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.
Aman Singh: I am the Editorial Director at CSRwire. I lead content distribution, social media strategy - for clients and our own - CSR/sustainability reporting services and other editorial functions, including managing CSRwire's commentary section Talkback. I have worked with Fortune 500 companies as well as the country's leading nonprofits and academic institutions on creating and implementing communication strategies focused on stakeholder engagement and behavior change, including Unilever, Verizon, SAP, ARAMARK, Campbell Soup, Sodexo, EarthShare, Points of Light and others.
I am a student of journalism and started my career right after graduating from high school at Tehelka, a website based out of New Delhi, India, that at that time was known for its investigatory exposes and cutting-edge reporting. Along the way, I've worked at myriad outlets including ABC News, The Villager, Downtown Express and The Wall Street Journal. So I've been in the "business of writing and editing" for over 15 years. But I turned my focus to CSR and sustainability during the 2008 recession when things were crumbling around us economically and responsibility - both corporate and personal - seemed in short supply. Since then I have written for numerous publications including Forbes, Bloomberg, CNBC, The Vault, Greenbiz, and TriplePundit.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
AS: We have several CSR and sustainability programs in place including a community program where my colleagues in Springfield, Mass. - where CSRwire is headquartered - mentor teenagers who often have been convicted of crimes and lack male role models to lead economically viable careers. We mentor social enterprises through the Gasoline Alley Foundation, also started by CSRwire CEO Joe Sibilia.
Our sustainability programs include offsetting our carbon usage, installing motion detector lights in our offices, monitoring our energy use, recycling all paper and plastic, donating deposit bottles and cans to homeless neighbors on the street, composting all food waste, nurturing over 100 living plants inside our buildings, building our own furniture out of recycled materials, providing a forum and space for aspiring local artists, maintaining a library of sustainability books for local businesses, participating in a Community Garden Program, providing space for the local motorcycle club of public safety officials, holding a live demonstration of PCP, renting street lights from the local utility company for the street we are located on (the city can't afford more lights and we have lights facing the buildings and the street), and committing to eating and shopping locally.
In October 2013, we also switched to 100 percent renewable energy using Viridian Energy's Wind Power Program. Additionally, we are signatories to the UNGC and submit a Communication on Progress every year. We are also a benefit corporation and submit our progress report to the B Lab as required. Between the two associations, we are able to gauge and improve upon our sustainability efforts annually.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey and how.
AS: I met Campbell Soup's CSR VP Dave Stangis on the day of my first panel engagement years ago. Having always been the one asking questions and reporting on issues, I was nervous to switch roles as I am still most comfortable asking the questions! Dave took one look at me and the copious notes I had made in preparation (blame journalism training!) and said, "Just stand straight, look into the crowd and speak from your heart." His advice has since helped me lead hundreds of discussion panels and even do solo keynotes and presentations at conferences.
Jeffrey Hollender was an early inspiration as well with his mix of activist leanings and corporate experience.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
AS: "Boring is good." Said ever so often by my boss Elizabeth Wood when I was at the WSJ. Today, as I juggle my work at CSRwire, where every day brings new challenges and tests of my knowledge, patience and skills, and a newborn at home, her words ring oh so true in my ears!
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
AS: Giving birth and managing a newborn! On the professional front, increasing CSRwire's editorial capacity twofold last year, growing our traffic by over 60 percent and working with some of the best people and brands in sustainability.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
AS: Change the way PR and marketing professionals analyze "success." And train the entire industry on how to contextualize CSR and sustainability at their organizations. Their models are increasingly outdated. With social media offering so much opportunity for authentic and genuine stakeholder engagement, organizations would do well to shed their skins and take advantage of these media to shake things up, face their challenges, get recognized and shift into collaborative mode.
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 email@example.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.