Why corporate higher-ups are obligated to use their position for good

When it comes to creating a better world, public regulation only goes so far. Big-name corporations don’t only have a significant impact on the lives of their employees — their impact has direct implications on the environment. This impact is both literal, in the sense of raw material energy use and waste, and abstract, in terms of setting a sustainable precedent from which both other corporate players and consumers choose to live by. Most companies within the private sector have a team of individuals at the top to ensure the company is living up to sustainable development goals while upholding the integrity of the company’s brand image. 

One such proponent is Rose Stuckey Kirk, Verizon’s Corporate Responsibility Officer. Kirk is also a senior executive within the marketing organization where she oversees the strategic direction for all of Verizon’s social impact marketing activities.  Additionally, she has served as lecturer, panelist and guest speaker on a host of topics including mobility in education, women in the workplace, and the role of corporations in creating a sustainable future. 

The Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer of Verizon on using corporate power as a ‘force for good’

Ladders was on site at the 2019 Glamour Women of the Year summit where Kirk gave an inside look at how she galvanizes change while playing by the rules of corporate policy. Kirk’s main takeaway: those in corporate leadership roles are obligated to cultivate sustainable progress in the private sector, so long as they do so responsibly. 

“Seven or eight years ago I made the decision to leave the profit world and step into this role. It was only supposed to be a temporary role…I then realized that I had a tremendous platform working for one of the largest companies in the world and that I could use it as a true force for good and fundamentally look at the issues that no one else was addressing — education is just one of them, along with empowering women, and initiatives within the environmental space,” said Kirk.

To win over investors, Kirk must also silhouette as a saleswoman, convincing key players to get on board an initiative. The good news is that, according to the World Economic Forum, environmental-anchored investing is on the rise within private institutions, with most of the major investors integrating ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors into their investment strategies. It’s not surprising investors are taking notice — investment opportunities consider (ESG) issues now represent one in every four dollars invested in the US and have risen to nearly $23 trillion globally.

Although leaders like Kirk have the raw data to leverage their case, the way this information is presented to higher-ups is key, making Kirk’s role vital.

“I recognized that I had to frame a story when I approached the board of directors — I also had to convince the leadership team and put together a plan, and a team. We spent a lot of time considering the sheer impact we were having on the environment, gender equality, human rights, and across the globe – considering the sourcing of all of the materials that we have.” 

Above all, Kirk explained how she views her role as an upholder of accountability. 

“I have an obligation to hold Verizon accountable, for who and what it could be in the world given its mass. We have 140,000 employees around the world. With this kind of platform, the impact that we have is significant. Those are the reasons I choose to stay at Verizon. I have an amazing team and I want to be there to support them, whatever their endeavors.”