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.
Michelle Crozier Yates: I joined Adobe in March 2012, where I’m the Director of CSR at Adobe and Executive Director of the Adobe Foundation and responsible for Adobe’s overall CSR strategy, management, and reporting. Prior to joining Adobe, I was Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Warner Bros. Entertainment, part of Time Warner, where for 10 years I was responsible for a range of CSR programs, including employee and community engagement, sustainability, philanthropy, ethical sourcing, stakeholder engagement, and reporting.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
MCY: The cornerstone of Adobe’s sustainability program is our approach to green building. Adobe has been a pioneer in sustainable design, construction, and building management for the past 10 years, and in that time has implemented more than 100 sustainability projects across our real estate portfolio. These range from conservation strategies, renewable energy investments, waste diversion initiatives, carbon reduction projects, employee education and engagement programs – and more. As of today we have more than 23 LEED certifications, 17 of them platinum; our headquarters in San Jose is three LEED platinum towers that divert more than 99 percent of solid waste from the landfill and has net zero energy usage. We are always looking for ways to make each of our owned and leased facilities greener, and it is also a priority for our employees.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
MCY: When I was in high school I learned that a family friend, Richard Morrison, was SVP of environmental programs and policies for Bank of America – and this was back in the late ’80s/early ’90s when very few companies had such programs or positions. That was the first time I realized that I could work in “corporate America” and still have a job that would have a positive social and/or environmental impact on the world, beyond the standard benefits companies provide through their products, services, and contribution to economies. I sought his advice on how to start a career in the field and he mentored me with sage advice and letters throughout college, until his retirement from Bank of America in 1998. I owe Richard a great deal for his inspiration and guidance.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
MCY: After college I worked at the U.S. Green Building Council, back when there were only two employees and LEED was being developed. David Gottfried, the founder of the USGBC, was a visionary and passionate person to be around, and I learned a great deal about the drive needed to make your vision of the world a reality. In the face of industry resistance and a society that was not yet embracing environmental sustainability, I saw him push and drive every day, and that experience, though not explicit advice per se, was a valuable lesson for me.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
MCY: I’m proud of the development of Adobe’s first comprehensive CSR performance summary, which tracks our performance against more than 150 key performance indicators (KPIs) over a five-year period. We are increasing both our transparency and our commitment to continuous improvement in our CSR management and reporting, which are very important to me as a practitioner.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
MCY: Many tech companies are ramping up their use of data centers for internal operations as well as customer data hosting services, and it is challenging to manage and measure the carbon outputs associated with these data centers. As an industry, we should be collaborating more to share best practices, lessons learned, and demand more renewable options from energy providers.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
MCY: At work, my perfect day would be one in which a a group of my coworkers and I gather to tackle a tough challenge and have a breakthrough idea or solution that changes the way we see the future, in an exciting and inspirational way. I love those lightbulb moments that come from sharing ideas and experiences within a group. At home, my perfect day is one spent with my husband and 4-year-old daughter, who brings me more joy than I can express in words. If we happen to be on a white powder sand beach on a secluded island that day, even better :)