An Architect of Change: How Sarah Robinson Enaharo Is Working Toward a Healthier Future

IWBI’S SIGNATURE INTERVIEW SERIES | IWBI sits down with Milliken’s Sarah Robinson Enaharo, who is forging innovative solutions in sustainability and health a part of her strategic vision to advance both planetary and human health.
May 3, 2024 12:00 PM ET

By Jason Hartke, Ph.D.

“Today, the rise of healthy buildings is unmistakable,” said Sarah Robinson Enaharo at the opening of last year’s WELL Summit in Washington, D.C. “All around the world, we see a growing demand for spaces and places that help people thrive.”

As the Director of Global Sustainability, Health and Wellness at Milliken and Company, Sarah is more than a contributor to this shift; she is a driving force behind it.

Leveraging her background in engineering and technology management, Sarah’s work has always epitomized the leadership necessary to advance integrated solutions in health and sustainability. With a strong commitment to innovation, Sarah’s efforts at Milliken have focused on working to seamlessly bridge environmental stewardship, health and resilience, providing support to the industrial, manufacturing, NGO, and government sectors.

An influential voice and widely recognized expert, Sarah holds several important advisory roles, including USGBC’s LEED Steering Committee, ASID’s DEI Committee, the National Center for Healthy Housing’s Board of Directors, and IWBI’s Health Equity Advisory. Recognized for her leadership, she was also named a Greenbiz 30 under 30 and is a frequent contributor to roundtables and industry events on the circular economy, material health and indoor air quality.

Recently, we had a chance to connect with Sarah to discuss her innovative work in sustainability and health and hear more about how she is driving change in these important areas.

Q: You’ve spent most of your career working as a leader at the intersection of sustainability and health. Could you describe the influences that have shaped your leadership style and outline your approach to driving integrated sustainable practices?
I began my career working in project management for a diverse, family-owned general contractor in Washington, D.C., and what I experienced during that time continues to shape my leadership style today. There were so many trades and moving pieces working in concert at the same time – and what I appreciated then and reflect on now is the role that allowing everyone to have a seat at the table can play in delivering outstanding results.

Our projects focused largely on building schools, so there was this sense that we were coming together to advance the greater good. It was a beautiful feeling to work together on projects we believed in – and to feel respected and appreciated for what we each brought to this collective effort. Today, I apply the lessons learned from those early experiences to my leadership role at Milliken and within the sustainability community at large – because there’s still no greater feeling than working together with others to accomplish great things for the benefit of all.

I try to approach driving integrated sustainable practices with thoughtfulness and intention. Sustainability for me begins with the personal choices I make each day, because I do not believe it’s possible to maintain a sustained commitment to this work without having it shape the way you live your life. I’ve embraced a holistic approach to sustainability that considers the environmental, economic and social aspects of my daily life that contribute to a more sustainable future for my family and my community – and then I get to come to work each day and do my part to make a difference on a much larger scale.

Q: You’ve been so instrumental in how Milliken has embraced opportunities to demonstrate health leadership. Could you highlight some key initiatives you’re leading at Milliken to achieve the company’s ambitious health and sustainability goals
What I love about working at Milliken and what attracted me to the company was the earnestness of their commitment to innovating to reduce resource use, promote health, and contribute to circularity. I feel fortunate to have played a role in extending Milliken’s sustainability leadership with strategic partnerships like the one we recently announced with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

Leading the charge to meet eligibility requirements for the Works with WELL trademark license and now being able to affirm with our customers that Milliken floor covering products contribute to the achieving of specific strategies outlined in the WELL Building Standard (WELL) is a professional accomplishment that I will always be proud of.

Recently, our team sought to understand how our floor covering products can contribute to a neuro-inclusive workplace. We partnered with Henigan Consulting Group and Sapio Research to develop a guide for creating a neuro-inclusive workplace. The white paper we produced, Designing a Neuro-Inclusive Workplace, incorporates the latest research on neurodiversity in business, with sources including academic research papers, output by charities for neurodiversity, and research by companies with expertise in specific areas of design. This is some of the most satisfying work I get to do – meeting people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to explore practical health and wellness considerations that ultimately benefit everyone.

Q: You played a big role in the WELL Summit last year, and I know you plan to be at the inaugural WELL Conference in Long Beach next week. Why are you so excited about this year’s event?
I’m excited to immerse myself in a dynamic environment filled with insightful discussions, innovative ideas, and the latest trends. It will be great to connect with friends and meet others embarking on this journey. The Friday tour to L’Oréal’s West Coast Headquarters will be a treat.

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