Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Robin Connell: I’m the Manager for Sustainability Programs at Del Monte Foods. I am responsible for the development and implementation of Del Monte Foods’ sustainability program, from environmental reduction goals, responsible sourcing to employee engagement. In 2008, I achieved an M.B.A. in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. I’d say I’ve been in the business of sustainability indirectly since UCSB (c.1996) where I studied sustainable urban planning and during my tenure at Dwell Magazine (c. 2006-2009) which focuses on sustainable art, architecture and planning.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
RC: Del Monte is over 100 years old and founded in agriculture – essential to our quality of life over time. Since the beginning, the company partnered very closely with its growers to develop the best varieties that are high yield and high recovery, as well as the best pest management practices that help reduce the need for inputs leading to reduced environmental impacts. As of late, the company is evolving from its continuous improvement efforts with regards to environmental indicators in our operations and agricultural practices, to incorporating the inclusion of environmental and social key performance indicators within our supply chain– complimented by becoming more transparent with our story.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey and how.
RC: My parents. Early on, they recognized my love for the ocean and the outdoors. They bought me my first microscope and telescope at an early age; Jacques Cousteau coloring books in elementary school; recycling books in high school; enlisted me as a volunteer at local food banks; scheduled a tour of Yosemite when I graduated college – it doesn’t end, I could go on and on and on how they cultivated my interests so that I would do something about it.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
RC: Eat your fruits and vegetables.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
RC: I am extremely proud and humbled by my fellow employees’ motivation and mobilization around sustainability issues. The manufacturing plants are making huge inroads toward reducing landfill by 77 percent as well as engaging their workforce to conserve and optimize energy and water. Our supply chain teams show support by assisting in the development of an ethical sourcing program and joining EcoDesk. Our Agricultural Services team is regularly engaged and active with sustainability research projects at universities and through the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops. Del Monte’s sustainability program and efforts are evolving and progressing due to the extraordinary, collaborative efforts from our employees.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
RC: Clone Paul Polman, Jason Clay, Gene Kahn, Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
RC: River rafting with friends and family while a French baguette and a beer or a refreshing cocktail await my return to shore.