For this month of our In Conversation Series with Sustainability professionals we hear from Priscilla O’Regan Head of Communications at BT Ireland. BT Ireland are leaders in sustainability having this year achieved the Business Working Responsibly mark. BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world.They’re making this happen through their products and services, as part of their culture and in partnership with others. We hope you enjoy this interview.
What was your background previously? How did you enter the CSR field?
I have a degree in journalism from Dublin City University. I wanted to be the next John Simpson, as a foreign correspondent, so off I took to Romania for my first ‘real’ job! From there, I travelled to New Zealand and became a Communications Executive at IBM, and this started me on the broader communications path I have been on since. I remember doing a psychometric test in a subsequent business role and it said ‘Priscilla seeks out injustice everywhere she can find it’ which may not seem like a vital attribute in a corporate, but now I realise this is what drives my passion for corporate responsibility and diversity and inclusion. (It also sounds like I need a cape!)
How has the sustainability/CSR programme evolved at your company?
BT Group has a very clear corporate responsibility strategy – Purposeful Business – aiming to ‘use the power of communications to make a better world.’ All of our employees can get involved – whether it’s by getting people online, working for the environment, supporting good causes or volunteering in the community. With the increased breadth of my role, it has been great to start to see the crossover between corporate responsibility and diversity and inclusion, which might not be possible in a more siloed organisation. Examples include a focus on getting more young people from disadvantaged schools to take part in BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, providing IT training to people from migrant communities, and supporting a GAA team in Raheny for children with disabilities.
What are the challenges you encounter in driving the sustainability agenda and how do you stay inspired?
It’s critical to have a clear corporate responsibility strategy, aligned to commercial strategy and signed off by the Board. Our employees are so passionate about corporate responsibility, and every cause has merit to someone, and without strict application of your agreed strategy, your execution plan may become unwieldy, disjointed and less impactful. Choosing the right partnerships can be a challenge, but when it works, it can be amazing. We deliver the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition on behalf of a charitable trust, and everything about the people and the organisations involved in that mammoth eco-system inspires me.
What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?
I think the organisation of BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition is a major accomplishment for us as a brand. It is headed up by Mari Cahalane in BT, and the delivery involves up to 200 BT employees in January each year. It continues to be one of the largest and longest running school STEM events in the world, and not only did we have the EU Contest for Young Scientists in Dublin this year, BT is also organising The Primary Science Fair at the exhibition in January 2019.
What are the business benefits of having achieved the Business Working Responsibly mark?
The process of the audit and accreditation has been really beneficial for us because it really gets under the bonnet of your policies, practices and processes to ensure you are excelling at what you do across a wide range of areas. We don’t do responsible business initiatives for the accolades, yet we recognise that this accreditation will greatly help our reputation with key stakeholders and hopefully help retain and attract talented people to work with us.
What is your motto in life?
‘Life is short’ is my motto. In addition, at a Lean In workshop earlier this year the question “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” was put to us. I find myself reflecting on that more and more when challenges and opportunities come across my desk and in my personal life.
What would a perfect day entail for you?
Achieving something meaningful on any given day makes me satisfied. Not so long ago, we had a career talk in our boardroom for minors who had come into Ireland unaccompanied from difficult situations in countries including Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. It wasn’t on a grand scale, however, it enabled young people new to Ireland to experience a company for the first time, hear about the wide variety of careers available, meet our senior leaders, and also Abdul Abubakar, who won the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition and EU Contest for Young Scientists just two years after coming here. That was the perfect day.
Thanks to Priscilla for giving us a glimpse into her sustainability career. You can find out more about BT Ireland and their sustainability on their website.