Who Is Karen Tempkin And What Lurks Behind Her Sustainability Consulting Work?

by William Skink

The Missoula Current has shifted from reporting on what consultants do with our tax money to just letting them write articles.

As part of its hilarious serious called SUSTAINABLE MISSOULA, a reoccurring propaganda campaign featuring people who get funding to study things as sociopaths transfer wealth to offshore accounts, a consultant by the name of Karen Tempkin describes the road to sustainability in business.

As a poet, I am deeply offended at the use of vacuous language that creates the impression of substantive thought where none exists. Tempkin is obviously quite skilled at this use of language, as evidenced by this little snip:

As an organization traverses the stages of sustainability maturity, it typically shifts from focusing solely on traditional measures of economic health (such as profit), to eco-efficiencies, then to broader governance, and environmental and social impacts. When people understand the stages better, they can then identify the metrics their organization needs to empower its individual path, goals and contributions.

This model of a “sustainability continuum” is based on the ideas of authors Coro Strandberg, Bob Willard and others.

I give zero shits about Karen’s sustainability continuum. What I care about is the bigger picture, and the bullshit art of consulting is increasingly something I think warrants additional scrutiny as it relates to corruption within local government.

Since scrutiny can be easily applied with fingers and an internet connection, I did some work this morning to see what Karen might be up to.

Karen Tempkin cofounded NimbleTwist Consulting. The website appears to be a one page place holder for Tempkin and her colleague, Travis Wheeler.

Wheeler is an associate professor of computer science at the University of Montana. I’m not sure what his role is with sustainability consulting, but he did get a million dollars recently for computer imaging work on DNA/RNA:

For decades, scientists have represented DNA’s and RNA’s genetic code as long strings of letters — sometimes, billions of letters. Reading this code poses challenges for both scientists and their computers, but it’s vital for understanding everything from tumors to ecology to a night of imbibing.

“For example, we can say, ‘That’s an alcohol dehydrogenase,’ which is of interest to college students because that’s what lets you drink without dying,” said Travis Wheeler, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Montana.

Wheeler, who was talking about the series of letters that define a particular protein coding gene, is the principal investigator on a project that recently received a $1.1 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health. It aims to label sequences of genetic code with a new tool: image-recognition software.

Maybe the link between Wheeler’s work and Tempkin is how much easier sustainability is when the government gives you money, I dunno.

Back to Karen’s bonafides, here is her a portion of her impressive bio from linked in:

Karen is a business consultant, thought leader, strategist, Six Sigma Black Belt, change agent and corporate sustainability professional. A passionate, driven and successful leader with experience across a broad range of industries and all sizes of business including women’s entrepreneurship, Corporate Social Responsibility, consulting, engineering, government contracting, operations and software.

Karen is a busy person. In addition to NimbleTwist, she also is involved with Her Corner in Washington DC. Another profile of Karen’s bonafides exposes more of her corporate work:

Karen was the first Business Corporate Sustainability Manager at Raytheon Company, has a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), is a certified Corporate Sustainability Manager, served on the board of directors for the Sustainable Business Council of Missoula, is a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (from both Raytheon and Intuit), Environmental Leadership Program Senior Fellow, a graduate of the Leadership for Sustainability at the Society for Organization Learning in Boston, and guest lecturer and business competition judge at the University of Montana College of Business. She has over 20 years of combined business, Corporate Sustainability, and consulting experience.


So Karen cut her teeth in the lovely business world by helping a death merchant like Raytheon create a bullshit sheen of SUSTAINABILITY and CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY as they produce weapon systems that our government purchases with half of EVERY tax dollar they hoover from our little money piles.

I’m beginning to think Karen can shove her sustainability consulting where her linked-in profile can’t shine.

As I poked around the virtual places Karen is connected to, the website Power House Montana stood out for the long and impressive list of women it helps network. I even recognized a few, like the current director of the Poverello Center, and the former City Council person, Caitlin Copple, who helped pass an ordinance in Missoula making it illegal to lay down on sidewalks, which almost got Missoula sued by the ACLU.

I wonder, what would all these empowered women think about Karen’s work for Raytheon? Would they think differently about Karen and the role of consulting and the cynical use of language that sanitizes death merchants for popular consumption?

I think I need to start sending out some emails to some peeps, see what kind of responses I get.

Stay tuned…

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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6 Responses to Who Is Karen Tempkin And What Lurks Behind Her Sustainability Consulting Work?

  1. TC says:

    The use of grandiose language to self inflate importance is so obnoxious. How anyone can, with a straight face, describe themselves as a “thought leader” and “change agent”?
    But keeping with the vernacular of the article, I would suggest that the Raytheon angle is squared with Sustainability through “Performative Liberalism”. Or more simply put by being a “Karen”.

  2. JC says:

    “thought leader”

    A euphemism for “propagandist.”

    Raytheon has a sordid history of opaquely working its magik by subversively planting its demon seed in society by employing/contracting with the likes of the Karens and Kevins of the world to do its evil bidding.

    I had a client about 20 years ago — a respected and trusted member of his community and “environmentalist” — who wanted me to contribute to some projects he was working on. All about sustainability and community connections, and thought projects, etc. Full of all the same sort of buzzwords and trigger language you’re referring to with Karen.

    I was aware that he did work for Raytheon, but was continually reminded that the work we were doing wasn’t connected to it. Until it became apparent that it was, and that was where the money funding the projects was coming from. Needless to say, my participation in the projects was short lived…

  3. Alexander Sleep says:

    Sustainability is one of many buzzwords for Agenda 21. Don’t build up, build sustainably.

  4. Pingback: Uncovering A Conflict Of Interest With Missoula’s Latest Affordable Housing Project | Reptile Dysfunction

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