10 Questions with Michael Mondshine

For years, organizations viewed sustainable strategies as “nice to have,” but Michael Mondshine explains why today these strategies have grown into critical pieces of a successful business operation.

Michael Mondshine, WSP USA vice president and director of Sustainability, Energy and Climate Change (SECC) national practice, is overseeing a national team of 32 professionals operating out of seven offices across the U.S.

Insights asked Mondshine 10 questions about his career, his new role at WSP, and his contributions to a Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization.

How long have you been with WSP?

I celebrate my five-year anniversary with WSP this month. I joined the firm in January 2014 as vice president of Sustainability and Energy.

What are some of the key responsibilities in your new role?

At its heart, my role is to provide the best circumstances for the SECC team to successfully deliver on their mission of helping our clients to grow more sustainable and resilient, both economically and environmentally. I am the trustee of a purpose-driven, client-focused culture of technical excellence. This responsibility entails providing the right technical tools, training and professional development opportunities, while building the right multidisciplinary teams to exceed client expectations, empower innovation and maximize impact at the lowest cost for our clients.

My areas of oversight will also include strategy, business development, technical delivery and financial performance.

I will be crafting and implementing strategy to build upon and expand our presence in key markets, such as information technology, financial institutions and apparel while expanding our service to the company’s existing large-scale infrastructure clients.

What resiliency services do you provide for clients?

I currently lead the climate preparedness practice within Sustainability, Energy and Climate Change, focusing on building resiliency to the impacts of climate change for our commercial and government clients. This entails completing assessments of vulnerability to the physical impacts of climate change and developing mitigation plans. I also lead efforts to identify and disclose risks and opportunities associated with the transition to a low carbon economy in an effort to mitigate future impacts from climate change.

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Michael Mondshine

What excites you about your new position?

The thing that excites me the most is the team I am about to lead. It is a group of passionate professionals determined to make an impact on the world’s future environment and economy. They combine exceptional talent and a commitment to do good with acute insight into how to embed sustainability into business practices that enhance the profitability of our clients. As a result, the SECC team has built a culture of quality and successful client service that makes WSP a preferred provider in a marketplace that is undergoing a dramatic transition and associated expansion.

Where sustainability had, for a long time, been a “nice to have” that was driven by an organization’s environment, social and governance commitments; today it is becoming integral to business operations, profitability and risk management in the private sector and is increasingly driven by regulation and statute in the public sector.

WSP specializes in applying our sustainability insights in a bottom-line focused, value-added manner. As a result, we have growing opportunities to support our colleagues in the infrastructure-focused sectors of the company and to broaden the scope of services delivered to our commercial clients by bringing the acumen from the other sectors of WSP—Property and Buildings, Transportation and Infrastructure, Energy and Advisory Services—to bear on behalf of our clients.

Describe your clients.

I collaborate with a number of forward-thinking business leaders who work in a variety of industries. My clients include global financial institutions, global information technology companies, large government transit agencies such as the California High Speed Rail Authority, municipal utilities and consumer products companies.

What are some of your current WSP projects?

I am facilitating the Climate Adaptation Implementation Committee for the California High Speed Rail program. This committee is reviewing multiple climate stressors—such as intense precipitation, sea level rise, flooding, temperature increases, drought, wildfire—and their impacts on critical assets, including rail lines, stations, maintenance facilities, and electric infrastructure.

Water resiliency is at the heart of the projects I work on, dealing with either too much water, water scarcity, or water availability that has been time shifted outside of the useful and historic boundaries. I am currently supporting the development of a climate risk and opportunity disclosure for a Fortune 100 financial institution, and I am supporting an important climate vulnerability risk assessment for a Fortune 100 information technology company.

Currently, I am also the U.S. lead for WSP’s Future ReadyTM Program, and since Fall 2015, I have served as director of a virtual program management office for the firm’s Urban Futures Initiative.

Tell us a little bit about your background prior to joining WSP.

After graduating with a master’s degree in public policy (with a specialization in regulatory policy) from Georgetown University, I joined SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) as an energy industry specialist in September 1993, where I worked until joining WSP 20 years later.

During my years at SAIC, I served as a senior energy analyst, program manager and assistant vice president for Climate Change Services, and vice president and senior policy analyst for more than four years. My final role was as a solutions architect for sustainability after the firm became known as Leidos.

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©CALIFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL AUTHORITY

Michael Mondshine is facilitating the Climate Adaptation Implementation Committee for the California High Speed Rail program.

What were some your previous environmental projects?

I was the project manager providing climate change support to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009-2010, where I oversaw the mission services support contract to the EPA’s Climate Change Division and led development of carbon content coefficients. In 2005, I worked with the Climate Change Division as a project manager that developed a three-volume set of guidance for project developers seeking to generate greenhouse gas (GHG) emission offsets under the Climate Leaders Program, including a volume on Climate Change Project Boundaries with recommendations for eight project types.

I also worked with the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) from 1993 through 2010, serving as the project manager that oversaw support for the EIA’s Greenhouse Gases Program. My role included annual preparation of the report Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the U.S. and implementation of the Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Reductions Program.

In 2013, I served as project manager for an evaluation of approaches to reduce GHG emissions in Washington State to hit targets set for 2020, 2035 and 2050, evaluating the impact of federal policies on future state GHG emission levels.

Tell us about your contributions to the IPCC’s receipt of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an organization of 195 governments who are members of the United Nations or the World Meteorological Organization, dedicated to providing governments at all levels with scientific information they can use to develop climate policies and facilitate international climate change negotiations.

Like thousands of other experts, I volunteered my time to help provide regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. In particular, I participated in working groups that helped develop the methodologies for countries to estimate and publicly report their national greenhouse gas emissions, with my focus on methane emissions from waste and wastewater, as well as developing detailed emissions coefficients for the combustion of fossil fuels.

In 2007, the IPCC shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for efforts to disseminate knowledge about man-made climate change, and how to counteract those changes. The IPCC was kind enough to recognize me for my contributions.

Tell us a bit about your community involvement?

I live in Arlington, Virginia with my wife and three daughters, and we support a number of causes and initiatives affecting our community, including the Arlington Food Assistance Center, the Human Rights Campaign and the Free Theater, an effort to provide the opportunity for training and participation in professional level productions for people from all walks of life, regardless of economic resources. Of course, I participate in a number of organizations dedicated to the professionalization of climate change management. I served as the Board Chair of the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO) from January 2014 through July 2016, and I am a member of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals.

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