Earth Day, an annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection, has been celebrated annually on April 22 since 1970. Sustainability, the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain ecological balance, has been gaining a lot of traction over the years.
But how does that relate to a career? Ferguson, a $23B value-added distributor in North America providing expertise, solutions, and products from infrastructure, plumbing and appliances to HVAC, fire, fabrication, and more is headquartered in Newport News. Peninsula Chronicle recently spoke with Denise Vaughn, its Vice President of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), to find out what it takes to be a good corporate neighbor and how it is creating new jobs for people.
Peninsula Chronicle: What exactly does sustainability mean and how does that relate to a corporate point of view?
Denise Vaughn: Sustainability is an important element of our holistic Environmental, Social, and Governance strategy. Included in that is the element of environmental sustainability. At the risk of oversimplification, ESG is the intersection of purpose and profit. It’s making sure that you’re running a responsible, profitable, sustainable business for your shareholders, ensuring the long-term vitality of your organization, and also focusing on taking care of your associates. Are you taking care of their health and safety? Are you providing for their ongoing development and providing rich career opportunities? Are you looking after their physical and mental well-being? Are you taking care of the environment? Are you supporting local communities and working to solve societal challenges? And then, do you have the governance in place and the proper policies to make sure that doing things like protecting sensitive data, responsibly sourcing products, managing and mitigating risk, and more? It is essentially making sure that we continue to create value for all of our stakeholders.
At Ferguson, we believe that corporations have both the responsibility and an opportunity to better the world. It’s something that has been core to who we are since our inception in 1953. It’s kind of cliché to say, but it’s part of our DNA. Taking care of our associates, respecting the planet, and operating a sustainable business is something we have always done.
PC: Those familiar with Ferguson probably only think of them in terms of plumbing supplies. They might not understand how you contribute to the greater good of the world.
DV: We have an opportunity to help folks locally understand the geographic scale and size of Ferguson. We have over 30,000 associates, working in more than 1,600 locations, bridging the gap between 34,000 suppliers and 1 million customers. Our reach is expansive. Taking into account that we cross over nine different customer groups, we have a lot of influence on the development and the redevelopment of the built world, all across North America. When we look at our opportunities, they are vast to partner with manufacturers to bring innovative products and solutions to an industry continuously evolving and to help make our customers’ projects more simple, successful, and sustainable.
PC: As for emerging jobs, what are you looking for when trying to fill positions in ESG?
DV: We are currently recruiting for two positions to join our dynamic team. One role is for an ESG reporting analyst who will collect the data that allows for accurate and transparent sharing of information. This role will help us quantify the impact that we’re having. The second position we’re looking for is on our Social Impact Team, or what some may know as the Ferguson Cares Program. This role will help manage grant requests that come in, both locally and nationally. We’re very active in the Hampton Roads community with the ways we deliver to support our hometown. Another big push for us is volunteerism. This position will help us across the country, making sure our associates are engaged in their local communities.
In both roles, we’re looking for people who are passionate about making a difference, but that also have a business mind and understand how you can be a face for good and a force for growth.
PC: If you were going to give advice to anyone who was interested in getting into sustainability or environmental issues, or something that had a corporate connection to it, what advice might you give to them?
DV: Read, read, read. There is so much incredible information out there. Google searches for ESG have quadrupled in the last two years, and there is a plethora of information available. I have found in this industry that everybody wants to lean in and help others that are at various places along their journey. Everybody I have found who works in the sustainability field wants to see companies and municipalities and the government working together to push social good, so it’s a very collaborative community. So, I would say read, learn as much as you can, and reach out. Reach out to experts. Find areas of ESG which are of interest and make as many contacts and learn as much as you can.