In wake of U.S. withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement, small businesses can step up to help with climate action, too

In wake of U.S. withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement, small businesses can step up to help with climate action, too

The current administration’s decision to leave the landmark Paris Climate Agreement has grabbed headlines across the globe, eliciting strong reactions from leaders at every level. As the White House takes a step back from climate action, states, cities and businesses across the country are stepping in to fill the vacuum. 

Large companies like Apple, Target and Mars, Incorporated are pledging to nonetheless abide by the Paris Agreement rules, which were created to curb carbon emissions in an effort to slow global climate change. Cities across the country, already feeling the effects of a changing climate, have signed up in record numbers, as have entire states. Smart businesses – including some Lilja clients – recognize not only the threat of climate change to their operations but also the economic opportunity climate action provides.

Large companies are stepping up and showing leadership. But what about small and mid-sized businesses, which number 30 million in the United States? Climate action is possible for them, too.

Lilja Communications is a small business that is committed to reducing our impact on the environment. While our footprint is much smaller than many other businesses, what we do every day – as an office and as individuals – does have an impact on the environment. Our actions – from meatless Mondays and driving hybrid vehicles when possible, to recycling and powering down workstations at the end of the day – are resulting in fewer carbon emissions. Bottom line: every reduction helps, no matter how small.

Today, Lilja Communications joined over 1,400 other organizations in signing the “We Are Still In” statement, an open letter that underlines our commitment to meet the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement. In part, the letter reads:

It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.

Are you a small business that wants to do your part? Get inspired to action by reviewing our Sustainability Policy, which highlights a variety of areas where small offices can reduce their impact.

Next up for Lilja? Energy benchmarking!


Posted by: Kate Lilja Lohnes and Claire Lukens

Hygge Series: Laughter, shared reflection

Like so many across the country, we’re enchanted with the Scandinavian concept of hygge delighting in simple pleasures and curating “cozy.” It might be the Minnesotan in us, but we’re inspired to share our little bits of office hygge with you in a short blog series. Enjoy our latest installment!

As virtual work teams and environments are gaining in popularity, at Lilja we find peace and inspiration in a shared and comfortable workspace with mostly private offices. I like to say that we are the perfect office for introverts — which many of us are.

Though we work collaboratively on client projects, we book long stretches of time alone at our desks, editing or writing copy and social media posts, developing communications plans and strategy, and designing client materials and books. The quiet environment at Lilja helps us do good work — work that comes from the depth of our experiences and stretches us to refine our skills and expand our expertise.

In the midst of even the busiest workdays, though, we surface in short bursts. Someone will post a cartoon or a provocative news story to Slack, our interoffice communications platform. You will hear a roar of laughter from across the office or a groan, depending on the subject matter.

If something’s really funny, more bursts of laughter erupt from several offices. So you surface to see what provoked it.

On the spot, we leave our offices to gather and share laughter or reflect on the story that’s been shared — what it means for us, for our country, for our work together. We help ourselves to a cup of tea or a glass of water and return to our desks, refreshed and recharged.  

And then we’re back to it, heads down, focused on the work matter at hand — but enlivened by the interaction.

It reminds us we are a team, we don’t work alone, and each shared moment matters.

These are hygge moments in our workdays. 

Posted by: Mary Lilja

Revive Your Mission Statement with these Three Questions (Part I)

Mission to Mission Statement

Part I: Revive Your Mission Statement with these Three Questions

This is part of a short series on mission and vision statements. 

I have a vivid childhood memory of being in a car with my dad, driving down a highway in Texas. We drove past a restaurant chain well known for its breakfast offering – so well known for breakfast that the name of a breakfast food is in its name. There was a huge sign in the window advertising their newest menu item: t-bone steaks.

“You know you’ve gone down the wrong path with your business when [insert name of restaurant here] is making t-bone steaks!” my dad proclaimed.

Clearly, my dad didn’t think that was a food item this restaurant should try to prepare; in other words, he didn’t think it met their breakfast-serving mission and doubted it would be a successful endeavor.

Guiding your company away from such menu horrors is part of the mission statement’s purpose. It’s more than a nice sentiment to engrave on a plaque or post on your website; it should feel true to your business and be a statement that guides your work and your goals.

In communications, we often use a client’s mission statement to inform how we position stories for outside audiences, such as the media, to ensure the stories are a true reflection of the company – stories that set them apart from their competition and highlight their strengths.

If your company has a mission statement that is collecting dust, it’s probably time to revisit and breathe some new life into it. Here are some questions to consider to help give your statement a backbone:

Does your mission statement represent your work?

While mission statements should be fairly constant, you don’t have to think of it as something that’s written in stone. If your company truly has changed direction, or broadened its scope, reevaluating your statement is an important way to ensure your company and its employees are working toward a clearly defined and authentic purpose.

Re-writing your mission statement is a great opportunity to get buy-in from key stakeholders, and ensure it’s something everyone feels is accurate.

Does it inspire your employees?

A mission statement shouldn’t be a rote recitation of what your company does. It should be aspirational. A box manufacturer could have an inspiring mission that addresses their customers’ needs, as well as their own environmental impact: Our boxes help our customers safely and efficiently contain and ship their products so they can meet their business goals, all while we minimize the impact of our operations and materials on the environment.

Does your mission ever see the light of day?

A mission statement needs its employees to breathe life into it. Start your company’s big employee meeting with a reading of the mission statement, and a reflection on current events that fall in line with that mission. One of our clients even created a wallet card for employees to carry with them that highlights the company’s mission, vision and values. These are just a few ways your mission statement can be a living and breathing part of your organization and its culture.

In part II, we’ll talk about how to approach your mission statement and Lilja’s experience of recently revisiting our own.

We're on the lookout for a Communications Assistant!

Do you spot typos on your friends’ Facebook posts? Do you find yourself correcting other people’s grammar? Do you reject spin and embrace authenticity? Do you appreciate a well-crafted story in a world of one-liners? Are you a consummate planner? We would like to meet you!

We’re looking for a full-time communications assistant to join the Lilja Communications team. A snapshot of your responsibilities includes proofing and editing with your eagle eye; monitoring and developing content for social media; tracking projects, including our LifeStories books; and providing a variety of professional and administrative support to the team.

We’re a boutique communications firm with a passion for authentic storytelling and a reputation for quality, concise communications. Our expertise lies in shaping, producing and sharing compelling stories for businesses, nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, families and individuals.

Our eclectic client roster is comprised of beloved Twin Cities organizations and nationally recognized brands. From fascinating foundations to sustainably minded organizations, they are a delight to work for, and we have fun in the process!

We also have a soft spot for the book business. Our LifeStories work includes writing, producing and marketing books that range from personal and business histories to colorful and creative children’s books.

The ideal candidate will possess a bachelor’s degree in communications or related field. Strong editing, proofreading and project management skills are a must. Internship and experience with social media and HTML coding is a plus!

Interested? Submit cover letter, resume and two writing samples to Kate Lohnes at

Integrating sustainability into your small business

Earth Day is just a few days away, and that means sustainability is in the news and on the mind. Why not take advantage of this momentum and develop a sustainability policy for your business?

As businesses recognize the benefits to their bottom lines, they are stepping up as leaders in sustainability – in ways both large and small. While you might think your business is too small to make a difference, the reality is that you’re never too small to enact changes and do your part to curb climate change.

Businesses of all sizes and types can create sustainability policies that fit their operations, culture and values. Here at Lilja, our environmentally conscious staff has been making positive changes for years, and we recently took the step to formally outline our policy. In it, we define our sustainability goals and highlight certain areas of the business or office where we are making focused, intentional changes.

Big or small, marketing or manufacturing, here are some things to consider as you define your sustainability policy.


Defining your goals and principles may be the most important step toward reducing your impact on the environment. Well-written goals take your values and create a sustainability vision that can help guide every business or office move you make. These are especially helpful when you are faced with a purchase or business opportunity that is not already addressed in your action items; the goals you developed as a team can guide you in the right direction.

Action Items

Every business is different and our carbon footprints are made up of different activities, but there are many areas of day-to-day operations that every organization can review and analyze for opportunities. Within each area, you can start to identify certain actions you currently take, or plan to take, to operate more sustainably – from purchasing post-consumer recycled paper products and turning off all computers and lights at the end of the day, to educating your employees on your sustainability initiatives.

Consider outlining action items within the following segments:

Office Supplies – For many organizations, this is the largest source of environmental impact. Purchasing responsibly sourced and manufactured supplies can sometimes take more time and energy on your part, but it is well worth the extra effort.

Energy – This is one area where small actions can add up fast! Turn on lights only when and where needed, run the office dishwasher only when it’s full, put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat a few degrees, use rechargeable batteries in office electronics, etc. Don’t brush off these small steps – when performed repeatedly and consistently and adopted by a large part of your office, the impact adds up. Minimizing your energy use can decrease your footprint and your utility bills each month.

Waste & Recycling – Looking beyond recycling paper products, how can you responsibly dispose of, reuse, repurpose or recycle other materials or products in your business that reach their end of use? Whether it’s introducing composting in the kitchen or dropping off your old printer at a shop that will repair and give it a new life, there is probably a better way to “dispose of” the item than tossing it in the trash.

Travel/Transportation – This might be something you wouldn’t normally think of for your office; maybe your work doesn’t require salespeople on the road or frequent work trips out of town. But think about your employees and how they get to work – your sustainability policy can help encourage better commuting choices by staff members, or even incentivize them. Consider offering perks such as priority parking for carpools, casual dress for bike commuters or subsidized public transit passes.

Stewardship – So much of the discussion on environmental behavior surrounds things you should or shouldn’t do throughout the day, but we can also consider what we could do outside of our routine to look after what we love. If your office is near a natural area or your employees have a favorite park, consider rolling up your sleeves and taking time on the calendar to clean up the area as a team.

Community Involvement – As individuals and as businesses, there are many ways we can give back to our communities. Encouraging employees to get involved locally, partnering with nonprofits through sponsorship or programming, and donating professional services and time to a nonprofit or community group are all great ideas to incorporate into your company culture.

Well-being – Sustainability is about more than recycling and lowering your environmental impact; it’s also about what we can do to promote the health and strength of our society and its individuals. The triple bottom line of sustainability places the value equally on people, planet and profit. To build a more sustainable world, we need to focus inwardly as much as outwardly. Educating and encouraging mental, emotional and physical well-being for your employees and their families will lead to stronger and more engaged workers. Consider ways you can incorporate wellness activities and learning into your office routines and culture.


We specialize in sustainability communications, working with a variety of business, nonprofit, foundation and government clients. From air pollution and alternative transportation to protecting our natural resources and communicating climate change, we have the strategies and experience that you need.

Read our Sustainability Policy here and get to know Kate Lilja Lohnes and Claire Lukens, our team members who specialize in sustainability communications.

Hygge Series: Flowers – for whatever ails you

Here is the second installment in our Hygge Series, sharing our little bits of office hygge – delighting in simple pleasures and curating “cozy.”

Lately our team has felt like we’re on a weather roller coaster here in Minnesota — one day the temperature is nearing 60, and the next we’re prepping to shovel snow. 

One of the few things we are able to control is the “environment” in our office. We strive to create a cozy, welcoming space for ourselves and our clients — one that inspires productivity and balance. And one of our favorite strategies is to embrace the restorative power of flowers!

Celebrating winter:

Sometimes you just have to embrace your circumstance and find a way to celebrate. A bouquet of white blooms and deep red berries framed with fragrant evergreen boughs can remind us of a quiet walk in the woods on a clear winter night — and maybe even a lucky glimpse of the northern lights.

Thoughts of spring:

There is no denying the affect fresh tulips can have on the soul, especially when those pesky late March/early April snowfalls threaten to hold spring hostage. Tulips conjure images of spring bulbs poking their hardy green leaves through the cold (possibly snow-covered) ground. And the heavenly smell of lilacs, the sweet yellow blooms of forsythia and the old-world charm of late spring peonies just can’t help but delight our senses.

Lazy days of summer:

We at Lilja are blessed that Mary and her husband, Mike, are passionate and skilled gardeners. Some of us on the team love to garden, but Mary and Mike LOVE to garden. And all summer long, like clockwork, Mary arrives at the office armed with flowers she’s freshly cut that morning. It’s hard not to smile as you pass by vases of delicate pink coneflowers or brightly colored zinnias. (Pro tip: State Fair Zinnias are favorites, but get them early because they sell out in a flash.)

Settling into fall:

For many, fall symbolizes the balance between light and darkness, preparing for change and taking time to reflect. It’s also a time to take comfort in the hardy blooms of fall. Mums seem to frame almost every Minnesota doorway come September. But as the days grow shorter, we let blooms like sedum, Joe-pye weed and hostas — not to mention those stunning hosta leaves — bring a sense of lightness to the office.   

Whatever the season, let flowers bring a moment of hygge to your day!

Turn your external business history outside in

A powerful tool for engaging employees

One of the most powerful ways for a business to engage current and new customers is to share its story. It’s more and more common for businesses to infuse their history and culture into their public relations, marketing and online presence. But others go a step further and share the story of their business in book form. 

Our client, Park Dental, did just that. The pioneering dental group practice recently celebrated 45 years of service in the Twin Cities with a legacy book to share their journey. Now, as patients wait to see their dentist or hygienist, they can read and enjoy Park Dental: Our Patients, Our People, Our Story.

The beautiful hardcover book is full of photos and celebrates the founders, Dr. Greg Swenson and Dr. Bud Murn. They had the vision and pioneering spirit to create one of the first successful dental group practices in the country. 

It’s a story about people committing to systems and standards to assure quality patient care; embracing the hard work necessary to achieve accreditation, because the process makes everyone better; and having the courage to dream big, because every community deserves to be well served.

At its core, it’s a story about the people Dr. Murn and Dr. Swenson brought together to help make their vision a reality. That’s why Park Dental also did what most businesses would never think to do:

They asked us to create a second version of the book — just for doctors and team members. And they’re giving a copy to every employee.

It tells the same story as the external book, but it also shares elements of Park Dental’s journey that are for doctor and team member eyes only. Theirs is a story of doctors putting people before profits, a team coming together as a family in the face of adversity, and a group embracing the future, strengthened by staying true to the vision of its founders.

Park Dental doctors and team members continue to laugh and reminisce together as they look at photos and share anecdotes from the book. As one team member put it, “[the book] is a really great reminder of who we are as an organization … I feel we have come a long way and we continue to reach beyond what anyone would have dreamed of in the 1970s.” She and her colleagues know they’ve been trusted with a precious gift — and they feel valued and inspired by it.

Posted by: Linda Tedford

Hygge Series: A tea for every mood

Like so many across the country, we're enchanted with the Scandinavian concept of hygge delighting in simple pleasures and curating "cozy." It might be the Minnesotan in us, but we're inspired to share our little bits of office hygge with you in a short blog series. Enjoy!

The world of communications consulting is often fast-paced, exciting and, yes, a little taxing. So how does the Lilja team stay energized, find our focus or create a moment of zen?

One word: tea.

We have a bit of a tea obsession in our office. When we’re feeling productive, frazzled, chilly or tranquil, chances are you will see us reaching for a cup of tea. Our selection is abundant, and our tastes are many. Here are a few of our favorite tea pairings.

To start your day: English Breakfast Tea (Ringtons)

Mary is the true tea aficionado in our office, and a sure sign of it is in her selection of breakfast tea. After a trip to England last spring, she brought back a taste for authentic English Breakfast Tea, known for being “full-bodied, bold and robust,” which she now sources online. Best paired with a splash of 1% milk to get you ready to greet the day.

To zen you out: Zen with a slice of lemon (Tazo)

Linda reaches for a cup of fragrant Zen green tea in the afternoons—often with a slice of lemon for a citrusy kick. According to her, this selection “gives me a sense of well-being.”

To warm you up: Constant Comment (Bigelow)

Most of the Lilja team are die-hard fans of this classic tea. Constant Comment is a black tea with orange rind and sweet spices guaranteed to warm you up on a chilly winter morning (or afternoon, it is perfect any time!). This tea even captured Leonard Cohen’s imagination, immortalized in his debut 1967 single, “Suzanne.”

The runner-up in this categorySweet & Spicy from Good Earth.

To replace a sweet treat: Organic Vanilla Rooibos (Equal Exchange)

Craving something sweet in the afternoon to get you through the day? Alicia recommends skipping the empty calorie bombs in the office kitchen (or hidden in your desk drawer) and sip this tea instead for a little vanilla sweetness.

To quiet your nerves: Evening in Missoula (TeaSource)

This fragrant herbal tea is another crowd-pleaser. With strong notes of chamomile, rose hips, raspberry leaf, papaya leaf and peppermintamong other tasty ingredientsa cup of this tea can restore your sense of calm, even in the middle of a crisis!

To combat the office cold: Gypsy Cold Care (Traditional Medicinals)

This selection is a favorite of Kate, who has two small children at home with a singular talent for catching, incubating and sharing germs. So far our office has had more than its fair share of colds and sniffles, but this tea helps to keep them at bay (and is soothing when you weren’t so lucky…).

So step away from your desk and go brew a warm, steaming cup of tea! The ritual will calm you, and the tea will restore you. Enjoy a little moment of hygge in your day.

Turn your internal communications inside out

Internal communicators generate some great content! From authentic letters from management, to feel-good stories about how employees are touching lives in their communities, to mini-successes along the way to fulfilling a long-term plan, and more.

And that content gets sent out in an email or newsletter, or posted on an intranet, or maybe it even gets discussed at a company meeting. But those stories can be so much more!

As you work to give employees a sense of purpose – helping them understand their role in the machine that is your company – those same stories can be turned outward for further benefit. Of course, this is a concept to be approached with care to make sure the content is safe to share outside the company.

Here are some ways your internal content can have external value: 

Reach out to prospective employees. As millennials take up more of the workforce, companies will need to work harder to ensure they’re feeling fulfilled and connected to the company’s overall mission, a professional characteristic important to this generation. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 40% of millennials feel strongly connected to their company’s mission.

Coca-Cola is often cited as one of the best company LinkedIn pages – and for good reason. Its content goes beyond the typical new product announcements and advice columns to share the smaller stories that reflect its people and corporate values. For example: the story of a Syrian refugee who is part of Coca-Cola’s vocational training program in Germany.

Sharing these small stories about how your company fulfills its mission can help make you an employer of choice, and give future employees a taste of what it’s really like to work there. What are the things your company and employees do that reflect your mission, unique culture and values? It could be big or small, and it’s probably already in your intranet or newsletter somewhere, so why not share those moments on social media? Keep your message authentic (and less self-pat-on-the-back).

Reinforce your messages to current employees. One of the oldest axioms in communication is, “Tell people what you’re going to tell them, then tell it to them, then tell them what you told them.” With the speed at which information flows today, it can be difficult to get your message in once, let alone three times. Why not increase your chances of getting through to current employees by posting that great internal story on your company’s LinkedIn page, or Twitter feed? They’ll feel like they’re just checking social media, with a little extra internal communication snuck in.

Ensuring the hiring and retention of a diverse workforce is often thought of as an internal effort. But some companies, including Google, have taken to publicly reporting their progress toward a diverse workplace with the same gusto as financial earnings reports.

Being transparent and open on these important issues can send a signal to employees that these issues are fundamental to the company. They may even get questions from friends and family who read about it, further reinforcing the message. 

Build trust among other external audiences. For many of the same reasons millennials want to feel connected to their company’s mission, so do your customers. Sharing stories about the inner-workings of your operations can help them connect more deeply with your company’s narrative and show how you live out your brand promise in an authentic way. Patagonia is well known for its corporate responsibility, an ingredient of its business that has been constructed over decades of transparency and storytelling and has secured a fan base the world over.

These small internal stories will help tell your organization’s broader story to a broader audience, helping to increase brand trust and affinity among a public that is clamoring for story now more than ever.

Posted by: Alicia DeMatteo