Interviews

How to land a job in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with Kaz Flinn, CSR advisor and former VP of CSR for Scotiabank

Growing up in small village on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Kaz Flinn, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) advisor and former VP of CSR for Scotiabank, found early on in life an appreciation and love for the ocean, fresh air and all things green. Her passion and dedication to better the community landed her an opportunity as the first ever VP of CSR for Scotiabank which was also the first Canadian bank to have a titled officer in such a role. What had been a passion and interest area became her full time job. Kaz recalls the last 9 years to be very rewarding, exciting and challenging all at once as the CSR team worked tirelessly to assess the Bank’s current initiatives, educate the executive team, work with internal business line colleagues and develop a global strategy that aligned with the business strategy. We asked Kaz a few questions to better understand how to land a job like hers one day in CSR.

What previous experiences helped you get to where you are today?

I have always been a strong believer in volunteer work. Contributing to your community is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life. I have contributed by serving on several not for profit boards such as Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, UN Global Compact Canadian Network and am currently the Chair of the Education Advisory Council for University of St Michael’s College CSR Certificate Program. I have also donated my time to the Out of the Cold Program, Meals on Wheels and a seniors lunch program in my community.

What are some skills and resources that you rely on most to get the job done?

There are several. First being, communication skills. You can never over communicate both internally and externally. Second, one must require a lot of patience. Things always take longer to happen than you expected or planned for. Another is to know the business of your organization. It is not enough to be a CSR expert. You have to thoroughly understand your business so you can work with your internal colleagues and relate your objectives to theirs. Finally, build an internal group of ambassadors or advocates from across the organization. They will be invaluable resources to help you to both learn the business and support your CSR strategy and initiatives.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

To keep perspective and take a long term view when assessing the milestones of your successes. This advice helped me when I found myself overly focused on individual projects and their success or failure.

What advice do you have for others looking for a career in social impact?

I suggest that anyone interested in the field of social impact and social responsibility to receive as broad a training as possible. Whether you will be working for an agency, any size company or not for profit, they could be more interested in you if you understand the field, the trends, reporting, community investment, strategy etc.

 What is your greatest productivity tip?

Create short and long term goals and circle back to them on a regular basis by yourself and with your team. This will help you stay focused on doing work that helps you get closer to your goals and you will be able to see and feel your productivity.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I love long distance running and have completed many half marathons and 4 marathons including the Big Sur marathon in California which is a very hilly and slow marathon with the most gorgeous scenery!

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Cristine Sousa

Cristine Sousa

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