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.
Annie Longsworth: I am the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, North America. I am responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations – from projects to people – as well as helping to make sustainability irresistible through purpose-driven strategy, employee engagement and communications programs. I’ve been at Saatchi & Saatchi S about 18 months, and working in sustainability for the last seven years. I recognized the importance of brand and communication in sustainability early – back when just saying “eco” inspired cries of “Greenwash!” – so it’s gratifying to see core principles like transparency and authenticity starting to take hold.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
AL: Saatchi & Saatchi S is fully dedicated to sustainability every day, so more than a program, it’s simply how we operate. We are, however, constantly looking for ways to deepen our commitment and also to impact our global network.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
AL: I admire so many people who are committed to making change happen, especially Adam Werbach, who founded Saatchi & Saatchi S and hired me into my current role. But my career turned towards sustainability after a conversation with my sister, Amy, who is a managing director in the sustainable solutions group at PwC. I was inspired by her passion for the subject, and I now count her among my closest colleagues in this industry.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
AL: The best advice I have received is adapted from an Edith Wharton quote that says: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” It’s a reminder to me of how important our collective work in sustainability is, and also that as a leader, I am only as good as my team.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
AL: As part of a school project, my son was asked where he’d want to go if he could go anywhere in the world. His answer was the Pacific Gyre, which I’d been teaching him about through my work with Project Kaisei. The health of the oceans are a personal passion for me, and I love that my kids also care about them.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
AL: Within the world of advertising, I would like to see sustainability be an integrated part of every brief. First of all, advertising helped to create consumerism – I think we have a responsibility to redefine it in a way that better serves our world today and in the future. And second, the brands that will thrive in the future are the ones that recognize sustainability as a critical business opportunity. It’s time to expand sustainability from operations into brand.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
AL: My perfect day would start with my kids, husband and dog hanging out at the beach, either in San Francisco or on Cape Cod. Then we’d shop (slowly) at a farmer’s market and make a delicious lunch. I’d spend the afternoon reading, dreaming and just holding still for a while. At night, I’d hang out with friends, drink wine and laugh a lot.