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Women in Focus Week: Day 4! Meet the top women sustainable CEOs: Gail Kelly (WestPac Bank)

Gail Kelly, CEO of WestPac Bank

This week, the Important Media Network has committed to highlighting some of the women that are making the world a better place. At Inspired Economist, we thought we’d take part by profiling a great sustainable woman CEO every day this week. See previous posts on Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft FoodsKim Jordan, CEO of New Belgium Brewing, and Eileen Fisher (of high end apparel company with her name) then check in each day this week to see who we have next! 

Gail Kelly, CEO of WestPac Bank, one of Australia’s Big Four, has pushed sustainability as a business strategy in an industry not historically known for such outside the box thinking. Under Kelly’s leadership, WestPac Bank ranked 14th in the Corporate Knights Top 100 Most Sustainable Companies last year.

The company urges connection to its communities, with dedicated sponsorship of community building and a lot of cause-related marketing. They’ve launched the Davidson Institute to help Australians learn about the importance of savings from an early age and to combat financial stress related societal problems like homelessness.

According to a review of their sustainability report by Elaine Cohen,

This year Westpac offers exceptional transparency with a series of factpacks in excel format (or PDF) which are downloadable and contain heaps of data covering everything at Group level and at individual bank-brand level, from details of community investment to Code of Conduct compliant suppliers to CO2e emissions per employee and per customer, amount of copying paper per employee, recycling rates of individual materials, Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions and much, much more. Most data is for 2 years (2010-2011) but some is for three years and some for longer. Making this data available in excel format means that the reader can play around with the numbers and make graphs and charts, if so inclined.  I find this bold, trust-building and entirely inviting credibility. The downside of this approach, of course, is that the data is bunched together with no narrative, so you have to work out the trends for yourself. Having said this, everywhere I looked, Westpac’s performance seems to be getting better, so perhaps these numbers really do speak for themselves.

 This level of transparency is at the leading edge of the financial industry, and emulates sustainability reporting by companies in more extractive and greenhouse gas intensive industries. It gave WestPac the highest sustainability ranking among banks by Dow Jones, and has led the company to an estimated 81% employee engagement. It also boasts 37.5% women in positions of leadership, high for the male-dominated banking industry.

To check out the rest of Important Media’s Focus on Women this week, check out an archive of this week’s women’s issues posts here!

Written by Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride.


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