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Meet the Women Helping Advance Climate Technology

Grace Connors of Charm Industrial is on a mission to get carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere  — and Taylor Wright, head of strategy and carbon management, Operational Sustainability at JPMorgan Chase, is helping her make it happen.

By Lib Aubuchon

Grace Connors wants you to think about sustainability—and the future of our planet—differently.

While many people are in prevention mode when it comes to climate change, Connors wants to remind us that it’s already happening all around us, every day. In Connors’ opinion, the deadline for prevention has passed.

Key players in the sustainability industry are focused on reducing future emissions of carbon to prevent further impact on climate change. But, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for the world to meet international climate targets, carbon removal from the atmosphere is an important piece of the puzzle. That’s why Conners, as Head of Development and Testing at Charm Industrial, is focused on decreasing the overall warming effect of greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, by permanently removing it from our atmosphere.

As a leader at a carbon removal technology company, Connors is front and center in the fight for a sustainable future.

“I’ve always been attracted to big problems” says Connors. “I’m here to problem solve.”

Charm Industrial has removed 6,400 tons of carbon from the atmosphere to date, with plans to expand operations in America’s heartland in the coming years, according to the company’s reporting. This is made possible, in part, through the support from companies like JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase is working to help scale the growth and development of carbon removal technologies, as a part of its approach to advancing a low carbon economy. In May 2023, it announced one of the largest carbon removal purchases to date. This includes purchasing $200 million in high quality, durable carbon dioxide removal credits in an effort to remove and store 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide. As part of this announcement, the financial services firm signed a deal with Charm Industrial to remove and store 28,500 tons of carbon dioxide over five years using its bio-oil technique.

“I'm proud to be part of a team at JPMorgan Chase that is driving this work forward, and I'm always inspired by the women who are leading this work in the broader climate action space,” says Taylor Wright, head of strategy and carbon management, Operational Sustainability at JPMorgan Chase.

Read on to learn how Connor is getting carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the gender-norm challenges she faces in the industry, where her passion for sustainability comes from, and why she’s optimistic for the future.

To Connors, sustainability is personal

“The first time I started thinking about climate change was when I was in fifth grade,” says Connors. “My uncle lost his house in Hurricane Katrina [in 2005], and the more I learned about what had happened and how the sea level was rising, [the more] I became very interested in...how I can actually mitigate what’s happening to our planet.”

Today, her work at Charm Industrial allows her to put energy toward tackling climate change. “I feel a sense of urgency to do my job and do it well, to scale Charm Industrial’s technology to the point where we can really have a chance at reducing the overall level of carbon in the atmosphere,” Connors says. “It’s my duty to keep working as hard as I can and keep my team motivated.”

She wants organic waste to help save the planet.

Charm Industrial as a company is all about using organic matter in a way that’s unexpected. Through innovative technology and a process called pyrolysis, Charm Industrial converts waste biomass—like the agricultural leftovers from a corn harvest—into bio-oil before pumping and permanently storing it underground (a process called bio-oil sequestration). The end product removes harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Connors has big goals at Charm Industrial, like getting 1,000 pyrolyzers—the machines that convert waste into bio-oil—in the field, which she believes would be a “huge achievement” for her personally, as well as for the company.

Charm Industrial’s impact starts in local communities

While Charm Industrial’s overall goal is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back to pre-industrial levels, the carbon-removal company impacts communities at the local level, too.

“I see the opportunity for Charm to employ a lot of the same labor as oil and gas,” Connors says. “It’s a very similar skill set. It’s just the reverse: instead of pumping out, we’re pumping in.”

In fact, a recent study conducted by economists at ICF projects that Charm Industrial-related activities could support 160,000 jobs nationally by 2036 and 238,000 by 2040 as they scale and grow. These jobs would require agricultural, manufacturing, logistical, and geological injection skills from the agricultural and rural communities Charm Industrial operates in. Not only does this work help future-proof our planet, but it also works to create sustainable economies.

Scaling green technology

Charm Industrial’s relationship with JPMorgan Chase has opened doors for the company, providing the company with a bigger platform and legitimacy within the industry, according to Connors. “Voluntary carbon removal is relatively new, and I think JPMorgan Chase has shown that there is value to what we’re doing,” says Connors. “That reinforcement at such a large scale has been really exciting and proof there is an appetite for the market.”

Wright notes how impressed she was with Charm Industrial’s mission and dedication from the start.

“Not only because of the innovative technology solutions they were developing, but also their passion for solving climate change and bringing opportunities into the communities that they work in,” says Wright. “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with many of these women who are fighting for a sustainable future.”

Connors isn’t here for gender norms

“I’ve been told I have ‘a lack of gentleness,’” Connors explains. “You wouldn’t say that to a man, but I don’t take that as an insult anymore. In fact, I see it as a compliment. I’m proud of myself, because that means I am direct, and I push for results, and I push my team to be better.”

Connors regularly works with an advisor who provides mentorship and who has helped her grow into her management role in an unapologetic way. Just as JPMorgan Chase’s Women on the Move initiative provides a collaborative network of tools and resources dedicated to advancing women at all levels of their career, Connors also firmly believes in the power of women supporting women.

“I’d like to think that I am showcasing to other women out there who are starting their journey in STEM industries that there is a pathway here for women to become leaders,” Connors says.

Learn more about how JPMorgan Chase is fueling the ambitions of women here.