A little chat with a sustainability consultant

Barbara Mendes-Jorge is a Consultant at Sustainability Consult. She’s passionate about sustainability, music, and cats! I wanted to know more about her job and her vision of Corporate Social Responsibility.

What is your career path?

I studied Social and Cultural Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I graduated in 2010, with a dissertation about climate change report on media.
My first internship was Human Resources Administrative Assistant in a construction company, and it was the 1rst time I heard about Corporate Social Responsibility.
My second internship was Corporate Responsibility Administrative Assistant at the European Investment Bank, in the sustainable department.
I worked as a writer/researcher intern at Carbon Brief, and then as a Communications and Research Intern at E3G, and finally became a consultant at Sustainability Consult.

What does your job consist in?

I have a wide range of tasks. It can go from proofreading or writing documents, to write press releases, managing events, but also social media tracking and training, and helping manage design project.
I like the variety of the work and the variety of clients. The less positive side is the paste and time pressure, but it is a habit to take.

What does Corporate Social Responsibility mean to you?

It is basically the company managing and measuring its environmental impacts, and how it understands it.

How do you consider CSR reporting?

Reporting is definitely positive, but is has to be in a framework that is recognized (for example the Global Reporting Initiative). It should address all the stakeholders. But it can be hard for companies; it already takes a lot of time to build a report that matches an official framework, so unfortunately they usually don’t spend much time on communicating it properly.
I think it would be interesting and useful to make a small media campaign when releasing a report.
Definitely there are improvements to be made, especially about the corporations’ auto-critics. They have to spend as much time on the ‘negative’ sides as the ‘positive’ sides on the report.  Report is not just about listing all the good actions of a company. It is very important to be honest and analyze everything.

Do you think Social Media have a role to play?

Definitely! They have a great role to engage stakeholders, to promote, to target the right people. It is a great tool, but it shouldn’t be used for Greenwashing.
Social Media are meant to interact with people. It is very important to use it properly.

What do you think will be the future of reporting?

Integrated reporting I would say. CSR should not be a side issue, it must be integrated into the whole business strategy, it has obvious consequences on the corporation’s economy. However the message mustn’t get lost, we have to find the right balance with the Triple Bottom Line. It has to stay relevant.

What should companies always do?

Obviously corporations should involve their stakeholders and involve their employees.  Then always have at least one person coordinating the CSR and the reporting.
Companies shouldn’t see reporting just as a communication exercise or tool, it is a real internal process meant to improve the business.
For small businesses it is difficult since most of the time there is no dedicated team for that, and CSR is a long-term process so at first it is not a priority.
Besides it is hard to change things from the bottom, so CEOs and boards members should be fully involved.

One advice for future communication professionals?

Social Media! It is very important, you must know how to use it properly and to your advantage, it can make a great difference.

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