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.
Tina Roche: I am the CEO, Business in the Community Ireland. It started in 2000 and I am the founding CEO. As I work with enormously gifted people, my main responsibility is to ensure that there are no barriers to them reaching their full potential and having as much positive impact as they can on our work. Our work is to make Ireland the most responsible and sustainable place to do business.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
TR: At Business in the Community, we work with major companies on their responsible and sustainable ethos. When we began back in 2000, companies saw their social responsibility in the form of philanthropy and giving back to their communities. So you could have a business that, on the one hand, was dumping waste but on the other, was donating funds to their local community to support the local soccer team. Responsibility and sustainability were not real for many.
Resource depletion, consumer disgust, deeper regulation and global accessible communications have changed that and thankfully change is happening swiftly. Businesses are looking seriously at sustainability in areas like product development, workplace, supply chain, their communities at home and abroad, and their holistic environmental approach. I want to assist them by sharing experiences, best practice and stories. Internally, we aim to develop best practice in whatever areas we can and issued our first corporate responsibility report back in 2007. It is not a straightforward journey – often two steps forward and one step back, but the journey is powerful.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
TR: When we started my lens was human rights, and my view was that amazing strides could be made on social justice issues if corporate responsibility was truly embedded in organisations. So these fundamentals were built on by many people particularly Mary Robinson, who was formerly President of Ireland and James Lovelock the wonderful independent scientist, environmentalist and futurologist.
Mary made the point that we are all responsible and all connected. When we go to work each day we can be a person who brings about positive change. We should bring our values, aspirations and hopes and aim to change things for the better. James Lovelock points out that we are all part of this organic system and that we are responsible for its well-being or its destruction. I know which side I want to be on.
Many of our staff are inspirational in their understanding of the issues and the complexity in addressing them but carry on, regardless, in their efforts to “right the wrong” or nudge companies toward our North Star.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
TR: As Oscar Wilde said, “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never any good to oneself.” So I am a bit reluctant about advice as most people only change when they experience something for themselves or they hear a story that resonates with them. However, being Irish and having the chance to pass on advice being part of our nature, the one that has stood the test of time for me is “learn to make the right choices.” I think this applies whether you are choosing a friend, a new staff member, behaviour or food.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
TR: Three years ago, we invested time and resources in developing The Business Working Responsibly Mark which helps companies see where they have good, responsible and sustainable practices and where there are gaps. Recently, two CEOs of major corporations spoke of how it had affected their strategic plans and how it made them reflect on the fundamentals of their business. I am proud of the Mark and the team here who developed it and continue to develop it so that it really drives change.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
TR: I see the enormous power of business to be a catalyst for real positive change and a driver of a sustainable world. I would like to see more business leaders leading that potential and articulating and demonstrating how change can be affected.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
TR: A beautiful sunny day in the Wicklow hills as my large family and friends walk with us through the most beautiful scenery on earth followed by a slap up lunch in the garden. The conversation is flowing and we are solving the main issues facing humanity over a glass of delicious wine. Someone takes out a fiddle or guitar and music takes hold. Everyone sings or recites. The evening is mellow. When they all leave I discover my sisters have done the washing up!