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Women in CSR: Lisa Manley, Edelman

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.

Lisa Manley: I have one of the world’s greatest jobs! As an executive vice president within the Business + Social Purpose practice at Edelman, I collaborate with amazing companies across many industries to advance sustainable business strategies and communications.

My team and I help businesses and brands advance strategies that earn them the license to lead in today’s changing marketplace.

I have worked in the sustainability field for about 14 years. Before joining Edelman (a little over a year ago), I was the global director of sustainability communications at The Coca-Cola Company where I helped advance the company’s communications related to water stewardship, sustainable packaging, climate protection, sustainable agriculture, women’s economic empowerment, workplace rights and active, healthy living.

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

LM: Edelman has a legacy of helping businesses and brands create lasting connections with social and environmental issues.

As an independent, family-owned firm, we put our people, our clients and our values first. That may sound like spin, but it’s actually really important. We build relationships for the long term, which is especially important in the sustainability field.

In 2011, Edelman’s global citizenship team surveyed all employees with regards to their interest in volunteerism opportunities. As a result, we focus significant efforts on global anti-hunger initiatives, providing grants to nonprofits in which our employees volunteer and organizing hands-on activities for colleagues to give back to communities locally and around the world.

Our award-winning global citizenship reports serve as strong testimonies to our deep commitment in this area. Overall, our global citizenship report illuminates how we as a company of more than 4,800 employees continue to become more in tune with the societal and environmental issues facing our planet.

For example, as a global services firm with clients worldwide, we understand the importance of reducing our carbon footprint. Edelman first reported its global carbon footprint in 2010. Since then, we’ve improved our internal tracking network globally to enhance the quality of reported data. Edelman is also one of more than 70 companies participating in the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) pilot program, a two-year interactive and participative process involving companies, investors and other stakeholders. The objective: publication of a global Integrated Reporting Framework by December 2013.

Lastly, we continuously assess the CSR and sustainability landscape at large to keep our clients informed about the latest trends and opportunities. Edelman’s Trust Barometer, an annual global study, shows that an extraordinary transformation has occurred over the past five years in drivers for corporate responsibility. In 2008, for example, the primary driver was operational excellence at 76 percent. Today, operational excellence is merely table stakes. Attributes that build trust today include stakeholder engagement, integrity, products and services, purpose and operations.

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

LM: My dad – as the first person in our family to attend college – instilled in me a hearty appetite for learning. He is always observing the world around him, and teaching me and my brother (and now his two grandchildren) about the wonders of nature. I recall fondly our hiking and camping trips from my youth. Any walk in the woods or ride in a canoe with my father included observations and insights about the world around us.

Although he would never consider himself a “treehugger,” he certainly knows how to live sustainably. For example, he used the same brown paper bag to carry his lunch to work for an entire year until it fell to pieces. And he used the same plastic cup for five years until it, too, failed to function. He simply won’t discard something until it’s absolutely necessary.

His thirst for learning, life lessons on the great outdoors and examples of sustainable consumption continue to inspire me.

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

LM: Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to learn from several supportive coaches and mentors.  I often reflect on two pieces of advice:

Do something you are passionate about because you labor too hard to settle for unfulfilling work.

Invest in people and relationships because success in life, generally, requires collaboration and teamwork.

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

LM: I recently attended a retreat with about twenty women who are actively advancing solutions to climate change. We discussed our current work, our needs, our worries and our wants. And we agreed that we needed to build a larger network of women who are helping advance climate solutions around the world.

We talked about a lot of things, including:

  • The need for a new “call-to-action” that truly will inspire and engage.

  • The role climate action plays in advancing economic growth as well as human health and well-being.

  • The need for more behavioral research to truly understand the messages and cues that will mobilize sustainable behaviors.

  • The importance of strengthening political will.

I left the three-day retreat reenergized about the work that must take place on this critical issue in the coming two years and inspired by the women who are helping to lead it.

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

LM: Corporate culture is far too focused on quarterly and annual returns which oftentimes impede investments for the future. We need to change the business-performance signals to allow for more long-term (sustainable) thinking.

3p: Describe your perfect day.

LM: Oh boy! After waking without an alarm, I would walk my dog, Finn, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with my partner. I’d fill the rest of my day with plenty of time outdoors, including at least one hour of exercise, as well as some reading and a movie.

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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