Podcast Preview with Brandi Colander, Enviva

Season 2, Episode 6, of the Biomass Magazine podcast featured Brandi Colander, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer (CSO) at Enviva.
By Pellet Mill Magazine | May 16, 2023

Season 2, Episode 6, of the Biomass Magazine podcast featured Brandi Colander, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer (CSO) at Enviva. Colander assumed the role in January, and is charged with maintaining and enhancing Enviva’s leadership in sustainability and environmental stewardship. Colander is armed with extensive policy, sustainability and external affairs experience, most recently leading the enterprise sustainability portfolio at WestRock as chief sustainability officer. Colander holds a bachelor’s degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia, a Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School, and a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale University. Colander joined the podcast to discuss the current landscape of the biomass energy industry, misconceptions, trends and more.

PMM: In our industry, there are a lot of misconceptions. What do you wish people understood about biomass?

Colander: I would start with tree and forest management practices. I encourage people to look outside of Enviva to understand those, and look at academic institutions, organizations like the U.S. Endowment … Preferred by Nature … there are many organizations, like the Society of American Foresters—so many that don’t have a business model around advocacy; their business model is around conversation. If you really want to understand the sustainability of technologies that require natural resources, you have to get to know the conservation organizations that do this work every day. And I say this having actually spent time in advocacy organizations and have tremendous respect for them. I am also fully appreciative of the work conservation organizations do with businesses to support scaled opportunities to provide resources to customers in a thoughtful way ... I would go back to early education around forest management practices. If you look around the country with what’s happening with wildfire season, it’s devastating. A lot of that is because we have unmanaged forests. There is brush that’s easy to catch flame, and now it’s completely uncontrolled. One of the things that’s exciting about a company like Enviva is that we have effectively created a market for these resources in the forest that includes brush, slash, trees that are small in a diameter and would have absolutely no utility at a sawmill ... those are now resources that, instead of getting burned in open fields, now actually have another life and currency. It's helpful for forest management practices, and it’s also incredibly helpful at a time when the geopolitical landscape has, in a really devastating way, changed the energy needs abroad.

PMM: For those interested in this space that you’re in, or for current CSOs, do you have any thoughts or advice to offer them?

Colander: I think we’re still searching for community. [In order to] stay current, there is a support system that’s necessary for CSOs, because frankly, people are passionate about the issues and believe it gives them a license to think they know what you should be doing all the time—perhaps not realizing that you’ve been thoughtful about your role, that you have a remit, and that there is accountability around that remit. And I think there is some creep around mission with sustainability practitioners that can be really challenging. Sometimes, you’re fitting the mold of a processor, sometimes you’re shaping comms and narratives ... I think most CSOs would be well served to figure out what their support system looks like to develop their community. I would also encourage them to find and very actively seek opportunities to stay engaged in the messaging and the conversations about the work they’re shepherding forward. These things change a lot, but the core tenants don’t. I think staying engaged and relevant however you see fit is one thing that’s important to do because you want to show that your company is considerate of change—a lot of this does deal with change—but is not willing to change so much that you can’t count on commitments that are made, relationships that are established, etcetera ... At the end of the day, what you’re really trying to do is better align those negative externalities, make sure they’re adequately accounted for, build credibility, and the last thing I think is really important is developing data management systems that create good guiderails for your company to continue to operate accordingly.

Listen to the rest of the podcast:

Don't Miss an Episode:
Biomass Magazine’s podcast series:

S2 E6 Setting the Standard:
Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship
Featuring Brandi Colander, Senior Vice President and
Chief Sustainability Officer

S2 E7 Maximizing Anaerobic
Digester Performance
Featuring Will Charlton, CEO of Valkyrie Analytics Inc.    

S2 E8 Sam Schutte, CEO, Synthica Energy

Interested in being a guest?
Contact Danielle Piekarski at [email protected]