Women in CSR: Tracy Baker, DIRTT

Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.

Tracy BakerTriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.

Tracy Baker: I am the Chief Operating Officer. I started with DIRTT in 2004 as CFO and was named COO in 2007. In this role, I oversee the strategic direction and daily operations of our factories located in Calgary, AB, Savannah, GA, Phoenix, AZ and Kelowna, BC. As part of a 500-person team we are involved in order engineering, procurement, production and logistics. We also work closely with our project managers and field technicians to provide a superior custom product in a two week time line.

3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?

TB: DIRTT was founded with the mantra “hug a tree and make a buck.” Sustainability has always been not only one of our main goals, but how we practice our business every day. The approach to the DIRTT solutions and our proprietary ICE software – a tool that envisions spaces while eliminating errors and material waste – clearly demonstrates sustainable attributes that have always been, and remain at the core of our business. We have also always planned on having a distributed manufacturing model which we continue to pursue by opening factories in Savannah and Phoenix.

As the company has evolved and grown so have many of our sustainability initiatives. While hybrid car allowances and catered meals for staff have been part of DIRTT since the beginning, we continuously search for ways to encourage all employees to live sustainably at work and in their own lives.

Our factories and production processes were set up to be as sustainable as possible from day one. This means using water-based paint lines and recycled aluminum, among other initiatives, but this does not mean we don’t continue to look for ways to reduce our environmental footprint. For example, last year we moved from fiberglass insulation to recycled denim insulation, a cleaner, safer, more sustainable form of insulation. We also seek out partners to help us recycle materials that cannot be reused. The collaborative way we approach our supply chain is fundamental to the growth our of factory operations in a sustainable manner.

3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.

TB: Mogens Smed (DIRTT’s CEO, and co-founder) has really been the greatest advocate for sustainability. The way he approaches it through the eyes of an entrepreneur and visionary is truly inspiring. From him I have learned that sustainability is so much more than the conventional definition but is about using innovation as a way to make a difference.

3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?

TB: Do something that you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?

TB: It is really a team accomplishment that I am very proud of, and that would be winning the Georgia Small Manufacturer of the Year award for 2013. It was hard work building a remote team of DIRTTbags (as we like to refer to ourselves), but they really embraced the DIRTT ways and made them their own. It was great for all of them to win this award as it really is a celebration of our people and culture in Savannah as well as the many Calgarians that supported them along the way.

3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?

TB: I am not so sure I’d change anything. It is through the past that the door of opportunities for the future is presented. Without that path taken we would not see things the same way.

3p: Describe your perfect day.

TB: A high energy day with a lot of variety, and I get that every day at DIRTT. The only predictable part of my day is coming to work knowing there will be new challenges to meet, and having a great team of people who will rise to the occasion to make it happen.

And of course my evening would be spent with my family, my true passion in life.


Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.

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