Fostering the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders

Janelle Pagnucco | August-01-12

ECO Success Stories

Melissa Creede


Melissa Creede


CEO, Sapis Insight

over 15

 Melissa Creede is involved in a number of initiatives aimed at enabling individuals and organizations to activate their full potential as effective leaders. She does this through: 

i) executive, leadership, and career coaching, and
ii) facilitation and stakeholder engagement.

To gain a sense of the immense amount of involvement and impact Melissa has had on the environment industry, here is a snap shot of her accomplishments – how she got there and the road ahead.

Let’s Start With the Now: The Melissa Creede of Today

What areas of the environment industry do you work in and/or what areas peak your interest?

I am particularly interested in change leadership. The focus of my business is the people side of the industry -- anything that directly engages me with individuals:  one-on-one coaching; facilitation; stakeholder engagement, training. I see myself as a catalyst to enable others in the industry to be as effective, as successful, and as influential as possible.

What are you currently involved in that you believe are important initiatives for Canada’s environment industry?

I work with leaders and emerging leaders at all levels and in all capacities, but two areas that I find particularly important for the future of the environment industry are:  to cultivate generative communities of practice, and to foster the next generation of leaders in the environment industry. 

Two initiatives that are amongst my current efforts are:  Leading Change 2012 and Young Environmental Professionals (YEP). For both initiatives, I am an Advisory Board member, as well as an occasional speaker/trainer on career and leadership related topics.

  • Leading Change is a Canada-wide movement whereby sustainability professionals work together to catalyze action and influence positive change locally, regionally and internationally. The movement is unified through a series of initiatives that:  inspire, motivate and educate; facilitate ongoing dialogue and engagement; enhance connectivity and accessibility; and, expand diversity and collaboration. The objective is to address environmental, social and economic issues that are critical to attaining a sustainable future for the next generation.
  • Young Environmental Professionals (YEP) is a national organization of local chapters dedicated to creating opportunities for young and emerging environmental and sustainability professionals. YEP Ottawa focuses on delivering events and other services related to education, engagement and employment within the context of the environment and sustainable development.

Looking Back

How did you get involved in the environmental sector? What attracted you to your current field of work?

I was drawn to the environment sector for many reasons. Certainly, my strong value of wanting to protect the environment was a core attraction that felt unsatisfied in the few years I worked outside the industry. But I found much more synergy than that. The individuals who work in the environment sector tend to have an authenticity and purpose about them that really resonates with me. And the sector and content are very dynamic, inspiring, multi-disciplinary, global, complex, and ever-changing:  it is a very exciting industry.

When and how did you first hear of ECO Canada?

When I first switched into the environment sector in 1997, I started working part-time at The Delphi Group. I came across ECO Canada (then called CCHREI) and heard about its great initiatives to support young professionals in the environment industry. I was able to secure an IEYC internship ($12,000 towards my salary) that allowed Delphi to hire me full-time. I was also able to secure subsidized attendance at GLOBE1998 during that internship to attend my first ever GLOBE conference.

How have ECO Canada’s programs and services impacted your working world?

As a professional:

ECO Canada’s influence in my professional life has been quite extensive.

As mentioned previously, I was able to secure full-time employment at a very dynamic consulting company for my first environmental role – it was a definite turning point in my career. In just four years, I rose through the ranks to become Vice-President, and helped grow the company for more than a decade.
As a young professional, I also attended my first GLOBE conference as an ECO Canada Ambassador (1998) – it was a fantastic experience not only because it allowed me to go to GLOBE (which is an unbelievable conference that wouldn’t have been available to me at the position I was in), but I also met other great young professionals, as well as ECO Canada staff at that GLOBE.

In subsequent years, I served on an industry Advisory Board for ECO Canada as it created career educational materials to attract young professionals to the sector. I later provided advisory services when ECO Canada was first establishing its national occupational standards of professional categories in the environment industry. In fact, ECO Canada has been a recurring connection point for me throughout my career.

During ECO Canada’s “A Decade of Success” celebrations, I was humbled and honoured to be selected to its Honour Roll of 10 environmental professionals making a difference in the sector.

Melissa Creede - hiking
As an employer:

As a former Vice-President of The Delphi Group, winning ECO-Canada’s Environmental Employers of the Year Awards several times was a huge privilege. The award does more than recognize committed and dedicated employers in Canada’s environment industry. It encourages high standards and good practices around issues such as:  commitment to corporate social responsibility, employee engagement, and employee satisfaction.

Throughout the 12 years I was at Delphi, I hired more than 10 high-calibre, young professionals through the IEYC and NEYC programs. These programs are invaluable, particularly to small and medium-sized businesses.

Considering you have been both an EYC intern and an employer who has hired an EYC intern, what do you feel are the benefits of this internship program?

It provides opportunities:  both to young professionals during those critical first few years when getting experience is such a challenge, and also to employers – particularly small and medium-sized businesses, which collectively are significant employers in the sector.

Other major benefits are its:  simplicity; accessibility; flexibility; ease of execution and reporting; significant amount of investment ($8-12k); and applicability to individuals who are underemployed as well as those who are unemployed.

As an employer, what did you gain by participating in the Environmental Employer of the Year Awards?

We won the Environmental Employers of the Year Awards more than once, so it was certainly fun to hear our names, and to be recognized externally for what we really strived for internally. It also gave us good insight into our employees’ experiences of the workplace, and what they value in an employer:  things like shared values, and commitment to social causes.

Beyond that, it validates an opportunity for the sector as a whole:  set the bar high for ourselves and for our colleagues and competitors, so that the environment industry becomes an industry-of-choice for high calibre, dedicated professionals – that as employers, we value our employees, we operate our businesses sustainably, and we take corporate social responsibility very seriously.

The Road Ahead

What for you is the best way to give back to the profession?

I volunteer a significant amount of time and effort towards cultivating the next generation of leaders through initiatives like Leading Change, YEP, and many other training and speaking opportunities that are geared towards helping leaders and emerging leaders in the sector to be more effective and more successful. 

The world is more integrated and complex than it’s ever been, and environmental challenges are a reflection of that complexity. Solutions to major environmental challenges will not be discrete and isolated:  we need leadership and we need leaders. Through my volunteer work, as well as through the core mandate of my business, I want to significantly influence the advancement of sophisticated, caring, visionary leaders (individuals and organizations) – it’s central to my personal and professional purpose. 

What aspect of the environment industry do you find exciting and “the” place to be as the sector and technology grows?

For me, the most exciting aspect of the environment industry is the evolution of the human component – again, the people side. There is a shift in consciousness in the workforce towards more values-inspired efforts. We’re also realizing as a society that technological advances and analytical approaches are certainly a huge part of environmental and social solutions, but it’s individuals who drive change, and who collectively make a difference.  The question ‘what do you want to do’ is shifting to:  ‘who do you want to be’ and ‘how do you want to make a difference’? I am thrilled to be on the cutting edge of this momentum.

Where do you want to take your career?

I absolutely love where my career is at the moment. It is truly my sweet spot:  the intersection of my values, my purpose, my strengths, and my aspirations. 

To be truly aspirational, I’d say I would love to be a leading catalyst in a movement whereby everyone in the industry is working in his or her own particular ‘sweet spot’; imagine how much we could collectively accomplish if we were all in roles that absolutely reflect our strengths, skills, and values.  That’s where meaningful and sustaining change will really be exponential.



Leadership and visionaries are important to all industries. What impact(s) do leaders have on Canada's environment industry in particular? Share your thoughts!