Head of Corporate Sustainability at HSBC
“When I started out, this was an almost non-existent career. There was no logical career path to becoming a sustainability expert or a CSR expert. I was a classical ballet dancer, my whole life. And that's what brought me from the Midwest to New York City.
Luckily I had a personal friend, who was a recruiter for Goldman Sachs. And luckily, because she knew me as a person instead of the professional on my resume, she twisted my arm and said ‘there's this really interesting job. I know you've been volunteering with nonprofits since you were a little kid, it's kind of doing that, but for this investment bank. Just go in and talk to them about it.’
And I never looked back. I loved it so much. I spent four years at Goldman helping to lead what I still think is one of the best of the industry volunteer programmes. I also helped do the entire internal global marketing campaign to promote that to employees.
From there, I went to Toyota, and had a very different experience. Volunteering on work time was not something that was really in the culture of a Japanese-led company at that time, and so instead I oversaw massive philanthropic programs – Toyota's incredibly generous. In the US they have a hundred-million-dollar endowed foundation. In addition, we spent 30, 40, 50 million in corporate donations.
By the end, we were doing some incredibly innovative things, even around skill sharing, meaning taking the world famous Toyota production system and applying it for free to nonprofits. So the same system that made Toyota famous for building their cars effectively, efficiently without waste, very environmentally friendly, we would take and then teach to nonprofits for free.
Things like people standing in line in the freezing cold for a meal for 75 minutes – our engineers would go in for three days and that line would go down to 10 minutes because they were applying Just-In-Time and all these incredible production systems. Another example was an organisation in New Orleans started rebuilding people's homes that were destroyed after Hurricane Katrina 60% faster because of spending time with Toyota engineers.
That was really a light bulb moment for me, which was that the same things that make a company successful can make the world a better place if they're applied in the right way.
I was hired by HSBC and this role has pulled on everything I've ever done. It's really strategic, philanthropic giving that's tied to the business. I also oversee sustainable operations and sustainable finance, and I'm helping make sure that the US achieves that net zero commitment.
I really love what I do. I don't wake up and have bluebirds braid my hair and live in a cartoon fantasy world. But I am so grateful that I have a job that even when I'm doing the smallest thing, I feel like I'm doing something that matters.”
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You can only be successful and impactful on innovation when it’s linked to the mission and strategy of your organisation.