A Magazine Capturing the Story of Health- For People, Environment, Economy & Habitat

Are Employment Traditions a Signficant Obstacle to Sustainable Value?

Part 1 – Designing the next generation of employment.

by Lavinia Weissman


Boston, MA

Last years buzz in social media about jobs in CSR and Sustainability and the prospect of work for graduates of MBA programs was dim.

The news was filled with descriptions of meta system issues and statistics about the state of employment.  I found the basis for most reports perpetuated a view that work equates with a full time job that carries with it benefits. The harsh reality became the number of full  time jobs continues continued to decline.

Related to this harsh reality is the implosion of a  gap between what people want for employment and what they value; and the lack of jobs creation focused on responding to this need.  Most job descriptions and organizations for human capital and talent have not structured to accommodate the social network of engagement inspired by sustainable market leaders.

Is this changing, where and how? Future articles here will look at this question from the view of companies who have formed the new sustainable marketplace.

Do companies  really manage talent? Or are people in the workforce actually learning to self-manage their talent and ongoing development, so when they are employed they provide value and build “a story of meaningful use,” that can be a story capture for their professional portfolio.

You can  give some new thought and build imagination on what is possible by making a  study of a new  position that has grown out of the sustainability movement, the job of Chief Sustainability Officer.  Your study should include a study of the career portfolio of  people, who have earned these positions through their past accomplishments.

How did they get those job? Was it a result of a graduate program, skill development in a technical competence or something more strategic?

Early last year, Aman Singh, Editor for CSR, Sustainability and Diversity profiled Kathrin Winkler, EMC’s Chief Sustainability Officer and her View from the Top,

Kathrin works in a company where the agenda for sustainability is very clearly supported by the CEO and entire C-suite and board. Kathrin views the CEO, Joe Tucci as the real instigator and she views her job a person who with a very small team works across the company to embed sustainability agenda and translate that agenda into actual operations, product development and response to all stakeholder needs.

Aman called me after the interview for my opinion about Kathrin Winkler’s performance in the context of how to embed sustainability in a culture during an era of dowsizing.

My key observation about Kathrin’s job at EMC at that time was this:

Kathrin’s skill of engaging the EMC workforce into the vision of sustainability is based on a simple premise: ‘corporate sustainability is really about business survival: Take the long view, or your business won’t survive in a failing global society or environment. Long-term sustainability affects customers, employees, suppliers, neighbors, partners, governmental bodies, and civil society. If we make our business choices based on how we interact with those stakeholders, then we are promoting sustainability.

Since those articles were published, like most journalists in the sustainability space, I follow other Vice Presidents of Sustainability, e.g. Jeffrey Hogue, Danisco and Dave Stangis, Campbells Soup. I had to ask myself what was unique to Kathrin’s success as a sustainability strategist and practice leader based on what I have gotten to know about her this year.

Like me, Kathrin comes out of an era of workforce success turned sour, when she worked for Digital Equipment Corporation. There is something most unique to having worked at Digital; in the years that Digital Equipment thrived, anyone who had success there mastered a form of network unrelated to anything most people practice when searching for a job.

What was unique to Digital is how people leveraged their careers based on their technical expertise to build an audience in network and influence adoption of real practical strategies.  It was unfortunate that the company CEO, Ken Olsen never actually learned how to work in this way.

Olsen’s lack of ability in this way led to a company reduction of 160K employees to fewer than 35K when Digital was merged with Compaq.

Basic to the understanding of working in network, Katherin’s core competence is her capacity as a sense-maker .  As I noted to Aman,

She builds a web of inclusion and outreach based on the value she provides as a sense-maker. She provides us with the perfect example of a corporate citizen who has a form of outreach that is aligned with the principles of the Earth Charter and the Principle of Exercising Precaution to do no harm.

There are still challenges to this format of work emerging to  be a sustainable form of employment. My plan this year is to leverage my research on this trajectory of thought through the student internship program I am now leveraging through this magazine and our future portal development for What I learn will be reflected and linked to this article and formed into a series.

This is a very different than preparing for a career based on job descriptions and how the dominating practices of HR in years past.

Let me  know what you think of this line of thought as a reader. Our editorial board really would like to hear from our readers to build a relevant series of articles that makes a difference.

Authors bio:

Lavinia Weissman is an sustainable market leadership coach, journalist, and publisher of As a speaker she describes the new emerging patterns of markets shaped by sustainable market leaders and the social networks they work with and employ.  As a coach, Lavinia works with all her clients to inspire professional development that assures a person the opportunity to embed sustainability as a leader into the network and culture of people they work with.


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