In Conversation with Riona Gilroy, College Proteins

Our In Conversation Series is back this October with Riona Gilroy, Business Development Manager at College Proteins. College Group is Ireland’s largest rendering company, they lead the way in innovative rendering practices with a team of over a hundred dynamic and highly skilled professionals.

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

I have been working with the College Group for over two years now. and I oversee the HR function and manage CSR.

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

Prior to working at College Group, I was living and working in London. I worked in Retail for Harrods London in their head office in a HR role and I was on the Harrods CSR committee.

The committee worked on a variety of CSR and Philanthropic projects and it was really during this time that I was first exposed to CSR and the positive impact that it has.

My absolutely favourite project and initiative was a project that we rolled out that focused on helping youths in the local community who experienced challenging circumstances and we coached them on how to prepare for employment. It was so rewarding and purposeful and I just loved the engagement with the community.

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

Sustainability is one of our core values at College Group and underpins all of our business activity. The very nature of our business is sustainable, renewable and feeds directly into the Biocircular economy. At the start of 2020 we launched our new Biofuels facility which recycles waste from the agri food sector to produce Biodiesel for use in diesel vehicle fleets, industrial machinery, generators and private cars. Our biofuels business aligns nicely with our sustainability agenda as we are committed to creating a product that impacts the lives of future generations, protects the environment and preserves the planet.

Community is also very important to everyone at College Group and we have a range of CSR projects that are focused on community life.We pride ourselves on being  good neighbours to the local village and over time we have focused our energy on listening to the local needs. We work with the Nobber community on a number of levels. We are the very proud supporter of the Nobber GFC team and we have provided support for the team over the last 12 months. We also are in partnership with the local secondary school and we offer an annual bursary for further education. College Group is a very future focused business and we are committed to investing emerging talent within the community, the College Group Bursary is something that every employee here is very proud of. Our business activity is centred around supporting and listening to the locals, we value their feedback and input in relation to how we run our business and the impact that it has on village life.

How did you adapt your CSR/Sustainability plans during Covid 19? How did you support your key stakeholders during this time?

Our main focus over the last few months has been on the health and safety of all College Group employees and their families many of whom live locally. Our focus has been on ensuring that we are complying with public health guidance to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all employees.

Like many businesses the last six months or so, have been incredibly challenging and a real learning curve. Our commitment during these months have been to our employees in ensuring that they have a safe environment to work in.

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

I feel fortunate to say that I don’t really encounter challenges with driving CSR or sustainability as both are very much embedded in our company culture. I stay inspired by the College Group team/ all my colleagues every single day. The sense of community and commitment from every individual is truly amazing and keeps me going!

 What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?

Our relationship and presence within the community is something that we are very proud of. We are very proud of the community that the business is located within and since so many of the College Group team are so local, it feels like there is a real sense of community spirit. As they say, it takes a village!

What is your motto in life? 

I guess it’s not really a motto but I thought it would be nice to share a quote that I really love. It’s by Brene’ Brown and I think it fits in nicely in the world of sustainability and community and something that I aspire to live by. “ At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to be able to say that I contributed more than I criticised’.

What would a perfect day entail for you? 

A perfect day for me would be Sunday lunch at home with my parents, boyfriend, brother and sister.

How does BITCI help you in your CSR/ Sustainability journey? 

BITCI are really integral to our success from a CSR/ Sustainability perspective. They are always available to talk through a multitude of queries that arise, be it from how to engage better with the community, how to streamline our CSR strategies and policies right through to fantastic marketing tips. We also love how they keep us so informed in terms of business/employer trends in particular around sustainability, inclusivity and diversity.

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