Christine Uri is an ex-Chief Sustainability Officer of Engie Impact, Chief Legal Officer and her LinkedIn is a source of inspiration for many ESG leaders.
Her niche wasn’t always sustainability - she started in a business law firm. She made the switch after meeting tons of people and she spent 10 years on the board of a non-profit that provided services to disadvantaged girls. Her network told her to pick a company with values she’d identify with - and then build her career.
And so she did. As an experienced Chief Sustainability Officer Christine found her own niche, combining law with climate change. Today she’s inspiring almost 13.000 people on LinkedIn on how they can be more sustainable, with her unique perspective on carbon reporting, ESG reporting and all things sustainability.
She said yes to inspiring us here - and allowed us an interview on Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, but also gave us tips on how to make sustainability trending in any organisation.
In this conversation, Veronika Nemethova, Enterprise ESG & Sustainability Advisor, sat down with the industry expert Christine Uri.
What do you think of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive coming up?
Christine: It’s a super interesting conversation for sure. Let me give you some background information. I worked as a CSO in a French organization called Engie Impact with operations in Europe and the US. In the EU, regulations enforced by the governments are a bigger deal than they are in the US. In the US it’s very hard to move forward with regulatory schemes.
But CSRD and like regulations are here to stay. What will happen once it applies to a large set of companies is that investors and consumers will want to be able to compare apples to apples. There will be pressures from those groups to equalize against it.
There will come increasing investor risks and consumer risks to non-compliance. Your stock price will be directly affected by your ESG rankings and performance. The consumer angle is that if you’re a B2C selling to consumers they will hold you accountable, although not all consumers care.
Many companies get into troublesome waters with greenwashing and legitimacy. Personally I worked with a lot of Fortune 500s that are really investing in trying to do the right thing.
“Compliance with such legislation is also bound to become a competitive advantage & issue. It’s going to have a monetary impact on all businesses.”
How does it affect employees?
Christine: It really depends on the industry - but it’ll be substantial for the talent battle. So if you’re battling for top talent, particularly in younger generations under 40 it’ll become an issue you’ll see. It’s one of the main reasons companies invest in having responsible environmental and DEI practices. It’s an absolute must for recruiting the talent they need.
Are sustainability initiatives generally understood by all levels of management? Does everyone understand this need?
Christine: It depends on the company, but there are definitely companies that successfully engaged all management. In Europe, it’s broadly understood. In the US, you see a real division due to political and geographical polarization. You’ll see companies more prone to understanding ESG matters & compliance in California for example.
However, in the US a lot of companies feel overwhelmed and feel as though they’re lacking resources in what to do. My social media is trying to provide a resource to do exactly that - educating companies on what they can do without feeling overwhelmed. It’s showing companies what they can do, while removing the feeling of being overwhelmed. And just taking sustainability initiatives step by step adds up pretty quickly.
When it comes to sustainability, there seems to be this feeling of overwhelming doom that often translates to green fatigue. How do you deal with this yourself?
Christine: Yeah it’s super common. And coming from a legal background, I spoke to many lawyers trying to make a difference in the ESG sphere but they’re not even sure where to start or what to do. Let’s say you’re in a corporation and you want to influence your organization in this direction. You have to understand the perspective of every seat at the executive level and speak to it. If you’re talking to the CFO you’re talking about how you can drive cost savings. With HR you’re talking about what difference it makes to talent. With the commercial team, you’re discussing customer expectations.
So I don’t think showing up and presenting doom and gloom on climate change to an executive team is going to be the most effective strategy. You have to speak to that person’s responsibility, and how sustainability affects them.
How did you communicate that sustainability is important to your executive team back as a CSO?
Christine: If you're at that executive table, it’s your job to interact with those folks every day in and out on a variety of different topics. And so I think more about what they want to hear across the board. My job is to build really strong relationships with everybody. Understand different perspectives on different issues. It’s all about being prepared for concerns and dealing with them. In other words, it’s about making sustainability relevant to different players by presenting them with data points that benefit their daily jobs.
Last question, where do you see ESG going forward in 10 years?
Christine: I think Europe will continue to be out and ahead of it and really doing more intense regulations. I really see that ripple effect across businesses internationally. Europe’s been very successful about having their regulations become a standard practice applicable outside of Europe. So I think regulatory requirements will head in that direction. I don’t think you can expect similar initiatives to come out of the US. I see CSRD becoming the new GDPR. Even though GDPR is not a law in the US and we have our own, it’s become an international standard.
Besides - if you’re a global business it’s just easier having one regulatory scheme you ought to comply with.
Thank you again Christine for interviewing with us. We here at CO2HERO help you reduce your Scope 3 emissions while engaging your workforce in climate actions. No more doom and gloom, but accessible and understandable education for everyone, regardless of age, geographical location, or job description.
Christine will be back for an upcoming webinar with us, where she’ll elaborate even further on what the upcoming legislation means for you - sign up here!