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Fireside Chat with Ron Jarvis, Chief Sustainability Officer at The Home Depot

Written by Malhar Shah, BSC Associate and Jenkins MBA Student

Shelter is one of life’s most basic necessities, and The Home Depot (THD) plays a significant role in impacting the need for shelter. As one of the largest home improvement stores, THD also impacts how resources are used to satisfy this basic human need. Climate change is a major threat to businesses and their survival. From rising raw material costs to simply the availability of resources, companies that don’t have a sustainability strategy are at risk.
As part of the NC State Business Sustainability Collaborative’s Career Speaker Series, we had a chance to interact with Ron Jarvis, who is the Chief Sustainability Officer at The Home Depot.
Here are my three major takeaways from the chat with Ron:

  • The journey towards a sustainable future is long, but we must start somewhere. Battery-electric products for example are a step in the right direction, but they also create new waste streams that do not exist today. As humans, we innovate and we will need to innovate to find new ways to eliminate or recycle this waste. With these new technologies, we must also ensure that we take the opportunity to think through the entire lifecycle of products, all the way from how the raw materials are sourced to what can be done with them at the end of their useful life in a particular application. That is the only way to be truly sustainable.
  • Sustainability is about more than just the environment. Being sustainable means that you are creating a better future for all. As a company, we must also look at how we affect our workers, our community, or the governance factors as they relate to the company’s operations. For example, what percentage of the company or its management is from underrepresented populations, or how much of the company’s executive pay is tied to its performance with regard to the ESG targets?
  • If you want a successful career in sustainability, start by working in other parts of the business first. “There’s a lot of times a big difference between academic theory and practical application when it comes to sustainability”, said Ron Jarvis. You should learn all about the academic theory but working in different departments where you can learn about the practical applications of it is what you should focus on early on in your career. The best sustainability officers are the ones who have seen different parts of how businesses operate. That way when you do step into a sustainability role, you have the academic theory and practical knowledge, which makes you invaluable.

Check out the recording from our discussion with Ron Jarvis: