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AnnMarie Gulian doesn't have a background in sustainability. But for Campbell Soup's VP for Global Talent Acquisition, carbon footprint, corporate social responsibility and recruitment aren't mutually exclusive.
I went into my recent interview with Gulian hoping to get an insight into the company's HR function and how she has managed to contextualize CSR for her team in the short period of time since joing full-time in 2010. I was also interested in learning about how Campbell's campus recruiters were modifying their approach to attract high potential talent, if at all.
What I got, however, was a senior HR executive spouting terms like carbon footprint, impact of an envelope, sustainable decision making, and much more in a conversation about diversity hiring, employee retention, the MBA curriculum and performance reviews.
How many times can you say you've had a similar experience?
Gulian gets CSR. She understands that leading cultural change in a global organization requires repeated messaging and constant context. As she put it right in the beginning of our chat: "I don't have a background in sustainability but once you start thinking about it and realize the impact that one envelope makes, it's a complete shift in mindset."
How did she broach this with her team?
"When I first had this conversation with my team, there was skepticism… they just looked at me, like 'Oh no, she's a tree hugger.' [Laughs] Then when I started to explain the reasoning, the conversation turned to think of this as less work—when you start sending these emails out with an attachment, it's easier and quicker. No more addressing, printing, gluing, and dying for ink toner. Then they started to get it, and slowly, they started approaching me with ideas!"
But CSR isn't the most obvious or easy topic of discussion. And for a recruitment team in-charge of identifying, interviewing and onboarding a global workforce, how does it all fall into place? With constant questioning, said Gulian.
"We asked ourselves: What can we do in Global Talent Acquisition to make sure that we are aligning our strategies with Campbell's overall strategies? Are we creating interview packets that we could communicate differently online? Is there something we're sending out that could become a link?"
It also took some trial and error. "You want to make sure that the candidate experience is rich," she added.
One of her early targets was paper, i.e., the multi-page brochures often handed out to prospective candidates at career fairs.
"When I started in this position, we were handing out printed collateral all the time at career fairs. Remember all the times you've received brochures from companies at these fairs? Where do they end up? Many college campuses still don't have enough visible recycling bins and so you end up throwing it out.
In a conversation with our CEO [Douglas R. Conant], I brought up the idea of giving prospective candidates a preview of our history and what's important to us at Campbell's… Of course, Doug was all for it. So we decided to create a three and a half minute video, and put it on a flash drive—it has a picture of Campbell's soup on it. That is what we hand out now, no more brochures."
But Campbell Soup's HR department doesn't just translate CSR into recycling and resource conservation. Employee engagement and leadership are all tracked and measured through performance reviews.
"It's an objective," said Gulian. "Participate or lead in a community effort to show Campbell community activism. A second bullet would be to improve the sustainability of (in my case) the Global Talent Acquisition programs and processes."
So it's a dual expectation: "Not only are we going to actively participate and lead in a community effort, my team members are also expected to work on increasing the sustainability of our programs."
Readers who remember my not-so-recent rant on Why Executives Don't Get CSR will appreciate that Gulian not only connects the dots, she also ensures it reflects in her team's outreach.
"We try to hire diverse candidates—candidates with diverse ideas, backgrounds, thoughts, and history—who will help us grow the organization. We want to improve organization excellence and engagement with that and build on the acknowledgement that our Company has historically had high engagement. If we continue to keep our people engaged, we should be able to advance our commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility."
It's not all that rosy, of course.
There have been several roadblocks along the way, but for Gulian, they speak volumes of the immense opportunity ahead. One of the first pieces of feedback from her team was about change, and how long they had been "waiting for someone to do something different."
For her, this was priceless:
"A lot of times your senior leaders are so stuck in the past, they just want to be able to smell it, touch it, and feel it. Our team was so ready to embrace a change—and they said so too. We are truly fortunate to have a leadership team that is able to embrace risk…we were doing something that was going to be well received by the audience, because our focus was going to be meeting our commitment to sustainability."
Tomorrow: In Part II, AnnMarie Gulian and I discuss Campbell Soup's campus outreach, the importance of measurable CSR goals and performance reviews, why the case for CSR is no longer an add-on for her department job function, and her thoughts on including CSR and sustainability in college curriculum.
Gulian also gives jobseekers and students interested in pursuing a career in corporate citizenship some sharp and much-needed advice.
For Campbell Soup's New Hires, CSR Begins on Day 1
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