Brandy Wilson reflects on how symbols of the American Northwest, like covered wagons and yoked oxen, remind her of how important living sustainably is for future generations to come. She also shares highlights from CH2M HILL’s recently released Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship Report.

By: Brandy Wilson, Enterprise Sustainability Program Manager, CH2M HILL

Living in the American Northwest, I see pioneer paraphernalia everywhere. Replica covered wagons and Oregon Trail markers festoon every highway exit. Bronze statues of yoked oxen, tall men, and sun-bonneted women with upturned, hopeful faces gaze West, to the future. A future that now just happens to include me.

When CH2M HILL was invited to participate in the Pioneer Program to try on the new sustainability reporting guidelines from the Global Reporting Initiative, I couldn’t help but think of my own pioneer forbearers. When I cook a meal over a campfire, it’s by choice, not necessity. Clean water flows from the tap with barely a flick of the wrist. I go to the gym for a workout since I spend most of the day in an office. The gulf between my life and theirs is incredible.

So, too, is the gulf between my life and so many others on our shared planet. News about the lack of access to water, sanitation facilities, food, and energy is frequent and depressing. My heart aches for girls in developing nations who drop out of school when they begin menstruation. As more and more marginal land is pushed into agricultural production, my heart aches for the native plants and wildlife that once called those areas home. Devastating storms and extended droughts make my heart ache for people and our natural world—from high country trees decimated by more frequent insect attacks, to animals migrating to new climate zones, to people displaced by flooding.

Yet, this year, I look at our pioneering Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship Report with hope for the future. I see hope in CH2M HILL joining with many other corporate partners to reduce our carbon footprint and promote natural capital. I see hope in the priority we place on science, technology, engineering, and math education, particularly for young girls who might come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. I see hope in when our technical teams volunteer their skills to solve problems in their communities and around the world.

The pioneer story in the West is imperfect—hope mixed with tragedy; at times failing to recognize the impacts of our actions today while striving for a brighter tomorrow. As we work together to solve the world’s problems one project at a time, in service to our clients and each other, I invite you to join us for the adventure (even if I can’t offer you a pair of oxen and a chuckwagon).

Like many of her cohorts, Brandy considers sustainability more than a professional responsibility; it’s a personal commitment. “I am truly passionate about growing opportunities that let our people shine for the environment, every day in the office,” Brandy notes. “My job, more broadly, is to make the complicated, interconnected, often highly scientific concepts around sustainability clear so that we, as a society, can make better decisions. I love to work with people from all backgrounds and political viewpoints to create a more sustainable world.” Brandy recently earned an MBA in Sustainable Business and is looking forward to adding the financial piece to her professional work and her open space volunteerism.