Women in CSR: Joanne Howard, Spectra Energy

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.

Joanne Howard formalTriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.

Joanne Howard: I am Manager of Sustainability for Spectra Energy. I have been with the company for over 18 months. Prior to that I was the Vice-Consul for Energy and Environment at the British Consulate-General in Houston. I have worked in the energy sector for seven years.

At Spectra Energy, I am responsible for managing and advancing sustainability practices and integrating sustainability into strategic planning, policies, communications, and employee engagement activities. I also manage external reporting of Spectra Energy’s sustainability programs and environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, including publication of Spectra Energy’s sustainability report. I track sustainability trends and emerging issues to identify opportunities for continued performance improvements and development of strategic initiatives. Finally, I work closely with our Investor Relations team to communicate our ESG performance to responsible investors.

3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?

JH: The sustainability program at Spectra Energy began in 2007, when the company spun off from Duke Energy. Spectra Energy is committed to values that align the company with its customers, investors, regulators, peers, and the communities in which we operate and live. Sustainability has provided a framework for illuminating pockets of excellence in the business that were not previously well understood internally or externally. After we began to define our program, we then made a formal commitment to sustainability; agreeing on key performance indicators (KPIs), developing a sustainability report, increasing disclosure, and embedding sustainability in our goals.

Through our enhanced disclosure, we established a global leadership position, capturing the attention of key external  stakeholder groups. Through further implementation of our sustainability program, the company saw a significant increase in “responsible investment” from those, with ESG funds, policies or positions. Spectra Energy now is at the integration phase of the sustainability journey, and we have recently developed a three-year strategy, linked to our business strategy, that will deepen the integration of sustainability into business processes.

3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.

JH: The current Group Vice-President of Internal and External Affairs at Spectra Energy really enhanced my career in sustainability. At the British Consulate, I was focused on working with UK and U.S. companies in the areas of renewable energy, climate change and sustainability. However, my goal was to work in the private sector implementing sustainability initiatives corporate-wide. She gave me that opportunity at Spectra Energy!

Last year, I established a CSR roundtable in Houston.  The group now meets bi-monthly to share best practices and lessons learned. These CSR professionals are all incredibly talented individuals with deep industry experience, which drives an excellent level of knowledge-sharing amongst this somewhat niche community.

3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?

JH: Personality is the key to success! Be positive. Remain focused on your overall objective. And enjoy what you do — otherwise it’s no fun!

3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?

JH: I’m especially proud of launching the sustainability strategy at Spectra Energy and receiving approval from senior leadership within the company and from the Sustainability Steering Committee. I am now looking forward to implementing the strategy within each of the business units.

Joanne Howard informal3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?

JH: For people to see the value of sustainability and not see it as a “cost” to the company. For employees to have an intrinsic ownership of sustainability. Sustainability, like safety, needs to be an integral part of a company’s culture.

3p: Describe your perfect day.

JH: Being in Napa—wine-tasting, relaxing, and eating with my husband!


Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.

One response

  1. From the standpoint of a “stakeholder,” CSR at Spectra Energy translates to Cynical Social Responsibility. The corporate website promises commitment to stakeholders, integrity, transparency and accountability. Reference link: http://www.spectraenergy.com/Sustainability/Economic/Acting-with-Integrity/

    Yet when an alleged valve problem occurred recently at Steckman Ridge, Spectra Energy’s huge underground natural gas storage facility in Bedford County, PA, the company refuses to state publicly to its stakeholders how much methane and other hydrocarbons were released and for how long.

    Two days before it admitted there was a release, the company’s “Director of Stakeholder Outreach” dismissed community concerns by saying: “Nothing was released. There was no smoke. No incident.”

    Trillium Asset Management states publicly:
    “We believe Spectra Energy’s social license to operate is at risk and the company has a responsibility to implement a program of measurement, mitigation, and disclosure.”

    For more information, check out this well-sourced link: http://www.spectraenergywatch.com/blog/?p=1807

    Living with a Spectra Energy facility is a far cry from sipping wine in Napa Valley; but, perhaps, that explains much.

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