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Women in CSR: Dr. Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Macquarie Graduate School of Management

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.

Dr. Debbie Haski-Leventhal: I am a Senior Lecturer and the Faculty Leader of Global Citizenship at Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) as well as the Director of a new program: Master of Social Entrepreneurship.

I have been a scholar of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and volunteering for over a decade. During this time I have contributed to the United Nations State of the World Volunteerism Report, as well as to the Australian and NSW governments’ strategies on volunteering. I work with the United Nations PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) on academic social responsibility and with the Institute of Economics and Peace on Corporate Peace as to what business can do to enhance peace.

In 2012, I initiated the MGSM CSR Partnership Network, which brings together different stakeholders to create shared knowledge and research on CSR and inspirational practices.

3p: How has the MGSM CSR Partnership Network evolved?

DHL: The MGSM CSR Partnership Network came to be when I wished to establish a genuine and ongoing partnership between companies, not-for-profits, governmental departments and the academia that will allow us to conduct CSR-related research in a more meaningful way. With the generous support of Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, we have created a multi-sectorial and multi-stakeholder partnership. I lead the CSR Partnership Network through workshops, events, research and reports.

In 2013 members included: Johnson & Johnson Medical, Johnson & Johnson Pacific, Janssen, AMP, Brookfield Johnson Controls, IBM, Macquarie University, NAB, PwC, Qantas, the Commonwealth Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the NSW Department of Citizenship, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity Australia and the NSW Centre for Volunteering.

We have recently published the first research report based on this collaboration. The purpose of this research was to assess the factors that contribute to participation in corporate volunteering and to employee engagement. Over 4,000 employees from our partner organisations responded to the survey.

We found that the most important motivator for participation was "corporate volunteering makes work more meaningful" and that employees want to participate more when corporate volunteering really makes an impact. We also showed that corporate volunteering was related to employee engagement and job satisfaction. The findings can help employers to increase participation but it also makes a business case for CSR and corporate volunteering. Not all roles and jobs can provide a sense of social purpose and meaningfulness, but using the same skills to help other people and the community can.

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

DHL: There were so many people who inspired me that it is hard to choose. I would have to choose Prof. Muhammad Yunus, a person who moved from being a professor of economics to changing the world. As the founder of the Grameen Bank, Yunus saw problems as opportunities for change. Whenever someone said "no" to his ideas, an even more creative and daring idea emerged. He is also very humble and inspirational. For me, Prof. Muhammad Yunus showed that you could use your academic knowledge and power to impact society, policy and practice. As the director of the new Master of Social Entrepreneurship, I speak often about his remarkable achievements.

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

DHL: When I was studying organisational consultancy many years ago, my teacher told me something that I often work according to and cite: “If you present people with a solution, they would come up with a thousand problems. If you present people with a problem, they would come up with a thousand solutions.” I therefore try to avoid as much as possible presenting people with knowledge, theories and best practices, and instead strive to create shared learning together. This is true for the classes I teach at MGSM as well as to the research I conduct, such as with the MGSM CSR Partnership Network.

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

DHL: 2013 was an amazing year. Not only have we created the MGSM CSR Partnership Network and reported on this fascinating study, but we have also launched the new Master of Social Entrepreneurship, which will start in 2014. In addition, I have recently published a report with the UN PRME, based on the second international study on MBA students and their attitudes on CSR and responsible management education. Next week, the inaugural issue of the new journal “Business, Peace and Sustainable Development” will be published, which I am the editor of. Together with the Institute of Economics and Peace, we will soon launch the Corporate Peace Framework. It was a busy year, but I am proud to have these achievements that have one thing in common – creating a meaningful social impact and change and striving to make the world a little better for future generation.

3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?

DHL: Unlike most women featured here, my “industry” is different – it is the business schools in which future business leaders learn their business knowledge and skills as well as develop their ethos and values. Similar to the change we see in the business world towards more social responsibility, there is a shift towards responsible management education. The international surveys I conduct with the UN-supported PRME tell us that business students, particularly females, now expect and want to learn not just finance and marketing, but also CSR, ethics and sustainability. With 500 schools becoming signatory schools to PRME, the shift is happening, but we still have a long way to go.

3p: Describe your perfect day.

DHL: With the risk of sounding like a cliché, I am fortunate to live every day as the perfect day. I have a perfect job, as I get to do things that I not only love but also believe in, creating a social change. I have a family that I love, with my husband Paul and my two girls, Emily and Michaela. I live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world among the most generous and laid back citizens. And I truly believe that the world is turning a little better every day.

Andrea Newell headshotAndrea Newell

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.

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