In our In Conversation Series we get to know the sustainability and corporate responsibility leaders from some of Ireland’s top businesses. This month please meet Penny Bryant, Director of Communications and CSR at Fidelity Investments.
Please describe your role and responsibilities and how many years you have been in the company
I oversee Communications and CSR for Fidelity Investments in Ireland. Fidelity created its first global footprint here in Ireland in 1996, and now we have over 1000 associates located in both Dublin and Galway, where we deliver essential technology, operations and support services. We’ve worked hard to create an energized and vibrant workplace – filled with opportunity – and we are proud of our focus on Corporate Social Responsibility.
Just short of a year into my role, I am still learning the ropes of Fidelity, however, I’ve been overwhelmed by the commitment and investment we make to our local communities through our CSR programs.
What was your background previously? How did you enter the CSR/sustainability field?
I’ve worked in communications for nearly 20 years, overseeing communication and CSR activities across several industries and sectors, and have watched CSR progress from a ‘requirement’ to finding its place as a strategic cornerstone in a much more conscious environment.
CSR often falls within the remit of communications because of its strong connection and understanding of the communities it serves. Over time it’s become an essential part of any organisational narrative as it provides a bridge between an organisation and its community. Our role in CSR is to both oversee that – and to follow through on the goals the organisation implements.
How has the sustainability/CSR programme evolved at your company?
As a new member of the team, I was delighted to find both CSR and sustainability is well developed throughout the company. Fidelity is proud of the way it provides services to its customers and how they interact with the communities within which they operate.
Here in Ireland we are working to ensure that we continue this within our local communities in both Dublin and Galway. We did this by moving away from one or two larger CSR events, to more local, relevant activities that resonated with both associates and the communities we serve. We do this by connecting both the skills and enthusiasm of our associates with the needs of our local communities, both in Dublin and Galway.
What are the challenges you encounter in driving the sustainability agenda and how do you stay inspired?
While CSR and sustainability have earned their seat at the table over time, consensus now generally agrees that a focused CSR plan will enable strategy. That said, ensuring effort and resource is adequately applied continues to be a challenge for most organisations. At Fidelity Ireland, we have found that ensuring CSR objectives and activities are hand-in-glove with our company ethos has meant we continue to see how CSR benefits our community, our associates and the organisation.
Two key words that we continue to focus on are “community” and “local” – these words are the foundation on which many of our CSR activities are based and we have seen a huge increase in our employee engagement since introducing a focus on giving back to local communities, whilst also building a community of Fidelity colleagues who are passionate and connected to who we are. While there are certain challenges involved in driving CSR programs across the board, we have found that listening to our associates and allowing them to have input into delivering projects that are meaningful to them has led us to drive an agenda that speaks to what is at the heart of our strategy.
I stay inspired by the pure dedication and enthusiasm of the associates within Fidelity – together, we have clocked over 1500 volunteer hours across various events already this year. We have reached over 1300 students through our educational programs, focused on inspiring students through a range of STEM subjects, including a coding workshop that was designed and delivered by our very own Fidelity volunteers.
Our associates have also taken part in almost 20 volunteering projects for a host of local charities including Down Syndrome Ireland, St Vincent de Paul, Leave no Trace, Dogs for the Disabled, Airfield Estate, Galway Autism Partnership and more. From clean-up projects to running local charity shops, no job has proven too big or too small for our volunteers. They have shown an unwavering sense of empathy and have truly embraced what community is all about.
What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?
In a short space of time, I’ve enjoyed working with the team to renew our local CSR strategy to provide a range of opportunities giving our associates the chance to apply skills that benefit their local community. To do this, our CSR strategy outlines a criteria, allowing a more organic approach for our employees to design activities that we know lead to both business and community benefit. Together with this, we have also implemented a ‘CSR Council’ where associates can join voluntarily to ensure their voice is part of our CSR plan.
So, whether this is encouraging young people, particularly girls, to consider a career in tech, teaching financial literacy to middle school children, providing our graduate associates the chance to experience a CSR day, or working on our return to work program, our program of events is making real impact within our local community at pivotal life stages.
What is your motto in life?
Feel the fear, do it anyway.
What would a perfect day entail for you?
Waking up to a long, sunny day in Dublin, then hosting visiting friends and family around this very special city so they can appreciate all the reasons why I have chosen to make Ireland my home.