Welcome to the TSSS Series on Canadian Women in CSR. Learn about their journeys, discover what inspires them and explore how they’re making a difference through their careers in sustainability. Please follow the link to read about other exceptional Canadian Women in CSR.
NOTE: Angela will be speaking at the upcoming TSSS event on May 28th on the topic of Shared Value – the event takes place at Ryerson University and is also available via livestream. Click here for details.
TSSS: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Angela Simo Brown: I have been at the Air Miles Reward Program (AMRP) for 17 years in a range of strategic partnership and innovation roles. I am the Co-founder and currently the General Manager of AIR MILES for Social Change, a social venture created 4 years ago within LoyaltyOne and the AMRP. My role is social change innovation and applying the amazing power, reach and influence of the AMRP to deliver Shared Value to LoyaltyOne and our partners. We do this in three key ways: positive social impact, brand halo to the AMRP, and positive contribution to LoyaltyOne’s bottom line.
TSSS: Have you always been concerned about environmental and social issues – where/when did your passion begin?
ASB: My father was an avid environmentalist and he taught me to appreciate the beauty and importance of nature and how we have to protect it. He immigrated to Ottawa from Spain and was constantly amazed with our abundance of forests and lakes and how precious they are. Growing up in Ottawa also exposed me to politics and the importance of being active in your community and not waiting for someone else to solve our social issues.
TSSS: What issue (and why) causes you the most concern and gets you up the morning?
ASB: I am greatly concerned about our world’s constant hunger for growth under our traditional capitalism model and how it puts unsustainable pressure on our ecosystems and society. We need to evolve from this model to one of Shared Value whereby business still grows, but in a way that benefits both our ecosystems and society. I work really hard to develop the Shared Value concept and show the world that it can work.
TSSS: Can you share a recent accomplishment that you’re especially proud of?
ASB: We partner with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and reward Ontarians for conserving electricity. In one campaign we helped OPA increase participation rates by 530% and cut costs by 2/3 which was amazing. Currently we are partnering with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the YMCA of Canada to reverse the obesity and sedentary epidemics in Canada by giving Canadians AIR MILES reward miles for exercising. Our social change program with the YMCA has seen a whopping 63% of Y members double, triple and quadruple their number of weekly visits to the gym since we launched our innovative fitness program.
TSSS: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey and how.
ASB: I am strongly inspired by David Suzuki whose passion and commitment to protect nature is backed by scientific rationale. He comes both from the heart and the mind. I admire his lifelong dedication to environmental protection and he inspires me to do as much as I can.
TSSS: What is the best advice you have ever received?
ASB: When you really believe in something that is important and it is hard to get the support you want, don’t spend too much time trying to get buy-in because you may lose your window of opportunity. Sometimes you just have to go out there and do it. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. The world needs game changers.
TSSS: What one piece of wisdom would you like to share with the next generation of female sustainability leaders?
ASB: Network and mentor. Women have come a long way in business but we really need our network and experienced mentors to help us achieve our potential.
TSSS: If you had the power to make one major change at your company, in your sector or in Canada as a whole such that if we woke up tomorrow that change would be the new status quo what would it be?
ASB: Wouldn’t it be amazing if all Canadians woke up tomorrow and renewable energy cars, renewable home heating and renewable electricity were commonplace and affordable?
ASB: My perfect day is a run in the forest with my dog, hopefully seeing a few birds because I love birdwatching. This would be followed by yoga on the dock and seeing the great blue heron that sometimes comes to visit. I’d enjoy some socializing with friends, then singing and playing piano would be great. Lastly, I would write a short blog to get my thoughts of the day out and hopefully inspire someone.