In the U.S., 81 percent of Generation Z say they're looking for purpose in their work, according to a recent report from American Express. Many are finding that purpose in the corporate responsibility and sustainability fields. As this next generation enters the workforce, we wanted to find out what draws them to careers in this space, so we are publishing a series of personal essays from young professionals about what their new CSR or sustainability careers mean for them.
I first began to think about corporate social responsibility (CSR) more than 20 years ago when I played competitive junior tennis. The backstory of the athletic brands I wore always intrigued me. I remember asking where and how my Nike clothes were made—and by whom.
Little did I know that this curiosity would lead me to explore the topic of CSR in more than 25 countries, attend dozens of conferences, earn a Master’s degree in the field and, later, advise Fortune 500 companies on corporate citizenship and socially responsible investing.
In three years as an analyst at Corporate Insight, a private consulting and competitive intelligence research firm for Fortune 500 companies, I advised leading asset managers on the digital user experience across multiple channels. I discovered a range of industry best practices and trends through exposure to market events, product offerings, marketing and social media strategies, practice management, educational resources, and thought leadership. In blog posts for Corporate Insight, I wrote about how CSR, environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, and sustainable investing are influencing and shaping the current asset management industry.
My Master’s degree work at the University of Victoria was dedicated to investigating female laborers working in contract apparel factories in the Maquiladoras by evaluating the efficiency and implementation of Nike’s CSR practices. This work led to a role as a CSR researcher at Global Affairs Canada, where I analyzed developments in the mining sector to assist clients with off-shore investments and created an online CSR course to train trade commissioners stationed abroad.
As a former nationally-ranked junior tennis player and an NCAA Division I athlete, I’m especially hyped about sports brands that incorporate CSR principles. After captaining the tennis team that made it to the NCAA tournament in my senior year at Niagara University, I worked with members of the Special Olympics team in Australia, travelled to remote parts of Asia, and did a charity hike in Africa that raised funds for Right to Play. These were all experiences that taught me the powerful role corporations can play in extending sports opportunities to children and adults globally when they espouse responsible business practices that carry far-reaching benefits to society.
This past summer, at the Green Sports Alliance Summit, I heard from panelists about sustainability lessons learned at the 2010 and 2016 Olympics in Vancouver and Rio, respectively. Held at North America’s first LEED Platinum certified stadium in Atlanta, the conference gathered various sports teams, athletes, leagues, media and corporations to advance sustainability in the sports industry. I ate with biodegradable forks, sought shelter beneath solar installations, and met young trailblazers Sam Gordon and Charlie Nyquist who are challenging the role of gender in sports. I spoke with Bina Indelicato, a sustainability consultant who advises the United States Tennis Association, and was blown away by Tom Jones’s account of Clemson University’s expansive football game-day recycling efforts.
It was encouraging to see Atlanta’s rapid adaptation of sustainable practices over the past few years that helped it earn a top spot in Bloomberg’s 2018 American Cities Climate Challenge.
This summer I also attended the CSR Investing Summit in New York City that brought together industry leaders to discuss, among several topics, the expanding role of data analytics in responsible investing. I heard panelists advocate for companies to absorb more ESG risks and boost reporting standards to drive overall business value. I also heard Kevin Mahn speak; he sees a future where CSR will become the bedrock of all corporations, eliminating the need for more conferences on the topic. I echo his aspiration and am looking to further explore the importance of data intelligence in smart business leadership.
My next step to bring together my interests and my work is a forthcoming series of interviews with leading experts in the corporate responsibility and sustainable investing sphere. The conversations will be inspired by my interactions with thought leaders at conferences such as Peter Bakker, who spoke on the importance of bottom line corporate accountability at the Future-Proofing Enterprise Risk Management workshop during September’s climate week in New York City.
Are you at or near the beginning of a career in CSR or sustainability? We’d like to hear your story: How you got started, your particular interests, and the steps you've taken to activate your passion. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image credit: John Fornander via Unsplash
Danielle Grenier is a New York City-based writer passionate about corporate social responsibility and sustainable investing. She spent several years advising Fortune 500 asset managers on the digital user experience across multiple channels at Corporate Insight Inc., a private consulting and competitive intelligence research firm. Danielle holds a M.A. in Political Science from the University of Victoria and a B.A. in Psychology from Niagara University, in New York.