Introducing Christa Kananen

Christa Kananen, Program Manager & Consultant

Have you ever noticed that people who are really good at their job, tend to bring not one but many skillsets to it? Case in point: Christa Kananen, Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council’s (WSBC) new program manager and sustainability consultant.

A quick glance at Kananen’s impressive resume highlights her strong manufacturing capabilities at Green Bay Packaging. But connect with Kananen and you’ll soon realize her manufacturing experience is just one of the many reasons she’ll be an asset to members of WSBC and manufacturers throughout Wisconsin who partner with WMEP Manufacturing Solutions.

Here are the four we think our manufacturing clients will really appreciate.

She’s a problem solver.

Kananen believes there’s never been a better time for organizations to embrace the solutions a sustainability mindset can bring to their problems. “The world is changing more quickly than ever before in human history, due primarily to exponential growth in technological advances, and that forces a company to be nimble and efficient to survive,” she stressed. “Sustainability offers a vehicle for thinking about these things and for implementing practices that help a company stay competitive. My job is to connect those dots.”

Kananen has seen firsthand that there’s a high degree of overlap between sustainability and what makes a manufacturer successful. For example, resource efficiency, worker wellbeing, and risk/opportunity management can all naturally align with an organization’s financial and operational goals and help them to meet sustainability goals too.  And that provides a great framework for creative problem solving. 

She excels at building connections.

Kananen believes that while sustainability is a technical discipline in its own right, it’s unique in that it’s an intersection of disciplines in environment, human resources, and finance. She brings a systems-thinking approach to connecting these elements—working to understand how each affects the entire organization and how it could be better managed to help an organization achieve its purpose over the long term.

Kananen describes finding and building on those connection points as “inherently relational,” and is always looking for more effective ways to bring different players together to solve her client’s challenges. One thing that makes a difference: Her proven ability to work with and understand the challenges, goals and concerns of players at every level, from the C-suite decision makers to the front lines of environmental compliance on the production floor.

She’s also does an exceptional job helping her clients build connections between their organization’s needs and the benefits of sustainability. “People are really good at knowing their own business,” emphasized Kananen. “If we give them the perspective, framework and tools, they can figure out how to best apply them for their industry.”

Added WSBC’s Managing Director, Jessy Servi Ortiz, “People have traditionally linked sustainability and cost savings, but when you take a more strategic approach to sustainability, you’ll find the connections give you access to new markets, and access to new products or innovations. There’s typically a plethora of opportunity—and I know Christa will play a critical role in helping our partners uncover it.”

She views challenges through a scientific lens.

Kananen has a degree in Geoscience, with an emphasis on water. Her strengths as a scientist are many: She’s curious, detail-oriented, patient, open-minded and persistent.

Kananen put those strengths to work at Green Bay Packaging where she oversaw company-wide, water-related compliance and sustainability efforts at the company’s 30+ facilities. And she brings these strengths to any project or challenge our manufacturing partners send her way. What could your organization do with a curious, detail-oriented, patient, open-minded and persistent sustainability expert on your side?

She understands and harnesses the power of storytelling.

Think of the last time you needed to explain a complex idea, especially if you were attempting to convey it to someone outside your field or department.

“Einstein said, ‘The greatest scientists are artists as well,’” said Kananen. “A lot of times scientists and technical experts are good at discovering and amassing knowledge, but we often miss a vital next step: sharing that knowledge in a way that helps others learn and grow.”

To make that next step happen, Kananen relies on art, like graphics, empathetic communication and, most often, storytelling. These tools make the complex simple and relatable and make it easier to share critical knowledge. And that knowledge sharing is a critical first step in helping companies improve their sustainability practices.

When she’s not helping Wisconsin manufacturers solve their business challenges and improve their sustainability, you’ll find Kananen practicing yoga, gardening, reading, enjoying time with her family or working on her own sustainability project—rehabbing her 100-year-old “fixer upper” home.

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