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 Sustainability Manager for KPMG China.
What are your main job responsibilities?
With sustainability becoming business-critical, I have the opportunity to work with many departments across the firm to enhance the company’s internal environmental responsibility. I consider my main role to be educating and inspiring our people by trying to ensure our office environment allows them – and indeed encourages them – to be responsible ‘green’ members of our firm. This includes organising regular second-hand goods collections, talks and outings, as well as ensuring sustainability remains an important part of our agenda. The aim is to ultimately work with NGOs and other businesses in the industry to collectively enhance our environmental performance.
I regularly work on environmental campaigns to help people better understand environmental concerns and encourage them to make good choices. Some examples include our ‘Eat less meat’ initiative, where we encouraged staff to commit to one vegetarian day a week as a good choice for the environment, the animals and their own health. In fact, our CSR team has taken the step to only offer vegetarian options at our own CSR events.
We also have an important focus on reducing and ultimately removing single-use plastics from our offices, and try to reach as many people as possible through articles, posters, videos and activities. While our Office Admin team has been instrumental in helping us remove single-use plastics from our pantries, I am also working with our Events team to try to reduce – and ultimately remove – single-use plastics from our catering. I am so lucky that the teams value these initiatives, and we can work together to try and source sustainable choices for food and souvenirs.
I am fortunate that my previous job as an editor gave me experience in communications, which helps me convey our strategies, influence change and make a positive impact beyond the workplace.
How did you get your start in CSR?
I think the desire to help came from my upbringing in South Africa, where my extremely kind and empathetic parents tried their best to help anyone in need. I started volunteering at a soup kitchen as a teenager and have always felt compelled to help. So when I started working at KPMG in Hong Kong eight years ago, I was delighted to find that the company offered a huge range of CSR opportunities, from working with children at our partner NGOs such as SoCO or visiting one of our four schools in mainland China, to participating in many fundraising activities.
In addition to joining our CSR committee a few years ago, which gave me a chance to understand what the CSR team was doing and contribute to their plans, I also began leading the Green Warriors interest group at the company, along with a co-worker. This group – which has grown to around 250 members and is still going strong – is an opportunity for like-minded colleagues to get together for talks and volunteer opportunities.
It was always my dream to join the CSR team, which includes some of my favourite colleagues, who are all committed to making a difference. After doing a course in business sustainability, I felt empowered to approach our senior management to suggest creating a new role focusing on internal sustainability. ‘Advancing sustainability’ is one of our key CSR pillars, and I am fortunate that they were willing to invest in – and could see the value of – this new role.
What is your proudest accomplishment/moment in your CSR role?
I feel most proud when I see attitudes changing. I am rather persistent (to put it lightly), so I try to persevere with more disinterested colleagues. When some of them come to me months later to show me the reusable cup and lunchbox they bought to reduce their waste, it definitely feels good. Some colleagues have moved on to new jobs and will let me know how they have tried to positively influence their new company to make more mindful choices.
I am also proud that KPMG created this sustainability manager role. It feels like an acknowledgement of the importance of the topic, and as the role progresses, I continue to be inspired by the support I receive from the firm and some very proactive colleagues.
What is the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part is accepting that change can be slow and that we cannot reach everyone. I am still learning that not everybody views a bin filled with plastic lunch boxes, bubble tea cups and straws as an impending disaster! I try to instead look for the wins, and focus on the ripple effect that small changes can make.
As told so Sonalie Figueiras, Green Queen Editor-in-Chief.
Check out other interviews in this series:
Photo courtesy of Stacey Wolpert.