The WSLA (Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards) alumnae group mentorship program took place at the Living Future UnConference.

Rochelle Routman, chief sustainability officer for Aspecta; Susan King, Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED); Alicia Silva, director and founder, Revitaliza Consultores; and Nicole Isle, chief sustainability strategist, Glumac. [Photo: Courtesy of ILFI]

Empowering people to make a difference and encouraging the next generation in the workforce were among the key takeaways at this year’s first WSLA alumnae group mentorship program in Seattle.

Founded by Chris Howe and Laura Heidenreich of gb&d magazine, the WSLA (Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards) alumnae group program was supported by Aspecta Flooring as part of the 2019 Living Future unConference, which included matching high potential sustainability mentees with experienced mentors. Approximately 85 people attended the accompanying session, “Mentorship: A Lifelong Endeavor.” The session was led by Rochelle Routman, chief sustainability officer for Aspecta, and other WSLA alumnae, including Susan King, sustainable practice leader at Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED); Alicia Silva, director and founder at Revitaliza Consultores; and Nicole Isle, chief sustainability strategist at Glumac.

Routman says being a part of the WSLA alumnae group has been a powerful experience. “There are many people trying to find their best role in the sustainability field, and we need to eliminate all barriers and help them achieve their goals,” she says. “The world is depending upon diverse people having a voice so that we can achieve the transformational change that is needed to alter the course.”

[Photo: Courtesy of ILFI]

As part of the session, attendees learned how to identify potential mentors and cultivate relationships. They also participated in a workshop to explore unconscious bias and discuss when, why, and how exclusion happens and how to overcome these obstacles.  

Several WSLA alumnae also hosted mentees during the conference as part of the JUST Scholarship Program. Mentees were given the opportunity to take part in Living Future activities, and Aspecta sponsored their attendance at a special conference awards dinner in which people and projects were recognized for their contributions. “In 2016 the International Living Future Institute launched the JUST Scholarship Program, which was designed to help improve the racial and ethnic diversity of participants who attend the annual Living Future unConference,” says Francis Janes, associate director of JUST. “The JUST Scholarship Program targets students and emerging professionals who are involved in the architecture, engineering, and construction sectors. Applicants submit formal applications and are assessed on their ability to articulate how they might use knowledge gained at the unConference to focus their career paths for work in the fields of regenerative design, deep green engineering and socially equitable construction.”

Rochelle Routman, chief sustainability officer for Aspecta, speaks at the WSLA alumnae group mentorship program. [Photo: Courtesy of ILFI]

This was the first year attending the Living Future unConference for Tiffany Davis, director of corporate communications at Aspecta Flooring and also a mentor as part of the WSLA program. “I was impressed by how well planned the event was,” Davis says. “The ILFI put a lot of thought into the speakers and sessions during the event.” While presentations by Mustafa Santiago Ali of the National Wildlife Federation and Jamie Margolin, founder of the Zero Hour were highlights, she says the WSLA Alumnae Group Mentor/Mentee program was also a big win during the festivities.

WSLA is gb&d’s top annual accolade, marking six years in 2019 as it continues to recognize the most powerful women making a difference in the world through sustainability. Find out how you can get involved in WSLA or nominate an inspiring woman leader in your industry when nominations open June 12 at

[Photo: Courtesy of ILFI]

Learn more about the Living Future UnConference and see more WSLA stories.