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.
Molly Cartmill: I am the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Sempra Energy. I have worked for the Sempra Energy family of companies for 24 years in marketing, communications, community relations, government affairs—and now corporate social responsibility.
As director of corporate social responsibility, I lead a team of professionals who identify and respond to the environmental, social and governance issues that affect the company’s stakeholders. We work with more than 200 employees across our businesses to collect data, goals and results. We also gather stories of employees who perform outstanding acts of responsibility and integrity. Our work also includes getting input from a wide array of local, regional, national and international stakeholders. We develop and produce Sempra Energy’s annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) report and respond to investor-driven surveys and rankings. My team is also charged with overseeing the company’s political reporting and compliance program, political contributions and the employees’ political action committee.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
MC: Sempra Energy’s family of companies have performed admirably in a wide range of sustainability categories. We have adopted a low-carbon business model consisting of energy efficiency and state-of-the-art clean projects and infrastructure. These businesses serve more than 31 million consumers in the U.S., Mexico, Chile and Peru. This effort has also involved integrating smart meters, a smart grid and smart transportation programs.
Our roots reside within our 130 to 140-year-old California utilities and their rich histories. We have long been committed to environmental stewardship, and as such, have been promoting energy efficiency in California for more than thirty years. San Diego Gas & Electric was the first utility in the continental U.S. to voluntarily commit to obtaining 33 percent of its customers’ power from renewable sources by 2020. That voluntary commitment later became mandatory in California.
In the last 15 years, we also have grown several other business units with deep expertise in developing utility-scale wind and solar projects. Our other energy infrastructure assets include: low-emission natural gas-fueled power plants; liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, natural gas pipelines and gas and electric distribution utilities in Alabama, Mississippi, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey and how they did it.
MC: In 2002-03, in the aftermath of California’s energy crisis, I worked for a leader at Sempra Energy who heartily endorsed my study of the emerging field of corporate responsibility, giving me the time and resources to determine whether or not it might make sense for Sempra to pursue. I soon became an internal champion, believing we had an important story to tell. While there were many companies back then with lots of talk and little action, we were quite the opposite: we were doing lots of things right in the name of sustainability and not talking about them. We also had quite a lot of stakeholder engagement going on and we were learning some valuable lessons about the benefits of listening and adapting based on feedback.
This leader believed in me and endorsed my exploration of corporate sustainability. I believe this ultimately contributed to my being given responsibility for the function.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
MC: That a career isn’t defined only by what you accomplish: anyone can accomplish tasks, meet deadlines, write papers or analyze spreadsheets. Rather, a career is defined by how you approach your work and the difference you can make in the lives of others through your passion, your integrity and your willingness to lend a hand, listen to an idea, make an introduction or share an experience. Leadership is about helping others achieve their hopes and dreams; examine their possibilities; take their next steps. When you go to work with this in mind, you create a worthwhile and memorable career, regardless of how high you rise in the hierarchy of an organization.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
MC: We recently learned that Sempra Energy scored in the 96th percentile on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). The company made the DJSI – North American Index for the third year in a row, and was also added to the DJSI – World Index. We were one of only two utility companies from the U.S. to earn the World Index ranking. This, coupled with making the CDP Disclosure Leadership Index once again, is important and gratifying global recognition of our company’s accomplishments and our corporate responsibility team’s efforts.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
MC: The energy industry is extraordinarily complex and will go through more changes in the next decade than it has in the last century. The transformation from a traditional vertically-aligned utility we’ve always known, to an energy hub that is constantly adjusting to the intermittency of renewables, electric transportation infrastructure, and smart grid infrastructure is going to be transformational for our customers and stakeholders. If I had the power to make one major change, it would be to simplify our customers’ understanding of the utility sector: where it has been, where it is today, where it is headed and how they—and the environment—will benefit from these changes in the future.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
MC: A perfect day would be about family! I’m an early bird so a perfect day would fall on a Saturday and involve a little more sleep than usual, followed by a nice cup of coffee with my husband while getting caught up with each other and with the news. A nice long walk with our dogs in the fresh air, followed by some quality time with my two daughters, parents and extended family would round out a perfectly lovely day!