In conversation with Christina van der Kamp, corporate responsibility manager at Gas Networks Ireland

BITCI News - Leadership - Jun 06, 2017

In this month of our In Conversation with series we are delighted to talk to Christina van der Kamp, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Gas Networks Ireland.

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

As Corporate Responsibility Manager for Gas Networks Ireland much of my role involves working with colleagues to ensure that responsibility is high on the agenda right across the business, I have direct responsibility for community activity for Gas Networks Ireland. I’ve been working with Gas Networks Ireland since 2008, it’s a great company to work for and is constantly evolving.

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

My background is in communications, before moving to Gas Networks Ireland I worked in various roles in the media industry, I have a degree in Media Production Management and a Masters in Science Communication.  I’ve worked in a number of different roles within Gas Networks Ireland before moving to CR, I’d spent the previous two and a half years as a HR Business Partner before the opportunity arose to move to CR. It’s a role I knew I’d love, being able to make a positive impact on society, the environment, customers and staff.

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

The CR programme at Gas Networks Ireland is about so much more than volunteering and sponsorship!  Responsibility influences many areas of our business and revolves around the five CR pillars of Community, Environment, Workplace, Marketplace and Governance. Gas Networks Ireland holds the Business Working Responsibly Mark for responsible and sustainable business practices. We were one of the first companies to be granted certification in 2013 and are still one of only 25 companies in Ireland that hold the Mark. For us the Mark is a clear demonstration of our commitment to CR, it’s something we’re really proud of!  We recently completed a robust three year CR strategy identifying priorities under each of the CR pillars, all with the aim of moving CR further towards a high impact integrated approach that is strategic to the mission and vision of Gas Networks Ireland.

We have a CR steering group in place that guides and reviews all of our CR programmes and activities. We also established a working group with representatives across all of the pillars which helps ensure that CR has a presence at all levels in the business.

Gas Networks Ireland has a number of strategic partnerships with community and voluntary groups. A number of our community programmes revolve around education and the programmes we support highlight the importance of literacy, education and encouraging students to stay in school to realise their full potential. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) are at the core of our business, so we support a number of STEM related educational programmes too.

Gas Networks Ireland delivers the ‘Our Universe’ programme in partnership with Junior Achievement. Our Universe is a classroom based ‘learning by doing’ style science education programme that was delivered to over 5,000 6th class primary school students last year.

We also work with Business in the Community (BITC) to deliver the Time to Read programme which provides reading support to 2nd class students. Gas Networks Ireland works with Scoil Mhuire Fatima and Scoil Aiseiri Chríost on the programme in Cork with our staff volunteers and in Dublin with Mother of Divine Grace National School, Ballygall.

We are actively involved in the Skills at Work programme, also run by BITC, and are partnered with two schools close to our main offices; Nagle Community College in Mahon, Cork and Beneavin College, Finglas. Skills at Work provides students with an insight into careers within a company and promotes the importance of education by encouraging them to remain in school.  We celebrated the 10th year of our partnership with Nagle College last year!

Gas Networks Ireland also supports a youth leadership programme in Cork in partnership with Co-operation Ireland, a peace building charity that works both North and South of the border.  The programme is expanding to Dublin this year and we’re really excited about that.  Each of these programmes is coordinated by a team of dedicated volunteers.

Of course it’s not all about community and education, we are doing valuable work on each of the pillars across the business, like reviewing carbon emissions and other environmental data, supporting biodiversity improvements at Gas Networks Ireland sites and supporting national objectives for climate change.  Under the workplace pillar the HR and safety teams are supporting health, safety and wellbeing programmes.  Our colleagues in the marketplace arena are always working to improve customer experience and to promote gas safety externally through award winning advertising campaigns.

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

It can be challenging to measure return on investment for CR programmes, but it’s important in order to change the perspective of CR from a nice-to-have to something genuinely valuable for our business.    Given the nature of our business CR and sustainability are crucially important for us, so driving engagement and understanding of CR is at the top of my agenda.  Separately for me, employee engagement is a key driver of sustainability in the business so, communication is key, keeping staff up to date and engaged by promoting the good work we’re doing is a real motivator.

I’m inspired by the dedication and commitment of the team I work with.   Our community programmes are coordinated by a group of dedicated employee volunteers whose dedication and enthusiasm inspires me to go the extra mile on a daily basis.

What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?

I’m very proud to have just completed a three year strategy for CR at Gas Networks Ireland.

This involved a significant amount of research into learning what other companies are doing, what our stakeholders think we should be doing and what the latest CR trends are globally.  In doing this, firstly I undertook a materiality assessment, consulting internal stakeholders with the help of BITC who led employee focus groups and I then met external stakeholders on a one to one basis to discuss issues they felt should be important to Gas Networks Ireland from a CR perspective.  Secondly I reviewed our community programmes looking at what worked well and what could be improved upon, thirdly, and in my opinion most importantly, I undertook a benchmarking exercise where I met with CR peers in similar companies and in companies I admired.  The contacts I made there through introductions by BITC and the learnings they shared have been absolutely invaluable to me.  I also now have a good network to bounce ideas off, which is fantastic!

What is your motto in life?

The old classic of treating others the way you want to be treated resonates well with me so I’ll go with that… and also not sweating the small stuff!

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

Perfect day outside of work would start with a lie in!  A nice morning spent with my husband, followed by dinner with friends and off to a gig that evening!

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