Asia CSR Women Heroes: Pat Dwyer of The Purpose Business “You Don’t Get Unless You Ask”

In this new series, we celebrate the women who bring corporates to task from the inside, pushing for greater environmental and social forward policies. 

What is your full title and where do you work?

I am the Founder & Director of The Purpose Business.

What are your main job responsibilities?

The Purpose Business (TBP) is a network of experts who are all brilliant at different sustainable business specialisms – from strategy and futures-thinking, through risk, reporting & governance, to stakeholder engagement and communications.

TPB has grown quickly over the last three years and my role is bring these people together to help them use their passion and experience to help clients on their responsible growth journey.

Of course, I help clients identify their needs, and like everyone involved in sustainability, I play my part in raising awareness of how sustainability is crucial to make better, future-proofed businesses.

How did you get your start in CSR?

I started at NGOs working on some great projects with great community impact. I realised that real impact is in no way confined to the non-profit sector and approached Ayala Land where I had done an internship with a proposal to rationalise their philanthropic investments and volunteering programmes, and effectively became their first CSR person.  I then got thinking about how hospitality sector needed help, and following my “don’t get unless you ask” rule sent an email to the ten top hotels in the world. I thought no one was ever going to read it. But there it was – a response from Shangri-La’s COO! A few months later I got hired in Manila to oversee the five properties there, then moving to their corporate office in Hong Kong to develop their sustainability strategy worldwide.

What is your proudest accomplishment/moment in your CSR role?

I don’t consider that I have a CSR role. I help people and businesses prepare for the changing world and embedding sustainability right at the heart of your business is vital for future success. Less about ‘business doing good’ and more about ‘doing good business’.

That said, in order to run a responsible business, or in our case, help companies to do so, you must have people who can bridge hard business savviness with the understanding of the most pressing environmental and social issues. I am most proud (and humbled at the same time) of bringing together some of the most brilliant subject matter experts in The Purpose Business, and working together, we deliver on making Asian businesses be a force for good.

What is the hardest part of your job?

We often are approached by executives to help them make the business case ($$) for sustainability. One of the biggest challenges we face is selling sustainability’s $$ value. Some very traditional companies in Asia still believe that sustainability is purely a cost centre, and they will not pay for service in this discipline –  yet the return for future-proofing your business is clear (in fact there is no business case for building an unsustainable business!) TPB is helping boardrooms become more informed and we don’t want businesses in Asia to be left behind, unable to face the risks of the changing world. Things are changing, and although probably not fast enough, it is exciting to be part of the drive for a more sustainable Asia.

Find out more about Pat and connect with her on Linkedin and Twitter

As told so Sonalie Figueiras, Green Queen Editor-in-Chief.

Check out other interviews in this series:

Asia CSR Women Heroes: Rebecca Donnellan Got 11,000 People to Go Green Monday

Asia CSR Women Heroes: Ellie Tang of New World & K11 Concepts “I Feel Accomplished When I Convert Naysayers”


Lead image courtesy of The Purpose Business.