Purposeful Conversations with Sarah Clarke and Amira Hashemi
Tuesday, 4th September 2018 at 5:43 pm
Ellie Nikakis from Vollie speaks with Sarah Clarke of Mirvac and Amira Hashemi of Frasers Property Australia Innovation about how CSR ultimately ends up being better for business.
Today, more than ever, a corporation’s commitment to sustainability is examined under a microscope. Stakeholders demand transparency, government regulations match these higher expectations, and employees seek fulfillment in the work they do. The ability to find common values with their organisation has become a priority for staff, and big businesses have to keep up.
Mirvac is one such business. As a high profile Australian property group, falling under scrutiny for their consumption of land and community resources is no foreign concept.
Sustainability and reputation GM Sarah Clarke understands the implications and context surrounding these stakeholder concerns, having worked in the CSR space since its inception in Australia around the early 2000s.
“For Mirvac, we want business to be a force for good in society – that’s why we’ve made big commitments like to direct $100 million to social enterprises and Indigenous businesses by 2030,” Clarke says.
“Being a responsible operator and building and maintaining the trust of all of the people that you need to work with as a big business, there is a fundamental expectation of those stakeholders to be a responsible business.
“To do good and be good, to be transparent, to go beyond regulatory or contractual obligations to do the right thing.”
Clarke cites the risk in businesses failing to understand social needs and expectations. This is not just about CSR – it’s about the much larger matter of quality stakeholder relationships.
“Stakeholders of course have a wide set of expectations”, she affirms. “Sustainability is just one element of what those expectations might be”.
Amira Hashemi, sustainability and innovation coordinator at Frasers Property, notes the internal benefits of innovation practice.
“We’re aiming to upskill all our employees in what innovation is, so that they feel that they can innovate in their own roles,” Hashemi says.
“We innovate so we are not disrupted; so that we’re the ones doing the disrupting, seen as a leader in our industry, and outside our industry.”
The advantages don’t end there – they also extend to prospective new staffers, motivating and inspiring graduates seeking to pursue a path with Frasers Property and making the group a leader in the sustainability space.
“One of the main things that differentiates us is our sustainability attributes and our accomplishments,” Hashemi explains.
And the strategy certainly seems to be working out well for them.
“One of the advantages of this is that we get graduates applying who are interested in sustainability, even if their core degree wasn’t in sustainability or environmental science,” Hashemi says.
“It makes it a lot easier for us to integrate social sustainability, resources and progressive thinking into our daily operations rather than acting as a separate business unit.”
With a decade of experience in the oil and gas industries, as well as time in transport, property, and the public sector, Clarke’s outlook is optimistic.
“Risk and opportunity are often aligned with a sector’s social and environmental impact. For someone looking to make the biggest difference, it can often be a good idea to go where the biggest impacts are,” she says.
As a bottom line, Clarke describes observing an alignment between investor expectations and other stakeholders, both underscoring environmental social governance as necessary for prospective business success. Communication and synergy on this issue among stakeholders is more pronounced than ever.
“I think the human side of big business – being mindful of our how we affect people – is a really interesting trend to be a part of,” Clarke says.
From all angles, CSR’s value and presence in an organisation has never been so essential.
About the author: Ellie Nikakis is the PR and marketing coordinator for Vollie, an online marketplace that connects skilled people to not for profits, charities, and social enterprises for skills-based online volunteering.
This article is part of a monthly series of Purposeful Conversations by Vollie, in which we sit down with a range of CSR managers in the Australian business landscape about their interpretations of the CSR space in 2018.