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.
Susan McPherson: I am a senior vice president at Fenton. I lead Fenton’s CSR practice and the firm’s marketing for our five offices.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
SM: For years my firm, Fenton, partnered with NGOs and advocacy groups. Over the last few years, we have grown our engagements with corporations because sustainability and corporate responsibility have evolved. No longer is CSR just a philanthropic endeavor or a cause-marketing campaign. CSR/sustainability in many cases is becoming a holistic and strategic direction for companies and systemic to the growth of their organizations.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
SM: I’ve been fortunate to be touched by many over my career in so many ways. Of late, London friends Diana Verde Nieto, Jo Confino and Niall Dunne demonstrated to me how progressive European companies could be, which helped me frame my baseline.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
SM: It sounds extraordinarily simple, but “Be good to others,” was the mantra I heard growing up, along with “Listen twice as much as we speak, hence that is why we have two ears and one mouth.”
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
SM: I just returned from Singapore where I was a Vital Voices global ambassador. As part of the program, I mentored an aspiring woman entrepreneur from Malaysia. Bank of America sponsored this incredible endeavor, encouraging cross-pollination, networking, and knowledge transfer from businesswomen across borders.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
SM: I would love to see the business world commit to a long-term strategy rather than always focusing on quarterly earnings and immediate returns. By doing so, we would be far more likely to see a return on investment in sustainability. Honestly, I believe that those who are shortsighted won’t be around in the future to debate the issues.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
SM: A long walk with my significant other and our dog in the undiscovered streets of Brooklyn, followed by gardening on our roof deck, topped off with a bike ride along the East River.