Monday, December 20, 2010

The Obligatory Year-End Post

Apologies to my handful of loyal readers (Hi mom!) for not posting in so long! Being in retail, every part of the business heats up as we enter the Holiday period. Add to that all the typical “year end” business (budgets, next year’s goals, etc.) and the annoying tendency for all CSR events and conferences to be scheduled in Q4, it’s been tough to keep up.

But today I find myself on a plane (yet again, but this time for an extended holiday break) with some time to reflect. It’s been a full year for me – one that marked a significant amount of change, opportunity and accomplishment. I do feel like I’m laying the groundwork for some very exciting and challenging work ahead, but I want to acknowledge some of 2010’s highlights.

Net Impact The 2010 Annual Conference in Ann Arbor, MI was simply incredible. From inspirational keynote speeches by Gary Hirshberg to Majora Carter, this year’s content was top-notch and continues to move me to continue in CSR. And as a Net Impact board member, I’m privy to some exciting information that I truly believe will help launch this organization to the next level. Liz Maw is an exceptional leader and I am thrilled to be part of the team. Everyone should stay tuned to what Net Impact has in store and make an effort to attend the 2011 conference in Portland, OR – the first to be held in a convention center!

HERproject – Our partnership with HERproject has already proven to be one of the most fulfilling initiatives I’ve had the privilege to work on. Attending the kick-off meeting at a factory in Vietnam this fall was an uplifting experience and I’m so excited to see the positive impact I know this project will have on the lives of the women workers in our supply chain.

Playing Professor – I had the chance to speak to an undergraduate business class on CSR at UC Berkeley and left inspired by our next generation of business leaders. These students certainly didn’t hold back any tough questions and weren’t afraid to dig deeper when I gave unsatisfactory answers! These kinds of events not only keep me on my toes, but also help me understand the shifting expectations on companies’ CSR strategies.

Engaging our Executives – Much has been made of the need to engage a company’s executives to gain “buy in” for CSR strategies, so I was glad to have the opportunity to spend half a day with some key executives and CSR experts. The rich dialogue helped to inform our CSR strategy and helped me understand where this work can connect more significantly to our business objectives.

Engaging our Employees – I was invited to speak at our quarterly all-employee meeting last week, something that’s usually reserved for our senior-most executives. Despite my nerves (A live audience of 800, while being simulcast to offices around the country – with our C-level executives seated in the front row!), I managed to make it through the presentation without fainting or falling. And since the presentation, so many employees have reached out to say how proud they feel, working for a company that invests in our CSR initiatives.

Wool Farming – I never thought my job would take me to visiting wool farms in Australia, but learning about more sustainable wool practices was definitely an eye-opening experience. This education helped to turn our company around on a critical issue and allowed us to take a leadership position on a topic that previously had been a challenge for us to fully understand.

It’s been a busy year and I’ve been a mediocre blogger, but I’m looking for more great things to come in 2011. I’ll probably add being a more prolific blogger to my list of New Year’s resolutions, but until then, I’m going to enjoy the holiday break and I hope you all do, too!