This month we introduce you to Verne Shortell, Executive Director, Environmental Business at NRG Energy Inc., one of the members who helps make our network so unique.
1. Why did you join NAEM?
It was back around 2000, the year you did the Baltimore meeting. A consultant who was working for us mentioned that you were a great group. ‘It’s all these environmental professionals and managers sharing ideas’. I went to the meeting and it was just so wonderful with all these people who were facing the same challenges, willing to talk about the issues and think about how to solve them. I never looked back. I joined and I’ve encouraged my colleagues to join everywhere I’ve worked since then.
2. What do you like about your job?
Pretty much everything. I like all the challenges. I just love being the environmental field. Something I like right now, is the way environmental is strategic. There was a time when environmental was tactical, defensive, but it has become very strategic in a lot of companies. The environmental group is a source of opportunity not just cost. You can have a great impact on your company and help position it out in the marketplace.
3. Has your environmental program received any awards or recognition? If so, what?
We’ve received a number of environmental awards for stewardship projects. NRG supports conservation projects in all our communities, the most aggressive of which is the restoration of protective wetlands in the Galveston area. Last year we grew over 186,000 cord grass stems for planting, encouraged our employees to volunteer, provide equipment/boats and funding. For our efforts we’ve received awards from the Nature Conservancy, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Coastal America Partnership, the EPA and the Galveston Bay Foundation. I am also very proud of the environmental stewardship projects sponsored by our facilities in California, the Northeast, Texas and Louisiana. These projects involve employees and the community working to preserve and protect the environment. They build a great sense of community and partnership. Each year we award one of our plants a green hunk of recycled glass called the econrg award for projects like beach clean ups, community gardens, tree planting and horseshoe crab counts. It is a coveted prize.
4. What is your biggest challenge in your current role?
In the energy field, we’ve got an incredible challenge right now in the sheer number of regulations that are coming between 2011 and 2012. There are a number of game-changing regulations that are coming out. Keeping up with them, reading and digesting the proposals, preparing comments and staying one step ahead is not easy. At the same time as we face the compliance challenge, we continue to emphasize our corporate responsibility program. Pulling all these things together and achieve them all is the life of the EHS professional.
5. What motivates you at work?
I think one of the things that keeps me going is that I have the best team here at NRG. They’re really receptive to different ideas and trying different things, so that keeps me going. When I come in, I hear ideas and they hear mine and the energy is great and it just makes you want to participate more.
6. What advice would you have for someone entering the field today?
I’ve got three basic things I would tell them.
- Be a black belt in computers and data management. If you don’t like those things, you’re in the wrong business.
- Stay focused externally so you can stay abreast of what’s happening.
- If you have ideas, or you see something differently, you need to speak up.
7. What are the three words your spouse/colleagues/best friends would use to describe you?
I actually did an email poll of my friends and family to help me answer this question! The one word they all mentioned was energetic. The results were mixed after that, but innovative and adventurous came up and then confident and committed.