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.
Karin Kreider: I am the Executive Director of ISEAL Alliance. I lead the overall strategic direction of this membership association for sustainability standards systems. I’ve been working in the field of social and environmental standard-setting and certification for more than 20 years.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
KK: ISEAL has been around for 10 years but several of our members (groups like Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, the Marine Stewardship Council, etc.) have been around 15, 25, or even 30 years. In the early days, when these groups came together to form the ISEAL Alliance, we spent a lot of time defining what was good practice for a standards system. Today we have become a platform for deep collaboration, and a catalyst for the entire certification and standards movement. Now, we talk about new ways to go to scale or how to demonstrate the impacts of certification in emerging economies.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
KK: I worked for a time with grassroots conservation organisations in Latin America and saw their passion and the direct connection they had with the work they were doing on the ground. They were so dedicated and passionate about their work, often despite difficult circumstances. Later in my career, I managed a sustainable agriculture program and was able to meet a fair number of local producers. They were inspiring in their commitment to improving their communities and their families’ lives through the changes they were making on their farms.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
KK: A corporate partner of ours recently told me to “focus on the mission.” It was a good reminder that NGO leaders need to keep the mission front and center, especially when things are difficult or complex. When we focus on the mission, it helps to provide the clarity needed to create positive impacts while keeping up with changes in the world.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
KK: This year we finished the creation of a strategic plan for our entire alliance that focuses on strengthening impacts as the driving force in our work. We are really a special alliance – a network of networks – and building a strategy in such a network environment is a huge challenge. Our planning process resulted in a stronger, more committed network with a real focus on its mission.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
KK: Sometimes I wish our members had the capacity to respond to every part of the world and every sector that has a demand for the improvements brought by implementing credible sustainability standards.
3p: Describe your perfect day.
KK: A perfect day would be spent somewhere in nature. A hike in the mountains, or on a beach or a lake. Preferably with no internet connection!