustainable practices into our operations. That’s why as soon as we learned about B Corps, we got certified. Since 2009, we’ve been using our B Corp certification as a tool to ensure that we’re “walking the talk” of sustainability. Earlier this year I started Kingery & Company to help other sustainability-minded entrepreneurs scale their businesses and for me that’s all about leveraging what I’ve learned to help others expand their impact.

What experiences first made you interested in using your career to drive business sustainability?

Dr. Rupert Nacoste’s psychology classes had a profound impact on me. That’s where I first learned about the concept of cognitive dissonance (and a lot of other things) and how it affects our psychological well-being. I always want to be doing work that is consistent with who I am and what I believe, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do that with both of my companies. I’m also extremely proud that I’ve been able to create employment opportunities that allow others to do work that is an extension of who they are and what they believe.

What do you love the most about your job?  What are the challenges you’ve encountered & overcome in your career?

What I love most is working with other passionate people who are committed to creating positive change in the world. Whether at SEM, within our industry, or the broader sustainable business community, I get to collaborate with people who motivate and inspire me. What could be better than that?  As for challenges, we’ve had to overcome all the normal business challenges – making it through the first few slow-growth years; making it through the next few too-fast-growth years; things that most successful companies get to experience. And then we’ve had to overcome challenges related to being in an emerging industry, providing an alternative to a service that most people don’t even think about (flip switch, lights come on). Those are on-going, and will keep us busy for quite some time, I suspect.

What’s your advice for students who are interested in sustainability?  How can students combine their sustainability interests with their day-to-day duties?

The most important thing is to find a company that shares your core values. If they do work that inspires you – GREAT! – but that’s not absolutely necessary as long as you don’t have to compromise your core values. Once you’ve found that right fit, find the other sustainability-minded people in the organization; maybe there are ways you can work together that will greatly benefit the company – figuring out ways to save money by reducing various types of waste, for example, or getting involved in the local community.

Business Sustainability Collaborative Library: