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: Name and title. Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Nikki Korn: I am the Principal of Cause Consulting. I am lucky to be able to co-lead a strategy firm committed to helping companies and nonprofits simultaneously strengthen business and impact society. Every day I am inspired by my work coaching organizations on how to be intentional and strategic in their approach to CSR and sustainability. With some clients just beginning their CSR journeys, and others charting new territory, together, we get to cause change.
Over the past 20 years in this rapidly evolving field, I have sought out new ways to integrate my passion for social issues, communities, and marketing communications. From Washington, DC-based public affairs and foundation consulting, to product marketing, and then to cause and corporate responsibility, I am having a ball.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
NK: We launched our firm with the belief that it does not matter what a company calls it – sustainability, corporate responsibility, CSR – as long as it has a shared vision and common language to set goals, develop strategies, and cause change. Today, ten years later, in a CSR field that is increasingly sophisticated and diverse, this intentional approach is more important than ever. Thus, at our firm, we are looking for new ways to take action, communicate, and inspire. We are aligning around the power of shared purpose and values; enhancing brands to unify the diverse elements of CSR; and harnessing storytelling and visuals to mobilize stakeholders.
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
NK: In the late 1990s, I had the pleasure of working closely with the team at Chevrolet to build a cause initiative called Chevy R.O.C.K. (Reaching Out to Communities and Kids). The person at the helm of Chevrolet was Kurt Ritter. He is one of the smartest, humblest, and most inspiring leaders I have ever worked with. He knew his people, his business and his role. He would listen, ask great questions, provide concrete direction, and trust we’d get there. At every meeting, I remember him asking each of us for our opinions, before offering his own. He was a great coach! Kurt helped me recognize the power of guiding and coaching other professionals on their CSR journeys, joining with them and bringing out their talents, knowledge and expertise to achieve success.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
NK: “Stop, take a long, deep breath, and plan out where you want to go.” As an athlete, this has always stuck with me. Applied to the CSR field, it means be intentional! Make sure you build well-thought-out strategies that generate short-term, meaningful “wins,” allowing the long-term results to come.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
NK: I am psyched that Cause Consulting is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2014. Time flies. I am incredibly proud of my expanding team and how they continuously bring creative solutions and big ideas to the table. Moving into our new, larger office space took some patience and hard work on everyone’s part, but now it is home.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
NK: I believe that great brands have a deeper purpose and DNA beyond being just a great product or service. I wish that more marketers, especially pure brand marketers, would seek out and embed a human and societal dimension into their brand’s promise and experience. I love working with marketing teams and it’s often these teams that have the most power and assets to truly cause positive societal and business change. So…why is it often so hard to get them on board? I’d love to change this, and I’ll keep trying…
3p: Describe your perfect day.
NK: My perfect day starts in Warren, Vermont where I am blessed to spend family time vacationing. After sleeping in and grabbing a three-shot latte, I head to the courts for a good two hours of tennis. Then, off to “my” quintessential, local country Warren Store for a sandwich on their fresh French bread. Eating outside by the Mad River, we catch some rays and relax. The irony is that I love sitting on the rocks by the river, but even on the hottest day will rarely be found jumping into that icy water. Up again for more tennis, a nap, and finally to Flatbread for the best pizza in the world at their amazing outdoor setting. The evening always ends with lots of snuggles with my kids and my husband. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, it is our special, happy place.
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.