How to Get Ahead in Sustainable Advertising

Stick to your guns and make a difference—while making plenty of $$$ while you're at it.

By Mary Stutzman May 26, 2015 Published in the June 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

In 2007, Holly Hagerman turned down a gig at a marketing agency after learning that the firm worked for both an oil company and an environmental nonprofit. The next year, she founded her own agency, Green Rising, dedicated to branding many of NW Portland’s striking collection of new LEED-certified apartment buildings. We asked Hagerman, 33, the secret to sleeping like a baby at night. 


Raised in the conservative South in a composting-conscious family, Hagerman grew up comfortable standing her ground. “We have had to gracefully exit many prospect accounts over the years that didn’t meet our environmental standards,” she says. “It’s usually a gut decision.” 


Hagerman says Green Rising is studying how much time employees actually need to do their work and might eliminate hours-tracking. Employees can also opt out of meetings by checking in with Hagerman beforehand. “Work is not a place you go,” she says. “It’s a thing you do.”


While all of Hagerman’s six employees are female, only a slim percentage of the worldwide ad industry’s creative directors are. Hagerman has now started blacking out names and gender pronouns on job applications to remove any unconscious bias when scheduling interviews.


Hagerman’s ideal of a working woman is the “Alpha Butterfly”—a balance of natural niceness and assertiveness. “Women don’t have to be aggressive,” she says. “That’s the old model of doing business, where women feel like they have to be that way to get anywhere. People think butterflies are fragile, delicate, pretty, but they fly thousands of miles and migrate every year to bring beauty and a bit of magic into the world.”

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