A series of short interviews with key speakers slated for SB’18 Vancouver. All speakers are asked six sustainability questions:
1. What will you be talking about at SB’18 Vancouver?
I’ll be helping to launch the SB Maturity Roadmap, it’s a new framework developed by a select team of SB Advisory Board members. It describes the attributes and path needed for a company to be considered a ‘Sustainable Brand’.
The Maturity Roadmap shows for the first time, what happens holistically in each chapter of a company’s sustainability journey. It allows you to plot where your company is today and plan a faster path to the next phase while maximizing the benefits right where you are. It applies to all companies regardless of leadership style, sustainability focus, industry sector, and rate of momentum that the company may have around sustainability. We specifically designed it as a practical, flexible tool that can help with both self-assessment and continuous improvement.
Companies are approaching sustainability in a very different way to the way they were even just 5 years ago, and we saw an opportunity to speak to this new path by capturing the process.
The roadmap is a tool that gives an easy on-boarding process to those early in the sustainability journey. Likewise, people outside of the sustainability department can pick this up and understand it; it has no jargon, no exclusive ‘eco language’, it’s deliberately very ‘welcoming’ and accessible. For companies that are already further along, it identifies challenges ahead and where you can navigate next.
Lastly, the tool allows companies to see and celebrate important milestones and successes. In our roadmap we delineate the rewards that come with each stage, and demonstrate how the rewards get progressively bigger, the more you advance. The companies that have had a sneak peak at it have enthusiastically embraced it, I’m keen to share it with the full SB community in Vancouver.
2. What is the most exciting thing you’re working on now?
At Iron Mountain we’re seeing the fruits of the last 4 years of carefully honed work. We are shifting our attention from one stage of tackling sustainability challenges onto the next. This can be difficult for some companies to achieve, frequently they achieve a certain level of success with their sustainability efforts, but they can get ‘stuck’ in place, not necessarily seeing where they need to go next. We are consciously moving into another stage, all while simultaneously preparing the organization for the phase after this one, almost as if ‘The Future is Now’. We are asking the same leaders to lead in new ways, myself included. The recent reorganization of our department shows the level of focus and belief in the power of sustainability to drive long-term business success, and that is thoroughly exciting to all of us.
3. What was your Personal Path to Sustainability?
Mine was not a gradual journey, it was very much a rude awakening! My first job was working in military aerospace, and then I transitioned into the renewable energy industry. I was lucky enough to work for a small company that supposedly went through a ‘very successful IPO’, but from my perspective I saw a caring company, become a company that cared mostly about the financials. The more we chased the dollars, the less sense it all made to me. I had seen it function as a mission-driven company with a core purpose AND great financials, so I knew you could have both. I was damaged by this experience but in the very best of ways! I left the company, completed my MBA in Sustainable Business and started trying to help business prove that we can be part of the solution.
4. If you could travel back in time what would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Learn empathy now! Be kinder to people; everyone has their own challenges and battles, you have no idea what they are facing. Don’t wait so long to be empathetic, don’t wait until life has broken you open, to develop an understanding for others.
5. What has been your proudest moment in Sustainability?
My proudest moment was when Barack Obama chose my boss as his nominee for Secretary of the Interior. He introduced her as someone who demonstrated innovative thinking and said she was an example of a new kind of leadership. The moment itself just felt incredible.
6. If you had a magic wand and could completely solve one sustainability problem, what would it be?
Inclusion. I would wave a magic wand and inclusion would allow people to work together without bias or prejudice. It would allow people to fully engage in the process with all that they are, they would be able to bring their whole selves into work and we would be able to hear each other. Imagine that, coming in, just exactly as you are, with all that you are. That would bring a profound and transformative change to the world of sustainability.
Kevin Hagen, Vice President Environment, Social & Governance (ESG) Strategy of Iron Mountain, was in conversation with Etienne White. Some answers have been edited to fit a shorter format.
April 9, 2018