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Claudia Herbert Colfer: Helping Companies Build Robust Sustainability Strategies

Claudia Herbert Colfer: Helping Companies Build Robust Sustainability Strategies


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Claudia Herbert Colfer, head of programming at the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Network USA. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Welcome, Claudia. Let’s jump right in. Can you tell me what challenge UNGC Network USA is addressing?

Claudia: Thanks for having me, Spiffy. Our world grapples with a spectrum of challenges, spanning from pressing environmental concerns like climate change to critical social issues such as lack of quality education. Overcoming these hurdles needs active engagement from all stakeholders, with the private sector assuming a pivotal role. UNGC Network USA proudly serves as the US chapter of UNGC, the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative. At UNGC Network USA, I not only foster meaningful connections between American enterprises and the United Nations but I also help companies establish more robust sustainability strategies to overcome our world's most pressing challenges.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Claudia: I remember watching the news on the TV as a kid and feeling frustrated that so many terrible things were happening in the world and that I could not fix them all. Turning to my mom for guidance, she wisely encouraged me to seek out small ways to make a difference. My mom's advice guided my professional journey as it inspired me to pursue a career that would allow me to contribute "my grain of sand." After exploring potential career paths, I discovered my passion for working at the intersection of the public and private sectors, where I could help two pivotal stakeholders drive substantial change. Witnessing the tangible impact of my work on the world keeps me motivated every single day.

Spiffy: That’s very inspiring! What would you say is the impact of your work?

Claudia: I help over 1,000 American companies—including some of the world's largest corporations—establish robust sustainability strategies. The way I do this is by spearheading a variety of sustainability programs and initiatives. I'm currently leading the deployment of five accelerator programs as well as other initiatives such as thought leadership pieces and peer learning groups. The programs I lead have been instrumental in assisting hundreds of companies in comprehensively measuring their carbon footprint, setting science-based targets, promoting workplace gender equality, and, in a broader sense, integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the overarching sustainability agenda into their core operations.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make?

Claudia: This year, we celebrated a significant milestone by welcoming our 1,000th company to our organization. This achievement not only reflects the US private sector’s commitment to advancing sustainable and responsible business practices in the US but also highlights the immense potential of American companies in driving positive change. Now, we're responding to our growing organization by providing more programming and thought leadership to our participants, as well as opportunities for business leaders from diverse industries to come together to foster collaborative efforts and collective action.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Claudia: While I wholeheartedly embrace my passion for sustainability, I think that every individual possesses the power to contribute to a better world. In other words, becoming a change-maker doesn't equate to a career in sustainability. It's vital to reflect on how, in your unique capacity and setting, you can actively contribute to fostering positive change. Whether through volunteering, spearheading innovative initiatives within your organization, or even making sustainable adjustments to your daily routine, your actions hold significance and contribute to our shared goal of a more sustainable world.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Claudia—it’s been an honor!

Claudia Herbert Colfer is a founding member of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Network USA, a special initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General and the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative. She built and led the organization’s programming, which helps over 1,000 of the world’s largest companies strengthen and advance their sustainability strategies. (First published on the Ladderworks website on November 6, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.