Wisdom from Patagonia’s Jill Dumain: Passion Meets Talent Meets Purpose in CSR

November 24, 2013 at 2:30 am Leave a comment

Contributed by Susan Camberis, MSHR, SPHR

In a recent Spheres of Influence roundtable on leadership and career paths, Jill Dumain, Director of Environmental Strategy for Patagonia, shared career and leadership insights from her tenure with one of the nation’s most well-known sustainable brands.

One of the questions Jill addressed was how to integrate Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability into any role, regardless of whether “sustainability” is part of one’s job title.  Jill offered the following wise advice:

  1. Choose an industry you’re really passionate about to sustain you through your career journey.  Jill is passionate about textiles.  After graduating with a degree in Textiles and Clothing from the University of California – Davis, Jill chose Patagonia to pursue this passion and grew into her position as Director of Environmental Strategy.
  2. Seek out companies with progressive values.  Many organizations have a decentralized structure, which means the sustainability team is always looking for people who want to help.  Find the people who are working on sustainability initiatives and offer to help – your efforts will be appreciated.
  3. When you start working in a department, look for ways to integrate sustainable practices.  Think about the work.  Figure out how it can be done in a more sustainable way.  In time, you can become the resident sustainability expert in your department.

Jill’s advice resonated with me on two levels.

First, as a Human Resources professional who’s coached current and prospective employees who want to move into sustainable jobs and careers, I see Jill’s counsel as providing a practical pathway that can create momentum.  Picking an industry you’re passionate about can increase your engagement.  Picking an organization whose values match your own creates alignment and momentum.

Second, as someone who’s been on a journey to increase my own sustainability knowledge and have a greater impact, I find that Jill’s advice correlates with my experience working for a large, public, impact employer.  When I initially expressed interest in learning about sustainability, I was welcomed by the sustainability team to contribute in whatever way I could.  Some of the ways I contributed with an HR background included: helping to educate HR colleagues about the company’s sustainability priorities and goals; participating in our cross-functional sustainability working group; participating in headquarter’s environmental education efforts; and connecting the company’s sustainability team with local Net Impact student members.

The lesson which life constantly repeats is to ‘look under your feet.’  You are always nearer to the divine and the true sources of your power than you think.  The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive.  The great opportunity is where you are.  -John Burroughs from Studies in Nature and Literature

Start where you are today.  Determine where you can have an impact.

I look forward to the next Spheres of Influence virtual roundtable when I will share my insights on talent management and CSR alongside Melissa O’Mara on December 4, 2013.  Join us for a lively and rich discussion!

About the author:

Susan Camberis, MSHR, SPHR is a Talent Management and HR thought leader with expertise in career development, employee engagement, workforce planning, change management, internal consulting, organizational development, and employee relations.

Since 1999 Susan has held various HR roles with Baxter Healthcare Corporation, a global, diversified healthcare company headquartered in Deerfield, IL. Baxter’s commitment to sustainability spans more than three decades. In her most recent role as Director, Talent Management, Susan served on a Baxter’s cross-functional sustainability working group.

Susan is passionate about CSR and sustainability, and is particularly interested in how companies are engaging employees and developing talent while becoming more sustainable.  Interested in educating other HR professionals, Susan led the planning for a 2010 HR Association meeting entitled, Sustainability and Going Green: Impacts and Opportunities for HR.  Susan is a member of the Chicago Professional Chapter of Net Impact and serves on Net Impact’s Corporate Advisory Council.  Her Career Story is featured on Net Impact’s career site.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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