In Conversation with Sinead Smith, Corporate Responsibility Manager of A&L Goodbody

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

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In this month of our In Conversation with series we are delighted to talk to Sinead Smith, Corporate Responsibility Manager of A&L Goodbody

  • Please describe your role and responsibilities and how many years you have been in the company

I have been with A&L Goodbody as Corporate Responsibility Manager for the past 4 years.  I am responsible for managing all the Responsible Business initiatives for the firm. This includes managing the firm’s Community programme called Step Up and more recently developing and implementing responsible business initiatives right across our business in areas such as sustainable procurement and business and human rights.

  • What was your background previously? How did you enter the CSR field?

Previous to A&L Goodbody, I worked in O2 for 12 years. I started working as a department administrator and after a couple of years moved into the Corporate Affairs Department as Community Executive. This role then evolved into Corporate Responsibility Executive and from there I moved up the career path into a manager role.

I am always asked how I got into the CR field and I have to be honest there was a bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time.  I owe my move into this area to the IT Director I worked with at the time in O2 as it was because of her encouragement and mentorship that I made my initial move.

  • How has the sustainability/CSR programme evolved at your company?

I was brought into A&L Goodbody to establish a defined Corporate Responsibility Strategy. The first priority for the firm was to build a community programme.  The firm had always been involved in community initiatives but they were implemented on an adhoc basis. Over the last four years we have developed a strategic Community Programme which is focused on supporting social needs in our local community in the areas where we as a law firm can transfer our skills the most.  One of the other areas we have really developed over the last number of years has been our pro bono programme. Pro bono is now at the centre of our community involvement as we believe we can make the most impact by using our skills, knowledge and training to deliver what is most needed in the community.

Our Environmental focus and initiatives have also evolved over the last number of years and one of the major achievements has been attaining both ISO accreditations for our Energy and Environmental Management systems.

In the last year we have placed more focus on our wider responsible business agenda whilst still continuing with our Community and Environmental commitments.  Our Responsible Business strategy for the next three years has a clear roadmap to achieving best practice in a number of other areas that are material to us as a law firm particularly in the areas of Business and Human Rights, Diversity and Sustainable Procurement.

  • What are the challenges you encounter in driving the sustainability agenda and how do you stay inspired?

There is so much we want to achieve in our responsible business strategy, however having the time and resources to implement the wider responsibility agenda is always a challenge.  We have recently recruited another member to the CR team which will help towards this and also demonstrates the continued commitment from the firm in this area.

Maintaining a high level of engagement from our people in our community and pro bono initiatives is another challenge. It is important that we continue to offer varied opportunities for our people to get involved in. It is also important to make it easy for our people to be involved so having accessible programmes with clear policies and procedures is essential to continued engagement.

I love my job and love what I do.  There are many reasons for this but the main reasons are; the feedback I get from our people about how much they enjoy getting involved in our responsible business initiatives; the relationships I make with the community groups that benefit from our programmes; and the commitment from the leadership within the firm to achieve best practice in all areas of Responsible Business.

  • What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?

Seeing how our responsible business strategy has grown and developed over the last four years and how it is now fully integrated into the firm’s business strategy is something I am very proud of.  The engagement and willingness from our people, from all levels within the firm in our pro bono and community programmes, is something else I am very proud of. Without the support of our people and the leadership team, our community programme would not be as impactful as it is.

Developing our pro bono programme has been a great learning experience for me.  As part of this programme, we have created a unique partnership with the Irish Refugee Independent Law Centre to provide a pro bono service for people claiming refugee status in Ireland. The project involves A&LG lawyers advising and representing the Law Centre clients pro bono in the first interview stage of the asylum process. I have learned a lot from the creation of this partnership and how the firm is contributing to an unmet need of increased access to justice for individuals who are looking for refugee status.

  • What is your motto in life?

Less haste – more speed! I am a real believer in this from a personal perspective (especially when I feel a little stressed!) but also from a work perspective. Get your policies and procedures in place before trying to boil the ocean…its makes your programmes and initiatives more genuine, more impactful and more sustainable!

  • What would a perfect day entail for you (outside of work)?

I am originally from Galway and I love spending time there so a perfect day for me would be to be in Galway city on a nice summer’s day (with actual sun and none of that infamous Galway drizzle!!) with friends or family, enjoying the relaxed Galway vibe and having nice food and wine!

 

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