3 Questions With: Keoki Kakigi, Sustainability & Engineering Manager, Golden State Warriors

Name: Keoki Kakigi

Role/Function: Manager, Sustainability & Engineering, Golden State Warriors/Chase Center

What He’s Currently Working On: It has been a crazy couple of months. I just started a new role as Engineering & Sustainability Manager for the Golden State Warriors, after leaving a Sustainability Operations role with the Portland Trail Blazers. Since I started, I have been working strenuously to prepare our new Chase Center arena for its grand opening in September. Despite the long work days, it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of a project that is not just looking to operate the best sports and entertainment venue in North America — but is also looking to make it positively impactful for our people and planet. 

To illustrate this commitment, I am proud to say that one of my first big projects recently came to fruition. The Warriors/Chase Center is the first NBA organization to become signatories of the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework and commit to the goals set out by the Paris Agreement. Continuing to set the bar high for sports and entertainment to make a positive social impact across its wide sphere of influence is why I work in this industry, and I look forward to what more Chase Center can do once it starts fully operating later this year!

A render of San Francisco’s Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors.

A render of San Francisco’s Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors.

1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact?

I recall a very specific moment in 2015 when I was a young aspiring physicist working as a laboratory coordinator at the University of San Francisco. My friend nonchalantly asked if I knew about how my home island of Guam will go underwater in a few centuries due to sea-level rises caused by climate change. As a Chamorro (indigenous Guamanian) who was born and raised on Guam for the first 18 years of my life, I knew right then that mitigating that effect would be my lifelong goal. It might have been due to unfortunate reasons, but that instance became one of the most memorable and exhilarating moments of my life — knowing that I would be working on something that I could wake up proud to do every day for as long as I live.

2. How did you break into the social impact space?

It was really through happy happenstance when I was in graduate school, getting my Masters in Green Technologies at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. The homepage when I logged into my school account had an online job board posting about a Disney Professional Internship within Corporate Citizenship – Environmental Assessments. I ignored the post for a month, and it was only on a later vacation in Amsterdam that I gave the company a second look and realized the full scope and impact of what I would be doing. I applied from overseas, got the job and learned everything I know now about utilizing data science to measure environmental and social impact across the globe.

I truly thank my scientific background for the success I’ve experienced today, and I always advise people to either learn from or involve people who know how to tell stories with data on their projects. It’s one thing to start or manage a program, but it’s a totally different thing to be able to say you made an empirical impact, especially when making a business case to your upper management team.


3. What most excites you about social impact these days?

Two things have me very excited right now:

1 — The intersection of sports and sustainability is currently in its third phase. Phase 1 focused on venue sustainability, mainly through LEED certification. Phase 2 focused on extending the boundaries outside the lines of the arena and making a positive community impact. And now phase 3 – empowering those who do not have the resources to fight climate change, especially those most affected by it – is starting to catch on as a legitimate course of action for teams to undertake.

2 — Businesses are becoming more and more aware of their outdated habits. Simultaneously, more and more organizations are arising who are dedicated to helping businesses utilize social filters in their spending. For instance, whether you want to support an MWESB (minority-owned, woman-owned, or emerging small business), a B-Corporation, or a group that is part of the 1% For the Planet movement, there are many resources out there that allow almost every business decision to be filtered for positive social impact someway, somehow. I truly believe one day businesses will be able to make the majority of their decisions utilizing the social filters that are important to their organization.

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3 Questions With: Molly Ernst-Alper, Social Accountability Manager, Unilever

Name: Molly Ernst-Alper

Role/Function: Social Accountability Manager, Unilever

What She’s Currently Working On: Our new CEO, Alan Jope, recently spoke publicly about challenging brands with purpose to walk the talk and that Unilever only has space for purpose driven brands in our portfolio. This supports the journey our company has been on for a while but is inspiring for us all to hear. There is an exciting energy throughout Unilever around making a positive social and environmental impact in all elements of our business! It also means we are even busier driving positive impact in our supply chain and amplifying the work of the Integrated Social Sustainability team to support our brands. Check out our Human Rights Report to see some of what we’re up to – we will be releasing an update in the next year.

A sampling of Unilever sustainable products, via unilever.com.

A sampling of Unilever sustainable products, via unilever.com.

1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact?

I can't pinpoint a singular event but my parents are both educators and social justice activists who brought me to protests at a very young age. My maternal grandfather, Dr. Erwin J. Ernst, was a marine biologist. Visits with him were full of stories about his travels, Latin names of plants and animals, and being taught to deeply appreciate the planet. Around my house were books about the Holocaust, Civil Rights movement, poetry and photography books by the likes of Diane Arbus depicting real and often marginalized people.

Fortunately, I also had a couple teachers who nurtured students to take action and be activists and I was able to lean into those extracurriculars (didn’t hurt that I had bad soccer injuries two years in a row, clearly indicating my path was going to be less athletically oriented). So, with all of these factors mixing together, from a very early age I knew unconsciously and then consciously that social impact and human rights were going to be threaded throughout my life and career.

2. How did you break into the social impact space?

I had a very linear trajectory in knowing the space I wanted to be in early on. While looking for colleges I only looked at ones where I could have Human Rights as a major. That brought me to Barnard College in NYC. While there I made the conscious choice to intern at NGOs to explore the world of human rights. My final internship ended up being outside the NGO world at Eileen Fisher in their Social Consciousness department. I would say that was my ‘aha’ moment of discovering where in the vast world of social impact I wanted to sit and make an impact. I could see tangible changes I was having – the influence we had on colleagues and their actions as we collected and interpreted GHG data, social compliance audit information, and engaged them on human rights.

Right after college I worked in fundraising at the American Museum of Natural History. Just as important to understand where my passion was, it was equally as helpful to know what I didn’t want to do (but working at AMNH was VERY cool). While at that job I maintained my contacts at Eileen Fisher and found a role in human rights at a large apparel company and the rest is history!

I can’t say it enough: network, network, network. Ask people to coffee dates or phone calls. Informational sessions. It’s the best way to land your next gig whether you’re actively looking or not. It’s also fun to hear what other folks are working on!

3. What most excites you about social impact these days?

There is so much focus now on social impact and the role of corporations. I’m energized to see my peers at other companies, both within consumer goods and outside of it, working on exciting projects. There is an endless amount of work to be done and at times it can feel daunting. But to witness my friends and colleagues undertaking these challenges and having the support of large corporations behind them is inspiring. I love walking into a store, seeing products all around me and thinking, "Oh, I know the teams leading human rights!"

I’m also fortunate enough to work at a large organization with people tackling different aspects of sustainability. It is always exciting to connect with them periodically to brainstorm, learn, and discuss new areas of work.

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3 Questions With: Erick Bouwer, CEO, CIRCOS

Name: Erick Bouwer

Role/Function: Founder & CEO, CIRCOS

What He’s Currently Working On: CIRCOS is a sustainable kids clothing subscription service that grows with your kid. By borrowing and swapping instead of buying clothes, we help our customers save time, costs, space and resources, whilst helping our product brand partners transform their business towards a circular economy.

Currently, I am full on with the final stages of our first investment round, running our pre-launch campaign on Indiegogo, establishing brand partnerships and preparing for our service kick-off in September 2019. Gift Cards are now available to order at special prices here — they are a perfect gift and/or an excellent way to kick start your CIRCOS subscription. We are also on the lookout for ambassadors.

1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact?

After nearly two decades in corporate life as a creative strategy and economics executive in pricing management and commercial management, I went on a sabbatical and took time to explore my next move. 

Through my business network, I met some pioneering impact entrepreneurs and investors. At that time, the concept of ‘impact’ was fairly new to me, but I soon grasped what the combination of “People, Planet and Profit” could mean — and my sense of urgency to address particular social and environmental challenges grew as well.

I also started to realize that many of the entrepreneurs did not know how to raise the capital necessary to turn their brilliant impactful ideas into successful businesses. As a result, they would run out of cash, often way before the market had seen their product. In parallel, too many relied on grants as main sources of cash inflow. Although grants are great to get things like R&D going, I do not believe they always serve well as a business’s main funding source.

As a pricing strategist, my job was to translate products into profitable, monetary value and I had extensive exposure to complex product and service development for large organisations. 

So, I thought, why not deploy the skills, network and knowledge I acquired in my previous career in a more meaningful way, to big challenges where the stakes are high?


2. How did you break into the social impact space?

Impact investing is generally considered ‘patient capital’, with less pressure to achieve returns on capital invested compared to regular venture capital investments. However, impact investors still require a good business plan and great team before making an investment. I genuinely struggled to find founders with the ability to qualify and quantify an opportunity and develop products that address a problem worth solving for a sizable, serviceable market.

That was the beginning of Voyage, a Venture Studio I founded to join entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors in creative and collaborative efforts to build scalable, profitable and sustainable ventures for this new, impact-oriented economy. Fast forward four years, and I’ve helped 60+ social and environmental impact ventures move forward as an advisor and interim executive, assisting leaders with strategy and execution in support of commercial success.


3. What most excites you about social impact these days?

I get excited when I meet people with great ideas to make the world better, but who struggle to find a profitable business model for it.

That’s why the rise of ecosystems like Impact Hub and Fashion for Good in Amsterdam (where I live) also get me excited — I mentor companies in their Investment Readiness programs for start/scale-ups.

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3 Questions With: Chrissie Lam, Founder & CEO, Love Is Project

Name: Chrissie Lam

Role/Function: Founder & CEO, Love Is Project

What She’s Currently Working On: The #loveisproject grew out of a simple desire to find out what love means. We traveled the world in search of this answer and the responses were so overwhelming, we had to share them somehow. Since then, we've employed hundreds of female artisans in Kenya, Indonesia, Ecuador, Bhutan, India, Vietnam, Guatemala, Colombia & Mexico to share their love stories through jewelry.

We’re excited to launch our upcoming Love Is Project photo book: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. This book is a collection of stories from my last five years of travel and work with female artisans around the world. It encapsulates so much of what makes The Love Is Project meaningful. This book also gives readers a first-hand look at the unique cultures, talented artists and inspiring people who bring The Love Is Project to life every day. You can support the Kickstarter that will fund The Greatest Love Story Ever Told here. This book will also help fund future partnerships with female artisans, so we can continue to spread the love!

Click here    to support and pre-order The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

Click here to support and pre-order The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact?

My "AHA!" moment came when visiting the Maasai Mums in Ngong, Kenya. Inspired by the bold colors used by their tribe, I designed a simple bracelet featuring the word LOVE in traditional Maasai beadwork. I had the equally simple goal of helping to create jobs for their community.

With that bracelet in hand on a flight to Russia, I asked two strangers from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan what love meant to them. I then profiled them on Instagram. What started as a personal travel project transformed into a viral social media campaign in 2015. The grassroots support of influencers spreading the word validated the “LOVE bracelet” concept and product-market fit, convincing me to create the stand-alone brand now known as The Love Is Project.

2. How did you break into the social impact space?

Prior to founding Love Is Project, I worked in concept design for 12 years with brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters. In 2012, I left corporate fashion with a mission of working with artisans around the world to create products and connect them to brands for market access.

I connected artisans and brands in a consulting capacity for a few years before launching Love Is Project as a standalone brand in 2017. Instead of leaving my experiences and network behind, I was able to to merge my background in design with international development.

3. What most excites you about social impact these days?

Ten years ago, there were much less fashion-forward brands in the social impact space. Branding, storytelling, community and product design have come a long way. It is exciting to see so many younger brands focus on social impact and sustainability. It is positive to see larger brands want to support and foster sustainable initiatives and development. I subscribe to Reconsidered to hear more about all of the above.

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3 Questions With: Christine Bader, Writer, Advisor, Speaker & Co-Founder, The Life I Want

Name: Christine Bader

Role/Function: Writer, Speaker, Advisor, Coach, Facilitator...

What She’s Currently Working On: I’ve just launched “The Life I Want” with my fellow sustainability writer, mom of twins, and American-in-Australasia Eva Dienel. We’re sharing stories of the people, organizations, and communities reimagining work so that it enables the lives we want rather than sticking us with the lives we’re stuck with.

Work is such a powerful arena, where individuals can express their best selves, and where organizations can channel people and resources to achieve amazing things. (Of course, the opposite can be true as well.) Work is where business, society, culture, and politics intersect—and by fixing work, we believe it’s possible to fix a whole lot more.


1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact?

In my senior year of college I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something that had a tangible impact on peoples’ lives; the banking and consulting jobs that my classmates were lining up for just didn’t make any sense to me.

I had a few friends that had been involved in City Year, the AmeriCorps program that engages young adults in a year of service in public schools – which met my criteria for work that I understood! So I signed on for what turned out to be a challenging and inspirational year, which I now realize put me on this lifelong (and very twisty!) path of service.

ChristineBader-01.png

2. How did you break into the social impact space?

After City Year I served as a teaching fellow in community service at Phillips Academy Andover, then as a New York City Urban Fellow working in the mayor’s office – experiencing social impact from multiple sectors.

My entry into corporate social responsibility, which became the biggest chunk of my social impact career (so far!), came after business school. I joined BP (then British Petroleum) as a commercial analyst – this was in the fall of 2000, when there weren’t really many “CSR” or “social impact” jobs. BP’s then-CEO John Browne had not long before become the first head of a major energy company to acknowledge that climate change was real and urge action, so I was intrigued by this leader who seemed to be thinking about the role of his company in the world differently from others.

I moved to Indonesia and was supporting BP’s takeover of ARCO crunching financial and production data. But I quickly got absorbed in the Tangguh project, a liquefied natural gas project that was technically and commercially straightforward but surrounded by human rights tripwires: a village that had to be resettled to make way for the project, a corrupt and violent military, a province neglected and exploited by its national government. So I put my hand up to spend more time on these issues – and the rest is (my) history.

Highly recommend    Christine’s book    for more of her fascinating story.

Highly recommend Christine’s book for more of her fascinating story.

3. What most excites you about social impact these days?

I love the provocation that Anand Giridharadas posed to many of us in the social impact space through his book Winners Take All, challenging our assumption that business has the answers to the world’s problems. I didn’t love everything about the book: I wish he’d disclosed before the epilogue that he was part of the world he was bashing, and spent more ink reflecting on his participation in those circles and the evolution of his thinking about his own impact and path – which might suggest how others in those circles could shift. Nonetheless, he is delivering a forceful kick in the pants to examine whether “MarketWorld” approaches are hurting more than helping.

The other book that has had a huge impact on me recently is The Essentials of Theory U, Otto Scharmer’s new edition of his seminal 2007 academic text. This quote leapt off the page at me:

“The success of an intervention depends on the internal condition of the intervener.” 

That quote nails why my focus has shifted from CSR to The Life I Want: because we can’t perform in even the most purposeful and impactful jobs if we ignore our “internal condition.”

This isn’t about the inherently precarious notion of “work-life balance,” or cutting down our screen time or getting more sleep or exercise: It’s about the conditions and context that sit beneath what tips and hacks can touch.

We cannot live our best lives if we don’t feel that we have agency; if we’re living in the wrong place; if we’re suffocating under burdens of healthcare, debt, or caregiving; or if we’re burnt out with no time to engage with our friends, families, communities, nature, or selves. 

What is that combination of individual choices and inner work, employer policies, community support, and systemic changes that will enable all of us to live the lives we want – and in doing so create the world we want? I hope that the Reconsidered community will join me at thelifeiwant.co to share your stories, frustrations, and aspirations.

Check out Christine’s new project at thelifeiwant.co, and her articles and talks (including her TED talk) at christinebader.com. Find her on Twitter @christinebader. Photo credit @artisanalphoto.

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3 Questions With: Nigel Salter, Founder, Upland

Name: Nigel Salter

Company/Organization: Upland Consulting

Role/Function: Founder and Strategy/Sustainability Adviser

What He’s Currently Working On: I recently stepped away from Salterbaxter, the sustainability strategy, corporate purpose and communications consultancy that I co-founded about 20 years ago, which is now part of Publicis Groupe. I’m now starting a new consultancy called Upland, which has two areas of focus: sustainability strategy and communications, and forming partnerships, initiatives and collaborations that tackle the current global consumption system, which is just crazily unsustainable. We want to work both on a systems level as well as a company level. On the consumption side in particular, there are a lot of really exciting things we want to do around digital content that connects sustainability issues to young, digital consumers. Our plan is to partner with organizations and pull together coalitions to change the way the world thinks about consumption — it’s kind of a mission to force the pace and substance on SDG 12.


1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact?

I'm afraid I didn't have a moment when I suddenly woke up and started thinking about all of these issues. It was gradual. When we started Salterbaxter back in 1998, I remember feeling like business was too often being described as the bad guy. I felt there was a lot being missed, that business could be a powerful force if it did things right. Sure there was “big, bad business” — but that was the extreme and there was also a big bit in the middle that was actually trying to do the right thing and was starting to wake up and understand the issues.

So that was my moment of understanding — seeing that business was starting to move in the right direction and feeling that we could go and help accelerate it. Rather than the big conversion moment, it was just seeing that the lay of the land was shifting.

And if you look at some of the really impressive things that have happened in the last several years when it comes to social responsibility, these have often been initiated by business. The scale and the organizational capacity they bring to these problems means that when they want to do something, they do it really well.


2. How did you break into the social impact space?

We started Salterbaxter as a communications agency, and our second client was EMI Records. At the time, I didn't fully understand just how sophisticated a company like EMI could be across a range of social responsibility issues. For instance, they had massive problems dealing with the toxic waste from producing CDs. Remember, this is the pre-digital era. EMI was producing CDs and they were just really nasty things. They also had a historical business in lighting.

But even way back then, they were really clear-sighted about what they wanted to do and the ways in which they wanted to improve their impacts and play a more positive role in society. We even won a Design Effectiveness award with them for a program that was all about reducing waste by reusing the off-cut material left behind after printing record and CD sleeve artwork — it was amazingly progressive for a big listed company at the time.

Having EMI as a client proved to Penny (Baxter) and I that there was a significant business need around these issues. From that moment, Salterbaxter moved into what was then called corporate social responsibility — looking at how business could have a better social and environmental impact.

Then in 2006, we were starting to see signs of the financial crisis coming. Most of our friends and advisors were saying, “Yeah, obviously you need to get out of CSR now because clearly that's going to be the first thing to go when the financial crisis hits.” But our belief was the opposite — that it would become even more important that businesses be ethical, that they have social worth, that they have a positive impact, that they support social causes and that they contribute to society. And luckily, that proved to be the case. So from 2007 on, Salterbaxter started focusing only on sustainability and corporate social responsibility issues, helping companies completely rewire themselves for a different stakeholder world.

The fact that you’re now seeing mega-businesses make absolutely huge changes that impact pretty much everybody  — that gets me very excited.
— Nigel Salter

3. What most excites you about social impact these days?

Having just had a break, it’s quite good to think about that question after 20 years. I have to say that as much as I enjoyed it, I was inevitably getting a little bit jaded. But actually, what makes me most excited is that very big businesses are making very big changes. And as much as I love small companies that do amazing things, building from scratch new propositions in social impact… when a huge business makes a commitment, that changes the whole system.

Take H&M and their commitment to go circular, or L’Oreal’s work in packaging and sourcing, or Maersk’s hugely ambitious commitment to decarbonize logistics. The fact that you're now seeing mega-businesses make absolutely huge changes that impact pretty much everybody  — that gets me very excited. There is a real shift from business saying, “we just need to make ourselves look a little bit better” to a proper, fundamental reengineering of operations to deliver completely different outcomes that change how the whole supply chain works. They are realizing that this is not just reputation management and reduction of CO2 emissions — which, of course, everyone needs to do. But it's completely new ways of doing business, completely new ways of operating.

The other thing that's both daunting and exciting is that we still have a very, very long way to go. There are some big problems and challenges out there that need to be solved — in particular, the fact that our global consumption model is unsustainable and completely unfit for purpose. But there are more people in business who understand the sustainability agenda. They understand what sustainability really means and what they should be doing to get it working inside the business world. And if you connect these pieces together — which is partly what we’re trying to do with Upland — if you can bring people together and build coalitions to help tackle some of these issues, it could be very exciting. That’s plenty to keep me motivated in this space.

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3 Questions With: Brandee Butler, Head of Gender Justice & Human Rights, C&A Foundation

Name: Brandee Butler

Company/Organization: C&A Foundation

Role/Function: Head of Gender Justice & Human Rights 

What She’s Currently Working On: I work for C&A Foundation, which has a goal of transforming the apparel industry for the better. Last week, we published an Action Statement on Equity and Inclusion, reflecting our ongoing learning journey and commitment to identify and dismantle various systems of inequality — including gender — that are relevant in our work and to us as colleagues.

We are exploring how we can have a greater impact in our grantmaking by making sure that diverse voices and perspectives, especially those from groups traditionally excluded in decision-making, have a say in our work. For example, that could include looking at systems of oppression around race, caste, class and sexual orientation. While the fashion industry is diverse in many ways, in that it touches so many different countries and communities, are those communities represented at the decision-making level? While the conversation has started and is gaining momentum around issues of gender equality and discrimination, there’s still very little conversation around racial equity, for example.

So we launched an internal committee with representation from all our teams and geographies to explore how the impacts of discrimination and exclusion impact not only our partners and constituents, but also us as colleagues. We have hired Gender at Work, an international network of consultants that promotes cultures of equality, to accompany us on this journey. They are providing support and expertise, and our goal is to have an action plan to present to our leadership early next year.

Credit: C&A Foundation

Credit: C&A Foundation

1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact?

Travel is often the spark. In college, I did a semester abroad in Ghana. I was a psychology major at the time and if you studied abroad, you had to do a one-month independent project and write a thesis on it. I did mine at the mental institution in Accra. I spent a lot of time interviewing people who worked there and learning about the situation and conditions for patients. The abuse and the indignities that the mentally disabled suffered at that time in Ghana were horrific. Before they ended up at the mental institution, they had been through all sorts of exorcisms, beatings, different forms of torture. Some had been chained to trees because people believed that it was evil spirits occupying them, and that you needed to get the spirits out by any means necessary.

When they got to the hospital, it was severely under resourced and conditions were abhorrent. They were sleeping on floors, they were short of medicine, there were overflowing sewage systems, sometimes they ran out of food. It was really and truly awful.

I had been planning to be a psychologist but at that moment I realised I wanted to play a role in advocating for truly oppressed, marginalized groups of people.

I feel that it’s my job to advocate that resources are invested in the places where they are most needed, and to support the courageous activists who put themselves at such great risk each and every day fighting for causes like anti-slavery and women’s rights.
— Brandee Butler


2. How did you break into the social impact space?

At the time, some of my most powerful examples of advocates were lawyers. So I applied to law school. I knew that I wanted that skill set and that degree as a platform for launching a career in social justice and social impact.

While I was in law school at Yale, I took courses in international human rights, worked summer internships, and did a semester abroad in South Africa researching the HIV crisis. But I still found it difficult once I graduated to get a good job in social justice. Non-profit jobs were very competitive and really low-paying, and I had a lot of student debt. I wondered if it was a viable option for me.

My big break came when I got a fellowship for recent Yale Law School graduates who wanted to break into international human rights. If you had your own funding and could carry it to an organization, who could refuse you? So that opened all the doors. I had already moved to Gabon to deepen my international experience and develop French language skills. I was meant to work with an Italian NGO working with victims of child trafficking, but it ended up folding so I worked at UNICEF for a year on their efforts to prevent sexual exploitation, child trafficking and all forms of exploitation against children.

After the fellowship year, I moved back to the United States and got a job as an attorney working for a non-profit called the Alliance for Children's Rights. I was an advocate for children in the foster care system in Los Angeles who had learning and other disabilities. Then I saw a job posting for a position in philanthropy at the MacArthur Foundation, to help build the international criminal justice system and strengthen human rights institutions in Africa. While I enjoyed the work as an advocate and attorney for children's rights, I was only helping one child at a time and I realized that I wanted to have a more systemic impact. This was an opportunity to learn about the global human rights framework and it was an amazing experience. That launched me into the field of philanthropy, where I’ve been ever since.

It was a very circuitous journey to figure out where I fit, where I could apply my talents, what resonated with me on a personal level, what I found fulfilling and what I was good at. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in philanthropy so early in my career and I feel really proud of the role that I play as a grantmaker. I’m not on the front lines and sometimes that's challenging — I do sometimes feel very removed from the context. That’s the downside, and the risk, in philanthropy. But the upside is that you’re able to view systems and dynamics and issues from a bird's eye view. You're able to make connections between movements, between organizations. I feel that it's my job to advocate that resources are invested in the places where they are most needed, and to support the courageous activists who put themselves at such great risk each and every day fighting for causes like anti-slavery and women’s rights.


3. What most excites you about social impact these days?

The social impact field is more diverse than when I was coming up. There are all sorts of pathways for this generation — interesting hybrid business models, programs for social entrepreneurship and startups that are doing amazing work. Even traditional fields are finding ways to move into social impact. In finance, impact investing is now a popular field. People who would have gone into traditional investing now have a different option.

That’s driven by a demand and a hunger in younger generations. I talk to younger friends and family members and they say that first and foremost, they want to have some kind of positive impact. They’re less concerned with prestige and money and more concerned with the kind of world they live in and the impact they want to have.

Philanthropy has also expanded. It used to be that big industrialists would make their fortune and create foundations — and those institutions still exist and are among the bedrocks of philanthropy, especially in the United States. But now you also have more giving circles, participatory grantmaking platforms, community foundations and direct online giving, in addition to the many private and family foundations that have proliferated. Also promising is the fact that more companies are working social impact into their mission and way of operating, which is a way more effective model. I hope that one day, there won't be a need for philanthropy at all.

3 Questions With: Michael Crooke, Co-Founder of WAYB & Ex-CEO of Patagonia

Name: Michael Crooke

Company/Organization: WAYB

Role/Function: Co-Founder & Chairman

What He’s Currently Working On: We are just now launching WAYB, a company I co-founded with old friends Tio and I.S. Jung. The Jung family built many outdoor products for me over the years while I led outdoor brands and when they approached me with the idea to solve design problems for family gear, I was totally in. Except for one thing, I pushed us to make sustainability a key lens for all business decisions. Just don’t call us sustainable yet, that’s a long journey.

The first product we’re launching is the WAYB Pico—a lightweight travel car seat made of aerospace-grade aluminum. It’s a go-anywhere car seat that’ll let parents keep up an adventurous lifestyle. We focused on aluminum instead of plastic and a high-performance mesh instead of the standard foam that’s stuffed with nasty fire retardant chemicals. Aluminum is a heck of a lot better for the earth than a lot of common materials in baby gear (plastic and foam). For starters, it’s very abundant and easily adaptable. It’s famous for its recyclability. Some estimates reckon that 70-75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use! Material selection is our first big decision in aiming to make sustainable products.

My day job is as a professor at the University of Oregon where I am also the director of the Advanced Strategy and Leadership Certificate in the Oregon MBA program. I teach Advanced Strategy—the last class MBA students take before they graduate. The thesis is that eventual C-Suite leaders must understand finance, sustainability, entrepreneurial thinking, and how to continually make a great product or service. Without an understanding of these four elements it is difficult, if not impossible, to disrupt and create a long-term sustainable advantage.

Check out    WAYB’s Indiegogo campaign    to get 40% off the Pico’s retail price.

Check out WAYB’s Indiegogo campaign to get 40% off the Pico’s retail price.

1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact? 

I became a Navy SEAL as a teenager, so you could say I had an early call to serve the community. It’s where I really learned about teamwork. My first job in the business world was working with a 120-year old company that practiced sustainable logging, and I saw how new ownership and the subsequent loss of focus on the company’s core values led to decay. The new owners destroyed the land, and then quickly went out of business themselves. They took a whole town down with them when they went bankrupt. At that point, I decided to go get my MBA to figure out what happened. It’s at that point that I realized there’s a much smarter way to do business than being fueled by short-term greed. Great companies use long-term thinking and strategy.

2. How did you break into the social impact space?

I gravitated towards companies that had strong values and found myself in various leadership roles across the outdoor industry. Of course, in this space there’s much more dialogue about conservation, including resourcefulness. The next step was figuring out how to bring that mentality to business operations. In 1999, Patagonia brought me on as CEO.  

Quality was articulated through their Ironclad Guarantee, and Patagonia’s commitment to the environment was clear in their early use of organic cotton and revitalization of 1% for the Planet. The focus turned Patagonia’s customers into fanatics and buoyed the business. The values were actually the secret sauce that lowered customer acquisition cost.

I like to say we are on a path to sustainability. No company is truly sustainable. There’s waste in any company. The bottom line is we have to stay transparent. And transparency means that we have to say what we aren’t, as well as what we are.
— Michael Crooke

3. What most excites you about social impact these days? 

I think a lot about how to set up the next generation for success. Part of that is making sure people find teams and companies where they are a fit, where they can work with “flow”.

You look at the people we’ve pulled together to build this company, the pillars of this company. We have people from Honest Company, Disney, GOOD, Patagonia, PrAna. It’s a group of people who have worked with companies where values matter.

By having values up front, we attract talent that's connected to a bigger purpose. And by having a "could we" culture, we give everyone agency. This creates high levels of trust and autonomy—a connection to higher purpose.

With WAYB, I like to say we are on a path to sustainability. No company is truly sustainable. There’s waste in any company. The bottom line is we have to stay transparent. And transparency means that we have to say what we aren’t, as well as what we are. And there’s a lot of things that we aren’t. We still drive cars to work every day. There’s waste in every single aspect of what we do. But we’re trying to get better, every single day. And that journey is something we want to share with our customers.

"3 Questions With" spotlights fascinating people working across the social impact space. It is published by Reconsidered and shared in our newsletter which goes out to 1,700+ subscribers every other week.

3 Questions With: Danielle Azoulay, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, L'Oréal USA

Name: Danielle Azoulay  

Company/Organization: L'Oréal USA     

Role/Function: Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability

What She’s Currently Working On: 2018 has already been a big year for us. To start, we were able to announce that through an innovative renewable natural gas project we will achieve carbon neutrality for all of L’Oréal’s 19 U.S. Operations facilities by 2019. It was a big undertaking by our motivated teams, who, after helping us surpass our 2020 carbon reduction goals years ahead of schedule and achieve 100 percent renewable electricity, were driven to find a solution to address the thermal needs of our facilities and help us reach an even bigger milestone. This year also marks the deployment of the Sustainable Products Optimization Tool (SPOT) which was designed to measure the overall impacts – both environmental and social – of all L’Oréal products. One hundred percent of new or renovated products – representing more than 2,300 products – were assessed using SPOT in 2017 and we are excited to continue using this methodology to identify avenues for improvement across our brand portfolio.

1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact? 

I’ve always felt deeply connected to the environment around me, even as kid. When I was 10 years old, I remember writing a letter to President Bush about the impact of acid rain, genuinely expecting him to respond. And, growing up in Miami and experiencing the impact of Hurricane Andrew first-hand only reinforced how connected we as humans are to our environment. These experiences ingrained in me the passion and dedication I feel today to help build responsible, sustainable business practices.

While in school, I researched inspirational people that I thought were doing meaningful work and reached out to them ... If you are a student, reach out to the people you look up to. They just may be willing to give you some time that may provide you with the insights you need to figure out where you fit in this fight.
— Danielle Azoulay

2. How did you break into the social impact space?

I was lucky to have been able to break into the space by chance; after my company was acquired by a much bigger organization, I received an opportunity to transition roles and join their CSR team. I finished my Masters in Environmental Conservation and Education from NYU and was able to help them maintain a more ethical and sustainable supply chain, something I continue to do today at L'Oréal USA. 

While in school, I researched inspirational people that I thought were doing meaningful work and reached out to them. Because I was a student, I was able to learn from these people and ultimately do some independent research work or simply connect with them on a phone call.  People were extremely generous with their time when I was in school and so I try to give back to the next generation of sustainability leaders when I can.

If you are a student, reach out to the people you look up to. They just may be willing to give you some time that may provide you with the insights you need to figure out where you fit in this fight. 

3. What most excites you about social impact these days? 

Ultimately, it’s about working closely together, sharing best practices and discussing creative solutions to help lift up the entire CPG industry. Whether it’s identifying ways to reduce waste and improve packaging or figuring out how to collaborate on educating consumers, it’s clear that the collective impact will be far greater when we all bring our best ideas to the table.

"3 Questions With" spotlights fascinating people working across the social impact space. It is published by Reconsidered and shared in our newsletter which goes out to 1,700+ subscribers every other week.