UNC Kenan-Flagler Sustainability Blog

J&J Tish Lascelle’s Sustainability Buzzword: Interconnected

April 20, 2012 By Joel Thomas
Tish Lascelle and Net Impact President Genny King
Tish Lascelle and Net Impact President Genny King

Tish Lascelle, Sr. Director of Environment, Health and Safety at Johnson & Johnson, was Kenan-Flagler’s Net Impact chapter guest yesterday in McColl.  Her conversation with the filled classroom made one clear point to me:  Interconnectedness. 

Tish’s background was in the chemical industry, working for Honeywell and Allied Signal.  But somewhere along the way, she decided she wanted to use her skills and intellect to make the future better.  She came to UNC and the School of Public Health.  Her father’s WWII don’t-throw-anything-away mentality and habits had made her very aware of scarcity of resources as well. 

Tish referred a lot to J&J’s Credo – something that all employees read regularly to remind themselves as a company of their stakeholders and therefore priorities.  This short, simple document addresses J&J’s customers, suppliers, community, natural resources and shareholders. 

20 years ago, “sustainability” had a rather narrow definition in regards to how J&J could protect the environment by using  fewer resources.  Today, that lens is broader and includes social impacts, transparency and also the business case for efficiencies.   Underneath all, however, are the Credo’s reminder about a responsibility to the community and protection of the environment. 

So the word “interconnected” kept coming up in Tish’s comments and I’d think to myself during her wise comments, “that’s another example of how we’re all interconnected”. 

She quoted Jacques Cousteau on the fact that we’re all quite literally in the same boat when it comes to the world’s oceans – interconnected.

She talked about how colleagues from many different companies share ideas openly at meetings and conferences  – interconnected.

She talked about collaborating with suppliers –sourcing sustainable Palm Oil, for example – interconnected.  J&J now requires that all key supplies have two publicly stated sustainability goals since, after all, they want to do business with people who have similar values.

 The other side of that coin is working with NGOs that have seemingly different priorities.  Taking on bigger macro issues with these kinds of partners – the Gates Foundation on neglected tropical diseases and WWF on forest product purchasing guidelines – can be scary when those groups don’t sometimes seem to agree with your corporate policies.  But J&J learns from those different points of view and once again goes back to the credo of serving the needs of their stakeholders.  Again – interconnected.

Several students asked direct questions about how to make a difference in companies they may join with their own careers.  Tish gave an example of paying out of her own pocket for transportation, and conference registration and staying with friends when her desire to attend a sustainability-focused conference wasn’t approved by her management.  Sometimes, you have to invest in yourself even when there’s not an obvious, direct (and reimbursable) company reason for you to be a part of something.  EVERY job can have a sustainability component if it is analyzed for cost savings.  Offer to think on improvements on your own time and most managers will praise the innovative thinking and initiative. 

She closed with a great quote:  “You are not stuck in traffic.  You are traffic”   Now if that isn’t interconnected, I don’t know what is.