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EP5: Blaise Porter on Sustainable Development Expectations

 

We only have one planet – so is your business doing enough to care for it? Why should you care about it at all? It has become Blaise Porter’s life mission to make businesses aware of their corporate social responsibilities. Sustainability matters to every SINGLE ONE OF US, so let’s hear from Blaise on how we can work together for our planet, our communities, our businesses and create a cleaner, brighter future.

TRANSCRIPT

Intro : 

You’re listening to Project Good Boss, the podcast, with your host Anna Sheppard.

Anna Sheppard : 

Project Good Boss is a podcast dedicated to understanding the business benefits of kindness in leadership. We cover topics including and not limited to: leadership, equality, psychology, social impact, decent work and economic growth, all delivered with a little splash of good vibes. Today on Project Good Boss we will be spending some time with Blaise Porter, Responsible Business Director for Fujitsu Australia Limited. Sustainability is her passion. It has become her life’s mission to make businesses aware of their corporate social responsibilities and advise them on best practices. So together, we can all preserve our world for future generations. Blaise says we only have one planet, is your business doing enough to care for it? One of her projects in 2019 won a Green Globe Award and Blaise continues to raise the bar as a dedicated member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and the Chair of their Reconciliation Action Plan, which is a formal commitment from the staff to create sustainable opportunities for Indigenous people. Sustainability matters to every single one of us, and it’s time to work together for our planet, our communities and business as good. So let’s hear from Blaise about how she’s working to create a cleaner and brighter future. Welcome back to Project Good Boss today. I am very lucky to be sitting with a pretty good boss but not just a good boss, a pretty cool boss. Her name is Blaise Porter. Hello Blaise!

Blaise Porter : 

Hello, great to be with you today.

Anna Sheppard : 

Hello, where are you from Blaise? Where do you work?

Blaise Porter : 

I’m the Director of Responsible Business, for Fujitsu in Australia in New Zealand. I’m based in Sydney. So I live up on the Upper North Shore of Sydney. So I get a lot of greenery loveliness, with my partner my two little kids.

Anna Sheppard : 

Oh, lovely. And so what – it’s a big gig. The sustainability agenda to two major countries. One country may be doing better than the other, but I wouldn’t want to be you know I wouldn’t want to be putting my foot in it. And so tell us a little bit about you. And I’d love to understand more about your story, Blaise, and how you ended up getting into that kind of industry.

Blaise Porter : 

Yeah, for sure. Well, I’ve been at Fujitsu for quite a long time actually. I actually started back in 2007. As an Admin Assistant. So I was kind of, yeah like a PA. So doing diary management and booking travel and things like that. And I’ve qualified in leisure management and that was originally what I wanted to do. So I wanted to do kind of like recreation planning and you know, working government – do we need more playgrounds, or do we need more whatever. And I went, you know, backpacking and did the whole Working Holiday thing and came back to Australia, and I couldn’t get a job. And I moved back home with my mom. And I love my mom, but I was also like, man, I need some money. I need to move out and have my own place. Yeah, so wound up at Fujitsu in that kind of admin role. Which, you know… it wasn’t really enjoyable, right? It wasn’t really for me. And I spent quite a lot of months in that role. I think doing it, just a bit sad and sorry for myself. And eventually, you know, the light bulb moment came on. And I had to get honest with myself and say, “Well, you know, what are you doing here?” You know, like just showing up every day.

Anna Sheppard : 

Was there something that happened in particular that you could remember that made you have that aha moment? Because people often talk to us about the aha moments. And, they’re always quite random and sometimes totally out of the blue. And I’m just wondering, was there was there a specific incident or an event that occurred that led you to have that moment?

Blaise Porter : 

I don’t think there was a specific incident. But I think it was more just that feeling of, well, you know, you own this situation too, Blaise. Right. You know, it’s not just a workplace situation that you just happen to have fallen in. You know, this is your life. And so, I came to the kind of realisation Well, I can do put my hand up and ask for more and asked to really be challenged. And one of two things will happen. Either I will have some more interesting things to put on my resume when I leave. Or, two: it will get better. So here I am 12 years later, and it’s pretty obvious that it got better. But one of the things that I was putting my hands up at the time was to be involved in our green teams, and look at, you know, how we could improve our environmental practices. And you know, from that point, really just as a volunteer. So we were looking at things like removing polystyrene cups in our offices, putting in co-mingled recycling in our offices. So really kind of getting to grips with some of the basics. From there, I kind of moved on and I was working in the operational part of our business and looking after risk in knowledge management, service continuity, those kinds of things. And I had a baby. So he’s six now, but that’s kind of the classic, you know, it’s almost a trope, isn’t it? You know, you just take a bit of maternity leave and, you know, think about this new human that you have and think about the world. And really, what are you doing?

Anna Sheppard : 

And I’ve heard that time and time again that nothing quite shifts your perspective on life like having a child.

Blaise Porter : 

And I think you do, right. It’s one of those things, you hear it a lot, but it’s absolutely true. And kind of having the luxury of being able to be on leave and spend a year with him and really think about, “Well, what can I do to make, you know, this place better but also to just to be a better human, right. So that I can, in turn, raise this human with a great role model of who his mom is”. And so, you know, I definitely kind of came back to the conclusion that I really wanted to do something more purpose-driven. I was quite fortunate, in a funny way, that opportunity kind of did manifest itself. And while I was pregnant, in fact, I went on a rainforest rehabilitation trip to Borneo with Fujitsu.

Anna Sheppard : 

Oh wow!

Blaise Porter : 

I was amazed. And so we have this little bit of rain forest in Borneo. And every year they would take about 15 employees to go and, you know, we would remove weed trees and plant new native saplings and do a wildlife survey. And really, we’ve been, as a company, working on this patch of land for about 20 years. And in 2013, that was the first time that they decided to open that up to non-Japanese speakers. So I was like, “Great! That’s good.” You know, I was in the early stages of pregnancy. So I’m like, “Whatever, I’ll never have a chance to do this again. Or at least not for a few years once the baby’s here.” So off I go. And I had a, you know, it was a really amazing experience in Borneo. But I also kind of got to know a formulator of mine, Lee Stewart. Really well. And he was in the sustainability function of Fujitsu at that time. So I really had the opportunity to work very closely with him, understand what he was about from a leader. But also where he saw Fujitsu’s sustainability journey going and the opportunity for Fujitsu in that space. So he then reached out to me, so probably about two years later, when the incumbent in my role at that time, which was the Sustainability Manager, was moving on to the global group and kind of let me know that that role would be available if I was interested. So, ironically enough, I was actually pregnant again. So I went through the whole interview process pregnant with my second child. And yeah, I was delighted to move into that space and then be able to do that in a full time role. And that was four years ago now. And I’ve just come up into that director position now, the Director of Responsible Business. So broadened out to include not just our sustainability function, but some other really cool things like looking after our Reconciliation Action Plan, and working with the various leads of all the other responsible business pillars in Fujitsu. And that’s things like, well being in diversity, inclusion and business ethics, which are all really subjects close to my heart as well. So fabulous new role that I’ve been so excited about.

Anna Sheppard : 

So you’ve gone on this this amazing journey of learning and growth for that past 10 years. And I find a lot of the people we speak to, that go on into conscious leadership positions or CEO positions…you can’t unsee what you’ve seen, and you can’t unhear what you hear and you can’t unlearn what you’ve learned about impact. And about the world that we’re living in and about the potential that we have for creating the greatest impact that we can, or creating more problems to already growing issues. So, with regards to all of these different departments now, and all of these functions, why is the business so interested in this now? And what’s helped them, you know, evolve on that journey themselves? And what would you say have been those pinnacle moments of the past few years that have helped push that agenda forward? Because, you know, 10 years ago, sustainability managers or what have you, would be feeling quite lonely in businesses. No one really cares about the agenda. They’re banging their head off a brick wall, and now there’s been this sudden shift where everybody’s like, “No, no, no, no, no, this needs to become a core part of our business functions.” And why why is that?

Blaise Porter : 

And I think there’s a couple of reasons. And I think you know, you’re absolutely right. In that, you know, that trend is certainly moved along. And not ‘moved along’, but it’s accelerating at a more rapid pace than it ever has before. And I think even when we look at things today, like the divestment movement and activism around the shareholder community, which is occurring now at levels that wouldn’t have been predicted even two or three years ago. So, I think the first is kind of the money. And of course, money talks in business, as we all know. And I think, you know, probably back in the day, it was about, you know, our sustainability is a cost. And it really represents a cost of business. But I think more and more, that’s been proven untrue. And I think if there are businesses out there who still think that way, you know, that there’s a really short expiry date on those positions. Right. And they’re certainly missing out. Because I think, you know, sustainability not only pays for itself – that might be in basic things like energy efficiency, right, or savings. But of course, I think, we certainly see new generations entering the workforce. And there’s every study on millennials. I mean, one comes out every week. Pointing out that they’re more purposeful and they expect business to show leadership. But it’s absolutely true. I mean, in my own experience at Fujitsu last year, we took on 75 grads. And one of the questions that we asked them you know, was like why Fujitsu? You know, why us and why do you want to work here? And out of those 75 young graduates, 100% of them said our sustainable reputation is somewhere in the top three. So you’re absolutely missing out on talent, you’re missing out on that sense of employee engagement and being able to bring your employees along with you on that journey. And these are employees that are going on that journey themselves, right. Everybody can read the news, everybody can look outside and see differences in the weather or is concerned about their personal waste footprint or recycling or whatever it is. They want their employer to come with them on their journey as much as we as an employer, want our people to be involved in our programmes as well. So I think there’s a great relationship and a great symmetry in that space.

Anna Sheppard : 

And with regards to your motivations, and what drives you, and then how you’ve applied that into the workplace – can you tell us a little bit about that? Because you might have gone on a much different journey to some of the other people that you work with. And what is it that gets you out of bed in the morning? Do you feel like you’re, you’re working towards some kind of higher purpose in yourself? And is that something… because there’s a lot of talk around purpose now. Is that something that the business is applying within its day to day actions? Can you touch upon that? You as yourself, do you work towards some kind of higher purpose?

Blaise Porter : 

For me, it’s very much a moral calling. Certainly purpose driven in leaving the world a better place than we found it. And in terms of the climate crisis, helping to reduce the impact of that loss and to mitigate what we can there. And to me, that’s very much moral. I feel that very deeply. Fujitsu is a great place to work. And our purpose as a company is a prosperous society, you know, through human centric technology. So it’s not just about, you know, technology because it’s cool. And it’s got all the bells and whistles. But it’s about creating prosperity for people. And you can’t do that, if you’re not looking towards the environmental impact that we as a species are having. If you’re not looking towards, you know, marginalised communities who aren’t fully participating in that prosperity. So, I think that there is an alignment between what I very much see, and I do keep using that word, a moral sense. It’s very much to the core of who I am. And the company, like Fujitsu, that has got this purpose and this vision very clearly articulated and has been for a long time. Having said that, we’ve got actually just a new president in Tokyo and he’s really come out and talked very strongly about the Sustainable Development Goals and how important the sustainable goals are, and will be to Fujitsu as going ahead. And so he’s very much taking Fujitsu on a journey I think to get closer to that purpose.

Anna Sheppard : 

And you know, what’s one of the things that’s really interested me about yourself, Blaise, and some of the work that you guys are doing there is just how you’re really pushing the envelope with some of the programmes that you’re running. And like the the diversity and inclusion programmes for example. Because yes, with regards to being a technology and a business and you providing solutions for connection and so on, and so forth, it makes sense that there is an environmental sustainability component. But can you tell us about little bit about the diversity and inclusion piece and why that’s become more more important these days as well.

Blaise Porter : 

Yeah, look, great question. And I think Fujitsu is a really interesting business to talk about diversity and inclusion. And I think certainly in the ICT industry, in the Information Communication Technology space, it isn’t a space that’s gender diverse. You know, something, it’s about 80% men and 20% women. And that tells, right. You know, that tells on on us as an industry that we haven’t been better at managing our female talent, that we haven’t been good enough at attracting people to the pipeline. Um, and I think, you know, it’s a massive concern to me personally and to the industry in general. But I think, there’s a lot about, I guess, you know, kind of almost diversity for, you know, for diversity sake, right. We need to have, you know, a diverse influence to support innovation. To make sure we have all those diverse voices around the table. And that’s all, you know, completely true. But also, we are absolutely on the threshold of a new moment in technology, where we are building intelligent systems that will define the next generation and generations of how we live and how we interact with the world. And, you know, we are already getting this wrong as an industry. All right, so we already have got artificial intelligence systems that are less likely to give women entrepreneurs a startup loan, right. Because they’ve learned from bias data. In the past where that decision had been made by people and they would have thought, “you know, these women entrepreneurs, they’re much more risky.” So the system has learned from that bias. We see image tagging systems that are tagging photographs of men as women, because they happen to be pictured standing in the kitchen.

Anna Sheppard : 

Yeah. Far out.

Blaise Porter : 

You know, we got to say to ourselves, like- we’ve got to apply this technology thoughtfully. We’ve got to be really conscious of the decisions that we’re entrusting to machines. And we’ve got to understand how these impacts can kind of come together so that we don’t continue to bear that disadvantage into the technology that we’re rolling out into the world. So I think it’s a critical moment for the technology industry as a whole, to actually be rapid and be aggressive and really push the envelope on diversity. Because we need all these diverse voices inside the 10s helping us make those decisions, helping us understand the potential impacts on some of these communities that haven’t been part of the sector. So that we’re not further entrenching disadvantage down the line.

Anna Sheppard : 

And I think that’s so, so important that this is a big focus for you guys. Especially because, look, technology over the past 30 years has enabled, in many ways, the connection and communication between all sorts of communities. Which has improved, significantly improved, the storytelling, the messaging, the important education around diversity and inclusion. And data will continue to be a driver and for technology moving you forward. But I think having that knowledge base there and having the solutions in place that do genuinely drive inclusion will be vital for, you know, realistic solutions in the future. And like you said, you’re aligning to the Sustainable Development Goals and looking at how you can reduce C02 emissions. And, things like, the empowerment of women and girls in specific communities around the world is one of the biggest drivers to lowering C02. And so it’s great that you guys are doing that. And, I mean, with regards to the pressures and challenges, because we are still transitioning, we’re in a beautiful kind of era, which is almost like we’re coming into the golden era, we’re evolving as a species. And so there’s pressures and challenges and there’s this fear, and there’s difference, and there’s this push against change. Which there has always been since the beginning of mankind. But how do you deal with that? Because when you can clearly see with the research that you do with the connections you have, the benefits, how do you use your position of influence to bring that agenda forward? And when the times are tough, how do you look after yourself?

Blaise Porter : 

Oh great series of questions. And I think there’s a couple of questions in there. And I think, how do you keep talking about it until the benefits. And I actually think the way that you do that is to be honest, and to be honest about the potentials for the ways that it could go wrong. And to show that you’ve thought about it, and that you’ve got a plan to address it. And I think that’s particularly important as we start looking at things like AI and machine learning where we are really bringing these technologies into the every day, where they’re starting to become kind of commercially viable. And that’s how you engender that trust. Which you said before, I think trust is really on the decline, but you’re very honest about, you know, how do you take people on that journey with you? And how you learn, you learn together. I’m not, you know, certainly here to say that all the answers are contained in one central repository. And we’ll just open the door and everything will be magic. And I think that’s really, you know, not easy to do. And so sometimes it’s just being honest about where there are unknowns or where there are things that are difficult to foresee.

Anna Sheppard : 

And I think we find it a lot. Everybody else thinks everybody else is doing 10 times better than they are. And with a lot of the leaders we work with, and a lot of the people we speak to – when you everybody’s on a different stage of the journey and real kindness in leadership is about accepting that tomorrow’s a totally new day to turn everything around and to do well with that. And what’s your thoughts on that kind of kindness piece in leadership, Blaise? And because we’ve seen examples of, you know, very firm leadership in the 80s and 90s. Capitalism spitting people out at 50 years old, and they’re so exhausted they can’t even do that, you know, lifelong cruise that we’re planning about yet. So, what’s your perspective on that? Empathy and kindness and leadership?

Blaise Porter : 

Oh, look, I’m really pleased to say that kind of make a resurgence in the way that we talk about leadership and we talk about culture and the context of organisations. I just heard a fantastic story about the female CEO of Kraft in China. She got to China and she spent a long time kind of learning about, you know, the context of the company in that operating space and learning about who her team was. She was an American woman. And so she learned, you know, I guess about certainly the one child policy so that she had a lot of leaders who were only children. And she learned about, you know, the overriding mission to do good for the country. So what she did was, she actually wrote a letter to the parents of all of those executives. And she said, Oh, you know, I’m your child’s new boss and I want to thank you, and just recognise that your child’s doing a really great job here for Kraft. But also what a great job they’re doing for the country.” And then she also said, “you know, want to recognise you as their parents for the sacrifices that you’ve made to help your child get where they are today and deliver all this value.” And that’s the story that’s kind of worked. And it’s really touched me. Because I think, A – that’s all about context, right? I think if my boss wrote my parents a letter I’d be really suprised.

Anna Sheppard : 

I’d be like, “let me know if you can find them.”

Blaise Porter : 

Yeah I know, like, my mum only checks the mail on a Tuesday between golf day and book club. It was a fabulous example of kindness, really appreciating people as human beings, right. Who come from a family unit who contribute to something beyond themselves and beyond just that sense of the company. So, it absolutely can be done at a corporate level. I think there is no reason why we can’t prioritise being kind to people. And that’s feels absurd even when I say that out loud. Like, of course that’s what we should be doing.

Anna Sheppard : 

Yeah. And that’s, that’s the fundamental makeup of community, isn’t it? We’re all pack animals at the end of the day, we want to feel accepted, we want to feel valued, we want to feel connected. And, you know, there’s actually no evidence anywhere ever, that shows that long term brutal environments produce long term results. Maybe in the short term. And so if we could round up today, and you can give everybody out there who’s listening, and they’re like, this awesome lady is sharing some of the juicy juicy hacks.

Blaise Porter : 

Oh, Crikey.

Anna Sheppard : 

If you could give the the leaders of the future for the next 10 to 20 years, two things that if they focused on, based on your experience…not just within the business you work for, but within the stakeholders you connect with and the partners within your group…What would you say would be the key traits and the key areas of focus?

Blaise Porter : 

Ooft. And I think the first one is not a hack, but it’s essential and that is practice. I think it takes practice to be a good leader and certainly I’m still on my own journey. But, you know, that is something that you practice all the time. You practice when you’re talking to your own team, you practice when you’re talking to your wider team or your other stakeholders or even with your network. To understand what are those people’s motivations and what you can bring to the table. And I think, particularly in the sector around the sustainability space, there’s a tremendous advantage. So if you are a conscious leader, where you are coming into that space where people are willing to share with you and willing to help you on your own journey as well. And I think the other thing is really that connection to the bigger picture. Right, and we all kind of, you know, have that sometimes…that can be really overwhelming thing. Where you’re kind’ve like, scrolling through the news, and you think, “Oh, my god. I’m not doing anything here.” But, I think there’s always hope. And however we do it, we have to foster that sense of hope and that sense of agency within ourselves but also within the people that are around us.

Anna Sheppard : 

That is just probably some of the best advice we’ve had all week there, Blaise. Thank you very much. And it sounds like you’re on a wonderful journey yourself within your own leadership journey. And we are hoping to see you again in the future, coming and speaking and telling some stories around the specifics of some of the awesome work you’re doing around diversity and inclusion, at some of our events in the future. So if anyone is interested in coming and giving Blaise a high five for all the great work she’s doing and having a chat, we’ll be able to meet Blaise later down the line. And we have a little bit of background noise today because we were in a secret location under an airline. It’s called mascot in Sydney. Anyone who’s from Sydney knows that there’s no place to hide from the air traffic. But, if you put your hand out sometimes you can catch your pack of peanuts are too as we’re flying over.

Blaise Porter : 

So what were we saying about optimism?

Anna Sheppard : 

Yeah, just, you know, in the end, you actually can’t even hear the noise. People are, “what’s that noise?” and you’re like, “what noise?” because you’ve managed to zone out. But thank you so much. And we wish you the best of luck. And we hope to touch base again, maybe in a couple of years time and see what your next adventure is, and the next project is that you’re on, Blaise.

Blaise Porter : 

Thank you so much, Anna, I can’t wait.

Anna Sheppard : 

Take care. Bye bye! Thank you for listening to this episode of Project Good Boss. Bambuddha Group is a social enterprise, providing leadership coaching for corporate leaders, business owners and operators. We believe in a future where every leader is committed to creating a sustainable world of equality and opportunity for everyone. If you are a game changing leader, and you have an amazing story of how your business is making the world a kinder and a better place, we would love to hear from you. Visit bambuddhagroup.com or slide into our DM’s. And finally, you should know, for every paid member we have in our network, we provide scholarships to reduce inequalities in leadership and business. Thank you to Sonic Union for editing this episode, Lo Roberts for writing and performing Project Good Boss and design by Flare Creative. Thank you for being kind today. Thank you for tuning in. And we’ll see you again next time.

 

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