Please describe your role and responsibilities, how many years you have been in the company?
I joined Australia Post as Head of Corporate Responsibility 4 years ago. I lead a smart, savvy yet small team of sustainability professionals. We work across our diverse business to address any negative social and environmental impacts, while leveraging our core assets and capabilities to deliver value for our business, customers and the community. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are the backbone of our approach to corporate responsibility at Australia Post, and we’ve been playing a domestic leadership role in championing the SDGs since they came into effect in 2016.
What was your background previously and where did your interest in community begin?
I have a diverse background with experience working in Government, NGOs and the business sector. I began my career working in communications roles in Government, and I was then drawn to working for Intrepid Travel in South East Asia, due to their emphasis on ”responsible travel” and supporting the communities in which they operate. Intrepid’s philosophy pre-dated the mainstreaming of corporate responsibility. It was really inspiring to me at the time.
Living in Asia, I had greater visibility of poverty and human rights abuses, and this sparked a passion in me to work for the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Government-in-Exile in Northern India. I specialised in the Sino-Tibetan dialogue and related economic development and religious freedoms issues for a few years, later doing this work while based in Europe and the States. I then returned to Australia and transitioned to campaigning on other human rights and development issues, including growing the aid budget and addressing human trafficking and child labour, now commonly referred to as “modern slavery”. Increasingly, I saw human rights abuses perpetrated by companies, and this lead me to what I do today, working in corporate responsibility.
How has your community investment program evolved at your company?
For over 200 years, Australia Post has provided access to essential services that connect people, businesses and communities across Australia and to the world. As Australia’s largest retailer with a presence in most communities, we’re also one of Australia’s largest employers and most-trusted brands, so there is a clear social purpose that underpins our community investment program.
In the past, we had quite a traditional approach to community investment with a select number of flagship partnerships. But in recent years, we’ve been inspired by the notion of creating shared value, where we leverage our assets and capabilities to address those social and environmental issues that align to our business strategy. Today we’re focused on: facilitating a circular economy; increasing digital literacy; and creating inclusive communities. These issues directly impact our people, customers and communities, so it makes sense that we address them.
What are the challenges you encounter in driving the sustainability agenda and how do you stay inspired?
Sustainability is a core aspect of the modern business agenda, and there’s no doubt that companies are expected to report against a triple bottom line these days. That said, there are still people in business who hold the Friedman view that the only social responsibility of business is to increase profits. This perspective can be challenging to encounter. But our changing environmental, social and economic landscape is forcing people to think differently. And it’s the thinkers, students, film makers and business leaders who are willing to change and innovate in the face of these challenges that inspire me each day.
What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?
One very recent accomplishment I’m particularly proud of is finalising Australia Post’s new 3-year Corporate Responsibility Plan, which is our most ambitious sustainability strategy to date. It sets out bold public-facing commitments and aspirations for the future, which align to the Sustainable Development Goals. This took months of research, consideration of best practice and repeated engagement across all levels of the business, including with our Executive team and Board. Through the process I learned that building capacity and consensus takes time but it can also have significant positive ripple effects. Our completed plan is just the foundation though and I’m excited to see what will spring from it. We’ll be launching our new Corporate Responsibility Plan soon, so watch this space…!
What is your motto in life?
“Change is the only constant”