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.
Andrea Learned: I’m a thought leadership and business development consultant specializing in social content and social media engagement strategies. I work mainly, but not solely, with sustainability and CSR-focused clients. Helping them amplify their work and forward that business movement is my passion. Overall, I’ve been in marketing consulting for 25+ years, which includes about 10 years of deep expertise in marketing to women (I co-authored the book, Don’t Think Pink). Starting in about 2009, I transitioned into my sustainability-focused corporate leadership and B2B communications consulting.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
AL: I am a sole proprietor (Learned On) with an extremely low “company” footprint, so I’ll answer this question with how it has evolved in my thinking. When I first realized how much my personal values were reflected in my own purchases and in the types of clients I worked with, it was all about better communicating the direct message of “green” or “sustainability.” As both my interest and knowledge have deepened, I’ve become more interested in business development strategies and helping corporate leaders “socialize” their sustainability wisdom – so that it is more indirect, or as I often call it: sustainability hidden in plain sight. Also, where I began my career with more of a B2C marketing and messaging focus, I now concentrate on the individual, professional development angle. This, to me, lends itself to building a “sustainable” pipeline of sustainability and CSR-focused leaders for years to come. I can be much more passionate about socializing sustainability thought leadership than I could be about specific consumer-facing products or services.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
AL: I’d have to say my peers in the Goddard College Master’s in Sustainable Business and Communities program. I was one of the few “capitalists” in the bunch, so I was incredibly influenced by the energy, determination and passion so many of them showed in starting their own nonprofits, developing community funding sources and creating a better world through innovative and grassroots models. Spending time with these mainly significantly younger people in a gorgeous setting in Vermont every few months only helped us forge stronger bonds.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
AL: It may just have been the bumper sticker (and then a series of friends and mentors reminding me of it along the way), but it is this: Question assumptions. I keep that in mind personally (how I’ve gone about building my business), and I advise clients to do the same with what they write and share.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
AL: I get a charge from helping younger people see broader career possibilities and helping them learn to network in the sustainability community (using social media, of course!). If I can pass my knowledge along, and save a future sustainability leader a few steps, I absolutely love it.
As someone who has written about the gender lens on sustainability leadership for a while now, I am also still very proud of a piece of mine that published in The Solutions Journal in early 2011: Gender and the Sustainable Brain.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
AL: To help corporate clients see that, if you engage wisely on social media, no one is “competition.” Everything you do/share should be a body of work that elevates and amplifies the good of the industry (and you will get noticed for it, and be differentiated by it, without a doubt).
3p: Describe your perfect day.
AL: Riding my bike to a meeting in downtown Seattle, coming home and walking my dogs, and having a client or two say, “Wow – I get it,” about social media engagement. Pretty simple.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and @anewell3p on Twitter.