Helping organizations deepen their sustainability efforts

Tim Greiner, co-founder of Pure Strategies, the sustainability consulting firm, helps companies like Walmart, The North Face, and Seventh Generation deepen their corporate responsibility efforts. “I’ve been privileged to make a meaningful difference,” he says.

MIT Sloan helped me learn how to learn—how to make intellectual connections, think through problems, and come up with solutions.

Tim Greiner can pinpoint the moment he decided to devote his career to sustainability. It happened a little over two decades ago, when he was travelling in Southeast Asia. “I was sitting in a bus station in Jakarta and—amidst the traffic congestion, the crumbling infrastructure, and a thick layer of pollution—it suddenly seemed so obvious,” he says. “I had always had a deep connection to the environment. I found my calling.”

So Tim moved to back to Massachusetts and landed a job helping manufacturers cut waste and reduce their use of toxic chemicals. “It was revolutionary at the time believe it or not, to prevent pollution rather than just simply try to treat it before discharging it into the environment.” he says.

With an undergraduate degree in engineering already, Tim enrolled in the Architecture and Planning School at MIT. In his second semester, he took courses at the business school. “MIT Sloan helped me learn how to learn—how to make intellectual connections, think through problems, and come up with new solutions.”

Back then, there was no formal training in sustainability, but social and environmental issues were covered in many of his classes. Tim did a project at a chemical company where he looked at incorporating environmental costs into pricing models; he wrote his thesis on the environmental management of the paint and coatings industry.

Soon after getting his degree, Tim and his business partner founded the Massachusetts-based consultancy Pure Strategies.. At first, they worked on life cycle assessments and supply chain projects for niche companies. But in 2005, when Walmart announced its aspirations for zero waste and a more sustainable product line, “sustainability went mainstream,” he says.

Tim’s own work moved from facility-specific opportunities to a focus game-changing solutions through collaboration across industries, innovation, and tackling the most significant impacts, many of which occur deep in the supply chain during raw material extraction or harvesting.

“From a scale perspective, my proudest accomplishment is helping Walmart develop and deploy its Sustainability Index which has pushed sustainability down into the supply chains of thousands of the world's largest companies,” he says.

Today Tim specializes in building environmental and social integrity into products, brands, and businesses by helping companies deepen their corporate responsibility efforts. Some of his current and former clients include Annie’s, The North Face, and Radio Flyer.

His firm has also played a key role in the transparency movement. Most notably, Tim helped Seventh Generation—the eco-friendly personal products company—on its efforts to provide consumers with information about the chemical content of its products. That move led many other companies to make similar disclosures.

“Along the way, I’ve been privileged to teach CEOs and other company leaders how to find the business benefits of sustainability.  I feel fortunate that I been able to make a meaningful difference,” he says.