What was the inspiration behind the creation of this role?
Last year, the United Nations awarded Non-Government Organization (NGO) status to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). For the first time, the AIA attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, and asked me to be one of their delegates.
I had somewhat of an epiphany at COP26. I realized that we in the collective business world have as much of a responsibility to address the climate crisis as do the world’s governments. In fact, businesses are ideally positioned to be the drivers of positive change as rapid decarbonization will have to happen in our economic sectors. We can’t wait for the world’s governments to act; we must take the initiative one business at a time.
As Bergmeyer’s second President, I have always thought of myself as a bridge between the firm’s five original Principals (and our original President, Dave Tubridy), and the next generation of corporate executives, led by Rachel Zsembery. It didn’t take an epiphany in Glasgow for me to see that the bridge had been crossed and that Bergmeyer was in a place where the next generation was more ready than ever to take the lead.
The combination of my “aha moment” at COP26 and the evolution of Bergmeyer’s leadership structure created the pull to re-imagine my role and focus on the greater public good that we as a design collaborative are obliged to serve. Rachel suggested I write my own job description, and I did.
Could you please explain some of the goals you are hoping to achieve as the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility?
My primary goal is to make serving the greater public good an explicit part of our fundamental business practices. For years, we have had self-organized communities at Bergmeyer that strive to address social and environmental needs in our profession, communities, and world.
We simply need to codify all this good work into a mission statement, then “lock” this statement into our corporate by-laws so these projects and programs can be budgeted annually and run-in perpetuity. I want future generations of Bergmeyer employees to understand this as business-as-usual and to be able to measure and report on the meaningful public good we have created over many years.
Bergmeyer has experienced enormous growth and changes over the past two years with a brand refresh, new strategic direction, and change in leadership. How are you aligning the goals of your new role with Bergmeyer's continued evolution?
Among the defining features of this company are most notably our adaptability, our resilience, and our independence. When we change, it is never sudden. Ideas are not imposed on us from outside the firm. We think very deeply about who we are and what we want to accomplish. We are rigorous about experimenting with new ideas and learning what works for us. We always aim to keep our unique and empowering corporate culture top of mind.
This has allowed us to break down silos, erase boundaries between our design practices, move between, among, and into new markets, and develop a singular identity that describes everything we do in very compelling terms. The statement “we are a Design Collaborative” wasn’t written for us by a consultant. It evolved from our understanding of how we really work, and this understanding allowed us to bravely embrace this not-really-new direction as an authentic path for Bergmeyer.
This is exactly what I hope to do as Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. We will reflect upon the good work we have done in the past and think deeply about how and why we want to contribute to our professions, communities, and world in the future. We will set goals for ourselves that we can commit to over many years and make and deliver on authentic and meaningful public promises that are true to Bergmeyer.
How long have you had this direction for Bergmeyer in mind?
Well, honestly, this type of work has been a part of my personal career path for decades, but I hadn’t thought of it as a direction for Bergmeyer until I changed jobs!
I have been doing community engagement work since joining Boston Main Streets in the mid-1980s, serving on the Boston Civic Design Commission for 22 years, and doing pro-bono design assistance projects through the AIA’s Communities by Design since roughly 2010. I was appointed to Boston’s first Green Building Task Force in 2001, elected to the AIA College of Fellows in 2010 for my government advocacy work on sustainable design and public policy, contributed to the AIA’s Climate Action Plan in 2018, and in 2021, I found myself at COP26.
I have been very fortunate to work at a firm that championed my serial volunteerism for 30-plus years. It’s time for me to do what I can to make sure that all “Bergies” who are similarly inclined to give a little of themselves towards making the world a better place will feel the same support long after I’m gone.