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: Name and title. Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Kabira Hatland: I am vice president with OgilvyEarth, a sustainability practice in the Ogilvy global network. I joined OgilvyEarth more than two years ago. I am part of the practice leadership team where we focus on bringing best-in-class sustainability communications counsel and programming to our clients. My background has been in corporate and environmental communications and that’s my focus at OgilvyEarth as well. My work has included leading a global brewer’s thought leadership campaign in the arena of sustainable water use and providing strategic counsel for global sustainability clients ranging from food packaging and supermarkets to clean technology and waste to energy solutions.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
KH: Ogilvy’s parent company, WPP, reports on sustainability progress on behalf of its global network of communications agencies and has been doing so for the past ten years. They have five focus areas for their sustainability efforts and reporting. They are: social and environmental impact of our work for clients; marketing ethics; employee health and development; environment – including climate change, water, waste and recycling; and social investment, including pro bono work, donations to charity and employee volunteering.
I’m proud that our company makes these efforts to “walk the talk” when it comes to sustainability. WPP is included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and FTSE4Good, and scored 81 percent in the 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project. This helps with our credibility when we meet with clients because we’re on the same path they are.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
KH: At a previous company, I had the opportunity to work with a CEO who’d come from Nike. He really brought a new mindset regarding corporate responsibility — it’s standard today but wasn’t at the time, almost ten years ago. He moved the company forward on the spectrum from risk mitigation to transparent reporting, business innovation through better business practices and a broader notion of social good beyond philanthropy. I worked on our responsibility initiatives as the company’s lead communicator, but you quickly begin to see that it’s all interrelated — supply chain, sales, marketing, internal and external communications. A holistic viewpoint is critical for success and for credibility. Sustainability must always be more than just window dressing.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
KH: As a woman in business, I have a different style of working and of leadership than my male colleagues do. Earlier in my career, I wasn’t sure if this was okay and I didn’t get much coaching on it. A year or so ago, I had a female leader tell me to just lead how I lead, it’s more than enough. I think it’s true as the workforce becomes more diverse that we’ve got to learn to appreciate different approaches and perspectives because we all come from our own backgrounds and experiences – cultural, generational, gender. Leadership becomes a much more personal endeavor, it means bringing your best self to work and always trying to bring that out in your colleagues and your teams. Not that I manage that every day but I do try.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
KH: I recently managed a team that involved colleagues from offices across the U.S., across various communications disciplines to craft a strategic plan for a client. It’s so easy to see only your small group, to work in “silos,” but the smartest ideas come when you’re pulling the best talent from wherever you find it. That often means you look outside your normal places, you meet new colleagues who understand the problem from a totally different perspective. It was thrilling to see it all come together as each person contributed what they were best at. What evolved was fresh, smart and timely thinking — and who doesn’t need more of that!
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
KH: I would abolish corporate jargon — particularly as it relates to describing your sustainability efforts. With the heightened visibility and democratization of communication sparked by social media, transparency is just a given these days. Be straight, tell the truth and fix things when you mess up. What we all learned in first grade, right? Stakeholders will reward that kind of behavior. And, people respond better when you speak plainly — it generates trust. Trust is the most valuable currency you can have in building a strong reputation.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
KH: I’m very lucky to have flexibility in my work schedule because communications is a discipline that allows for it. My best days are when I can get off early and pick up my first grade son at school, then spend the afternoon doing things he loves like going to the park or library, or building something with Legos. It brings me down to earth, slows down my speediness and reminds me what really matters.