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Member Update: Gevo responds to the coronavirus crisis

RSB’s community of members and certified operators around the world are adjusting to the coronavirus crisis – responding to challenging economic and social situations, mitigation regulations and the remote working.

RSB chatted to member and Participating Operator, Gevo, to find out about how they are responding to the crisis. Heather Manuel, Director of Corporate Communications at Gevo, shared the following insights from work and home life.

Can you tell us a little bit about the COVID-19 situation where you are?

The lockdowns in the United States have been determined by State, not the Federal government.  I live in the State of Colorado, which saw its first confirmed case on March 5th.  On March 10th, the Governor declared a state of emergency, and the dominos began to fall to help protect the community. Social distancing became the norm. Large events were canceled, ski resorts closed, then on March 13th, schools closed across the State. The official stay-at-home order was announced by our Governor on March 26th, allowing only for outdoor exercise in your community and time to go to the grocery store or pharmacy. As of April 21st, Colorado has 10,447 confirmed cases and 486 deaths.

How has your organisation responded? 

This situation developed at a time where our operations were being scaled back. Still, we were able to donate quite a bit of safety gear (masks, gloves, and face shields) to a local hospital. Even though our non-essential production operations have scaled back, we are focused on building the infrastructure and capacity we need for the future.

How has life changed in the past few weeks?

Within a short period, we had to change the way work gets done, how we interact with our community, and how our children are learning. The Gevo team now works remotely and are focused on executing priorities that will ensure we are on the best path when we come out on the other side of COVID-19. We have had high-value conversations with our investors and strategic partners in the last few weeks via conference versus in-person meetings.  People seem more human and genuinely ask about one another. I see more empathy, less distraction, and continued focus on building a better future.  For me, working from home while the kids (boys, ages 9 & 10) are doing remote-learning has been a steep learning curve, but we are adapting. My husband is a pilot, and obviously, his flight schedule is impacted, so he has jumped in feet first to help with homeschooling. We are soaking in the time with them and trying to make memories and keep their anxiety as low as possible. To help with the passing of time, we adopted a rescue puppy (named Piper), and when the weather permits, we hold class and work outside. I am proud of the fact they get this chance to observe how their mom works and interacts with others during video calls. We are fortunate to be safe, healthy, and adjusting to this new norm.

Do you feel a commitment to sustainability in the bioeconomy is more important than ever? Why?

Yes, absolutely. We talk a lot about sustainability in our business, but our industry doesn’t spend as much time talking about the sustainability OF our business. The future of sustainability is just that, finding business opportunity that can be successfully and efficiently replicated time and time again, in perpetuity. For our agricultural partners, it means consistently seeking improvements to efficiency and yield. For our production facilities, it means finding ways to lower and offset energy use in the production of our fuel products. Are all these efforts good for the environment? Absolutely. But they also allow each factor of these businesses to make more money. This directly benefits our shareholders and employees alike. That is what the future of sustainability truly looks like.

What does your organisation need in order to continue to thrive in a post-pandemic world?

We need to make sure that sustainable fuels have a place in the discussion at the government table. There is a disconnect between the desire to reduce emissions long term and the short-term economic support of the petroleum industry. The more that plant-based fuels can be seen as a solution and partner to the petroleum-based infrastructure we already have in place, the quicker we can move towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s critical to start to have these discussions and educate everyone on the solutions that already exist.

Any other thoughts, insights or ideas you would like to share with our community.

This pandemic is one of the more overt demonstrations that we are all in this together, globally. From the cleaning of the air in industrial cities to the clearing of the water and the return of wildlife to areas that are typically occupied by humans, this horrendous crisis has demonstrated very quickly the dramatic changes that occur in a short time horizon. Imagine what is possible if, after this deadly pandemic, we continue to leverage this level of global focus, compassion and cooperation to ensure we combat pollution and begin to realize these environmental benefits long term.

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