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The UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture (the UCLA SNF Hellenic Center) announced yesterday that it has named UCLA alumna Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks as chair of the Center’s Community Advisory Board.
In her role as Chair, the Greek-American entrepreneur, who is the CEO of ECOS, Vlahakis-Hanks will lead the Board in providing guidance to the Director on strategic issues affecting the Center.
The Board, in close collaboration with the Director and Faculty Advisory Committee, assists in shaping the Center’s activities. In addition, the Board serves as a liaison with the greater Los Angeles community as well as the broader Hellenic and Philhellenic community including other institutions, philanthropic organizations, charitable foundations, and churches.
Through the Center’s programs and collaborations, the Board also helps forge close connections between Greece and Los Angeles.
“Ms. Vlahakis-Hanks embodies the broad mission of the UCLA SNF Hellenic Center,” said Sharon Gerstel, Director of the UCLA SNF Hellenic Center, professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology, and George P. Kolovos Family Centennial Term Chair in Hellenic Studies in a statement announcing her appointment.
Vlahakis-Hanks promoted Hellenic studies as undergraduate at UCLA
“Even as an undergraduate at UCLA she worked tirelessly to promote Hellenic Studies on our campus. Her unwavering commitment to Hellenism was also demonstrated through her work for the American Hellenic Council. We are fortunate to have as the head of our Board an innovative leader and a businesswoman with a global vision.”
Vlahakis-Hanks stated “This is an exciting time for the Center. I look forward to collaborating with Dr. Gerstel and my fellow Board members. Expanding the Center’s reach—both locally and globally—will ultimately benefit students and the Hellenic American community overall.”
As President and CEO of the firm founded by her father, Vlahakis-Hanks leads the strategy and production of environmentally friendly cleaning products at ECOS. She oversees four geographically diverse facilities across the US as well as a manufacturing facility in Greece.
She has been widely recognized for her leadership at ECOS and her influential voice in the green movement, corporate social responsibility, and sustainable manufacturing, including placing the manufacturing facilities on a carbon-positive footing.
Vlahakis-Hanks has led ECOS to be the first company in the world to achieve the sustainability trifecta of carbon neutrality, water neutrality, and TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification. Her sustainable business practices have made ECOS a model for green business in the U.S. ECOS is a primary manufacturer that has received many awards for its innovations in safer green chemistry, including the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Partner of the Year four times.
Vlahakis-Hanks has made environmental and social justice a cornerstone of ECOS’ mission. As a woman of Greek and African American descent, she actively promotes a corporate culture of diversity and empowerment, with a leadership team that is 58% female and 41% BIPOC.
She supports a green economy by creating sustainable manufacturing jobs across the US and offering strong employee benefits and a living minimum wage of $17 per hour, one of the highest in the industry. She also offers financial incentives to employees who make sustainable living choices such as purchasing a low-emissions vehicle or solar panels.
A daughter of a Greek immigrant, Kelly has spent her life dedicated to Greek American relations. She served as President of the Hellenic American Students Organization as a student at UCLA, and later she served the Executive Director of the American Hellenic Council of California. She continues to play an active role in the Greek American community, supporting organizations such as the American Hellenic Council, the National Hellenic Society, the Hippocratic Cancer Research Foundation, and the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. She has established the Vlahakis-Hanks Undergraduate Scholarship at UCLA for students who demonstrate leadership in Hellenic causes, environmental issues, or community empowerment.
Vlahakis-Hanks received her undergraduate degree at UCLA and an MBA at Chapman University Argyros School of Business and Economics. She has been featured on CNN, ABC News, FOX News, NBC News, Bloomberg and Marketwatch and in the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register. She has received many awards for her leadership, including Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Powerful Women in 2020, Conscious Company’s World-Changing Women in Conscious Business Award, Greek America Foundation’s Forty under 40 Award, the American Hellenic Council’s Aristeion Award, and the CEH Athens/Livanos Award.
She is an active member of several boards and organizations, including the Environmental Media Association, Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), Abundance 360 and the American Sustainable Business Council. She is also active in industry councils and public policy advocacy, working to promote higher standards for product manufacturing that protect consumer health and the environment.
About the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture
The UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture (UCLA SNF Center) was established by a lead gift of $5 million from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and matching funds provided by generous members of the Hellenic and Philhellenic community of Southern California.
Located at one of the most prestigious public universities in the United States, the Center builds on UCLA’s strengths across many academic fields, placing Hellenic culture within a broad historical, transcultural and contemporary context. The Center supports a comprehensive set of academic and public initiatives, both locally, through strategic collaborations with organizations in Southern California, and in Greece and Cyprus, through partnerships with universities and cultural institutions. For more information about the UCLA SNF Hellenic Center, please visit hellenic.ucla.edu.
2020 one of most challenging times for entrepreneur
2020 was a turbulent year for many US-based businesses as the pandemic hit. But, as Vlahakis-Hanks explains in an in-depth interview with Greek Reporter, ECOS was well-suited to meet the challenge with its mission to protect the health of people, pets and the planet.
“I’ll never forget March 15th, when orders came at eight times the normal rate, which would normally have been a celebratory event, had it not been for the pandemic,” she recalls.
Cleaning products are the number one weapon in the war on Covid-19. People need them more than ever. Demand from hospitals, care facilities and residential homes has skyrocketed. People rushed to the stores, concerned that the supply chain would be disrupted.
“When the entire world shut down, we had to ramp up to meet the unprecedented global demand for cleaning products,” Vlahakis-Hanks says. For her, 2020 was a very challenging year because, as she says, “the most important thing for me was to protect my team and to keep them safe and healthy.”
ECOS put immediately in place strict safety protocols, including six-foot spacing, mask and glove use, frequent handwashing, temperature checks, and increased cleaning and disinfecting.
In addition, renowned experts were invited to speak to the team on new developments about Covid-19, and the company expanded its already generous sick pay policy to allow sick employees to use vacation time without standard notice.
“We literally had t-shirts saying ‘Stay 6 feet apart,’” Vlahakis-Hanks says. “We’re still constantly updating our protocols to follow the latest science to protect our team.”
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