Susan Rockefeller is a documentary-filmmaker and environmentalist who has long used the power of storytelling to raise awareness and engage a global audience in issues that impact us all. Her award-winning films including Food For Thought, Food For Life, Striking a Chord, Making the Crooked Straight, Running Madness, and Mission of Mermaids have aired on HBO, PBS, and the Discovery Channel. Her forward-thinking book "Green at Work: Finding a Business Career that Works for the Environment," was published by the Island Press in 1992. Susan sits on the boards of Oceana, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, We Are Family Foundation and is a member of Natural Resources Defense Council Global Leadership Council.
What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?
My personal mantra is “Protect What is Precious” which to me, is family, art, and nature. In all of my work, whether it be personal, philanthropic, or professional, I strive to nurture these core values that are closest to my heart. Family applies not only to my immediate family, but also to our global family and to the interconnectivity of all living beings. Art is the purest expression of the human soul and is a universal language that speaks to all cultures. Nature is the greatest gift and the sustainer of all human life. If our environment isn’t healthy, we won’t be either. I sit on nonprofit boards that work to protect the values of global family, art, and nature. I also highlight those working to make our world a better place through my digital magazine and bi-monthly newsletter, Musings. Together, I believe that family, art, and nature, promote a healthier and more harmonious world for now and for our future.
Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?
I’ve had many instances where I’ve taken on projects, whether it be producing or directing a film, creating community gardens in the Alaskan Arctic, or working with new business ventures, that provoked fear of failure. These instances, however, provided an array of challenges that lead to the development of new skills. Often when I thought I would fail, the exhilaration of creating something new and taking my ideas towards execution kept me motivated. Regardless of the outcome, the process always felt more like a success than a failure. I think the most important thing that I’ve learned about failure, is that anyone who wants to make a difference in the world has bumps in their path and will fail in some capacity. We must learn to work in teams with people who can complement the skills necessary to move from idea to successful execution. If you don’t take risks than you will never ultimately succeed. Life to me is not about playing it safe, it is about taking risks and learning to lean into them with support of people who share a similar vision.
What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?
We are currently in the process of revamping our Musings website and will feature sustainable innovations and interviews about food, beauty, fashion, technology, art, and design. Also my team is working on some new message-inspired and sustainably created global product collaborations to raise environmental awareness, and celebrate the beauty of our earth. Musings has also partnered with Nile Rodger’s We Are Family Foundation to ensure that their annual Three Dot Dash summit for Global Teen Leaders will operate with a minimal environmental footprint this year.