Josh Prigge Of Sustridge and North Star Carbon Management: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Embrace change: View AI as an opportunity to enhance your offerings and efficiency. The world around us is changing rapidly; dive into this change and be a part of the change. AI is a paradigm shift, and it is here to stay. When we started to gain access to AI, we immediately took advantage of it, started educating ourselves and started incorporating it into our products.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Prigge.

As Sustridge’s visionary founder and CEO, Josh Prigge is a leading sustainability expert, engaging with diverse organizations to enact environmentally sound and business-savvy changes. His expertise extends beyond just implementing sustainable initiatives; he also focuses on educating others about the importance of sustainability and how it can be integrated into everyday business operations. Prigge’s work with Sustridge has been recognized globally, and he continues to inspire others in the field with his visionary approach. His leadership has not only made a significant impact on the organizations he works with but also set a precedent for future sustainability efforts worldwide. As the founder of North Star Carbon Management, he has been instrumental in driving forward the agenda of carbon neutrality. His deep understanding of carbon management strategies has enabled him to guide organizations towards achieving their sustainability goals. Under his leadership, North Star Carbon Management has become a beacon for businesses seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute positively to the environment.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I’m Josh Prigge, a sustainability consultant. I am the founder of Sustridge and North Star Carbon Management. 

My sustainability journey began with a deep-seated passion for environmental conservation. Starting in higher education as a sustainability coordinator at Hawaii Pacific University back in 2010, my experiences laid a solid foundation for my career. My role at Fetzer Vineyards in Northern California further deepened my expertise, where I led sustainability initiatives for a major wine company. 

After gaining a number of key sustainability-related skills and recognizing a broader need for sustainability consulting, I founded Sustridge in 2017, aiming to work with businesses across many industries to implement sustainability programs and initiatives. This path was more than a career choice to me. It was a calling to make a meaningful impact on our planet and spread my knowledge and skills across many organizations, as opposed to just working from within one organization. My primary motivation to get into the industry was to help fight the battle against climate change.

My commitment to sustainability extends beyond consultancy; it’s about leadership and advocacy. I’ve engaged with communities and businesses, driving the narrative that sustainable practices are economically viable. 

As a speaker at international conferences and a contributor to sustainability publications, I’ve shared my insights and experiences, hoping to inspire action in others. 

Establishing North Star Carbon Management was a natural progression in my mission to provide tangible solutions for managing organizational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. After spending about 13 years working on annual GHG inventories (carbon footprints) I came across so many different pain points during the process that I wanted to try to address. The North Star Carbon Management solution is intended to be the easiest-to-use carbon accounting and management software platform on the market.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We do more than consulting at Sustridge; we partner with organizations to embed sustainability into their core values. 

Shaping client perspectives on sustainability often leads to a domino effect of positive changes, including enhanced stakeholder relationships, an improved public image, and a fortified market position. When we assist a client in recognizing the inherent value of sustainable practices, there are often more benefits than a better balance sheet. This is the Sustridge effect—igniting a transformation that resonates well beyond the metrics, fostering a culture where sustainability is celebrated as the cornerstone of innovation and success.

North Star Carbon Management’s precision-focused approach to carbon footprint measurement and reduction strategies differentiates itself. Our advanced, data-driven solutions quantify emissions with pinpoint accuracy and provide actionable insights for mitigating environmental impact. The key is that this is the easiest and most intuitive platform on the market, making an extremely complex and technical process much more manageable.

One of our current customers at North Star Carbon Management is a large investment bank in the United States. They have been paying expensive consultants to conduct their annual GHG inventory for several years. Now that they are using the North Star platform, they have an intern managing all of their GHG calculations.

We understand that each organization’s carbon journey is unique, and therefore, we tailor our solutions to align with our client’s specific goals and challenges. We continuously innovate and refine our methodologies to harness advanced technologies to offer unparalleled clarity and control over carbon management processes. This approach ensures our clients meet industry standards and set new environmental stewardship benchmarks.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each? 

Persistence: In the early days, sustainability was often sidelined, but relentless advocacy and demonstrating its business value turned skeptics into advocates. Persistence has paid off for me by continuing to educate companies on the business value that sustainability can deliver. This often is not going to happen immediately, but continuing to try to make the business case by educating the leadership of the company will pay off if done persistently and with quality data and information. 

Adaptability: The sustainability field is ever-evolving. Staying open and adaptable has allowed me to navigate changes and integrate innovative solutions, like AI, effectively. I have had to learn how different business units operate and how different types of people operate and communicate. Learning these things can help you adapt to different styles of communication and understand the different levers that can be pulled to advance sustainability in an organization. 

Vision: Seeing beyond immediate challenges to the broader impact of sustainability efforts has guided my strategic decisions and fostered long-term partnerships. This also ties into communicating the business case for sustainability. The ability to paint a picture of the future with the tangible and intangible value sustainability can deliver is critical in communicating a vision for your organization. 

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line? 

AI revolutionizes sustainability by providing tools for better data analysis, predictive modeling, and operational efficiency. This technological disruption enhances our capabilities, allowing us to offer our clients more precise, actionable insights, thus positively affecting our bottom line.

The advent of AI has revolutionized our approach to sustainability consulting. It has given us the tools to make more informed decisions, develop more effective strategies, and ultimately, significantly impact the environment. The future of sustainability is inextricably linked with the future of AI, and I am excited to be part of this journey.

We have already incorporated AI into our North Star Carbon Management platform to allow companies to more easily develop decarbonization plans to reduce emissions across their value chain. We see AI as an important advancement to help companies more easily track, report and reduce their carbon emissions, and we plan to continue to incorporate AI where it will add value to our customers.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

The advent of AI in environmental data analysis and management has been transformative, enabling us to track and predict ecological impacts with unprecedented accuracy. 

Algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data and identify impossible patterns for humans to discern. This allows us to make more accurate predictions about future environmental conditions and the potential impact of various sustainability initiatives. 

AI can help organizations optimize their use of resources, reducing waste and improving efficiency. For example, machine learning algorithms can analyze energy usage data to identify inefficiencies and suggest improvements. By identifying inefficiencies and waste in the supply chain, we were able to propose targeted solutions to clients that improved sustainability and reduced costs. This was a win-win situation, demonstrating that environmental responsibility and profitability can go hand in hand.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

Our North Star Carbon Management tool uses AI to create decarbonization roadmaps that model future scenarios across all emission sources. When we began demonstrating this feature to our current and prospective customers, they were blown away. This feature is helping companies take the most important step from carbon accounting to carbon management, moving from just quantifying and reporting carbon emissions to actually begin developing action plans to reduce their emissions.

One problem with corporate sustainability is that corporate sustainability teams are notoriously small (small but mighty!). So, oftentimes a sustainability team is so busy with the data management and reporting aspect of their job, that they don’t have enough time for the more important aspect – actually planning and taking action on reducing impacts. 

If we can provide them with technology solutions that reduce the burden on data collection and reporting, while also incorporating AI that assists with the planning, we are freeing up so much time for them to focus their efforts on reducing impacts and advancing sustainability within their organization. 

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

We are focusing on upskilling in data analytics, systems thinking, and strategic decision-making to prepare our workforce for AI integration. 

The most valuable skills in an AI-enhanced future will be those that AI cannot replicate: creativity, critical thinking, and empathy. We will still need humans for that. But, when we couple our skilled and educated humans with AI technology, we get a powerful combination that can really deliver value to our business and to our customers.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

The field of AI is advancing at a rapid pace. It is constantly spiraling in multiple directions. Getting the workforce up to date with the latest developments can be a daunting task. Ensuring access to training and keeping up with all the changes are prominent challenges we have faced. 

Then there is the matter of ethical considerations – training the workforce to use AI responsibly is a significant task. We address these issues by emphasizing AI’s value to our work and fostering a culture of continuous learning.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

When it comes to the ethical considerations of AI, three key areas come to mind: data privacy, bias in decision-making, and the environmental impact of technology itself. 

Ensuring the privacy and security of user data is paramount. We address this by adhering to stringent data ethics policies, implementing robust security measures, and respecting user consent at all times.

AI systems learn from data, and if that data is biased, the decisions made by the AI could also be biased. We tackle this by employing mitigation techniques to ensure our AI applications make fair and unbiased decisions. 

The energy consumption of large-scale AI systems can significantly contribute to environmental degradation. We are mindful of this and strive to select and develop AI solutions in our carbon management tools that are efficient and have minimal ecological footprints.

We also believe in maintaining transparency in all our applications. We are committed to navigating the ethical landscape of AI with responsibility and integrity, always keeping the best interests of users and the environment at the forefront of our work.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

For industries facing AI disruption, I would advise the following:

  1. Embrace change: View AI as an opportunity to enhance your offerings and efficiency. The world around us is changing rapidly; dive into this change and be a part of the change. AI is a paradigm shift, and it is here to stay. When we started to gain access to AI, we immediately took advantage of it, started educating ourselves and started incorporating it into our products. 
  2. Prioritize ethics: Ensure AI applications respect privacy and are transparent. We must uphold the highest ethical standards in all our work, including our use of AI. We took careful considerations into this and worked with our developers to ensure no customer information is ever shared with an AI technology company. 
  3. Invest in education: Continuous learning is critical to leveraging AI effectively. Always stay informed and updated, and stay a step ahead. Provide resources and opportunities for your team to expand their knowledge of AI. We began following AI experts and AI new outlets online and in our social media to stay updated on everything.
  4. Foster collaboration: AI solutions often require multidisciplinary approaches. Foster a culture where ideas are shared freely and everyone feels empowered to contribute. Remember, the best solutions frequently come from diverse perspectives.
  5. Innovate responsibly: Consider the environmental and social impacts of adopting AI. Adopting AI should not come at our planet’s or our communities’ expense. Strive to select AI solutions that are not only effective but also sustainable. Remember, our goal is to create a better future for all.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

A common misconception prevalent in all industries about AI is that it will replace human roles in sustainability. While AI can automate specific tasks, it’s designed to augment human capabilities, not replace them. 

In sustainability, human insight, creativity, and judgment are irreplaceable. AI helps us process data and make informed decisions more efficiently.

Another misconception is that AI is infallible. Like any tool, AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on. It’s important to remember that AI models can have biases or errors if the training data is biased or incomplete. We address this by ensuring our AI models are trained on diverse, high-quality data and regularly reviewing and updating these models.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life? 

My favorite life lesson quote is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This principle has guided my personal and professional life, reminding me of the importance of acting on my values and the impact one individual can have.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process? 

As the CEO, there are a million things that cross my mind at all times. I have to be responsible and answerable to the companies I consult, my partners, my team, my students, and the global audience and media who are always watching. But here are some concerns that are on top of my head right now

  1. I need to balance profitability and sustainability. I must ensure that my company can thrive economically while positively impacting the environment and society.
  2. With the rise in environmental regulations, I need to stay up to date on everything as I am the source of knowledge for many of my customers. This involves staying updated on the latest regulations and adjusting business practices and offerings.
  3. I need to be mindful of how my actions impact our company’s reputation. The sustainability-related actions we take (or fail to take) can significantly affect our brand image. That is why North Star Carbon Management pursued B Corp certification, to demonstrate that we are practicing what we preach.
  4. I need to allocate resources towards helping our customers achieve their sustainability goals. This could involve investing in new development, investing in my own education, conducting research, hiring sustainability experts, or funding sustainability initiatives.
  5. I need to have a vision of the future and what our customers will be needing. There are so many players now jumping into the ESG/sustainability consulting and software space. As someone who has many years of experience, I have a bit of a competitive advantage already. But I also need to think about what I can offer that others will not 1 year, 3 years and 10 years into the future.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Integrate sustainability into the core of business operations. Educate businesses about sustainable practices, foster collaboration to tackle sustainability challenges, encourage innovation in sustainable products and services, promote transparency in environmental impact, and advocate for policies that hold businesses accountable. By making sustainability a central part of business, we can create a healthier planet for future generations.

How can our readers further follow you online?

LinkedIn is the best place. They could also follow our company pages- Sustridge and North Star Carbon Management. I also host a Sustainability Nation podcast on Sustridge, where I invite global leaders to talk about their sustainability strategies.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.