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.
Anne Kilgore: I am Director of Sustainability for Eastman Chemical Company. As the director of sustainability at Eastman, I’m responsible for leading our company’s overall corporate sustainability program, including the development and implementation of our sustainability vision, principles, goals and project execution. Overall, my team is responsible for linking sustainability to our business and customer strategies, external commitments and performance tracking.
I’ve been with Eastman for more than 25 years, and have been in this role since April 2009. I spent the first part of my career with Eastman’s supply chain business, and prior to my current position was responsible for global marketing communications.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
AK: Eastman is a global specialty chemical company that produces a broad range of advanced materials, additives and functional products, specialty chemicals, and fibers that are found in products people use every day. As a company, we hold ourselves to very high standards and believe that how we do business is just as important as what we achieve.
Historically, Eastman has had a strong commitment to environmental stewardship, including the voluntary adoption of environmental management programs. As an example, in 1988 we joined Responsible Care®, the chemical industry’s leading environmental, health, safety and security performance program created by the American Chemistry Council.
Additionally, Eastman has long been dedicated to serving and communicating with local communities where we live and work. In 1990, we developed Community Advisory Panels (CAPs) to enhance communications between Eastman and the citizens living in the communities where we have manufacturing sites. And in 1993, we launched the Eastman Chemical Company Foundation, funded entirely by Eastman, to provide support to qualified nonprofit charitable organizations that create sustainable community improvement.
Even given this strong history and commitment to sustainability, starting around 2008, our executive leadership decided to take that commitment to the next level by using sustainability as a lens for economic growth. As an example, growing and maintaining our pipeline of sustainably-advantaged products is a core element of our economic growth sustainability pillar. Additionally, in the last year, we’ve become much more externally engaged and are working more visibly across our value chains and stakeholder groups on holistic solutions to challenges facing our world.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
AK: My niece did a Girl Scout project in high school to earn her Gold Award, the equivalent of the Boy Scout Eagle Award. The Gold Award requirements are very complex and include research, action, measurement and communication.
She chose to do a project about getting families to replace plastic bags with reusable bags. The entire project was excellent, but the biggest impact on me personally was watching her do the community talks at churches, schools, workplaces and civic clubs during the communication phase. I saw how her work and results touched people personally and changed their behavior on the simple decision to make a more sustainable choice when shopping.
It was a great real-life example of how small steps can lead to big change and the ripple effect from one person’s efforts.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
AK: Gaylon White, a former colleague, friend, author and all around great storyteller, once said to me that “Sustainability is a journey and it’s about progress, not perfection.” For an engineering and science culture – which typically has very well-defined goals with measurable steps along the way – this notion of “progress, not perfection” can be challenging. I’ve kept this advice in the back of my mind throughout my sustainability career. It’s a particularly helpful reminder when we’re working toward aspirational changes which don’t always have a clearly defined pathway to success.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
AK: In 2010, Eastman launched an employee sustainability advocacy and education program with a simple goal: to make our employees ambassadors of our sustainability efforts with customers, suppliers and communities.
Over the last two years, we’ve held sustainability awareness training on topics such as why sustainability matters and how we imbed our three pillars of sustainability (environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic growth) across our company.
A large part of this initiative was our Green Leader® Training Program, which invited leaders from all four regions to participate in a two-day training to prepare them to lead sustainability efforts within their functions and businesses. We just completed our third round of Green Leader® training and I’m proud to say that we had great participation from our businesses, integrated supply chain, and customer-facing teams. Even with busy schedules and competing priorities, we had an engaged group focused on leveraging sustainability as a value creating source of growth and prosperity for our company, our communities and our world.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
AK: Companies across our value chains would collapse business models to innovate holistic and sustainable solutions together. In looking at the number of challenges facing our society, imagine how much more effective and efficient we are when we work together to find solutions.
As an example, Eastman is currently leading a 50+ member consortium, which is working to find solutions to challenges associated with recycling bottles with full-wrap brand labels. The consortium includes a range of representatives across the value chain – major consumer brands, bottle manufacturers, bottlers and packagers, plastics recyclers and others. I’d like to see much more of this type of collaboration across our industry.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
AK: My son recently got married and most of our extended family and friends gathered for a weekend of visiting, celebrating, and memory making. Laughing together and living authentically – it doesn’t get much better than that as a perfect day for me. And it’s important to me that I do what I can to provide that kind of future for the generations to follow.