Women in CSR – Canada: Helle Bank Jorgensen, Founder at B. Accountability


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.

Helle Bank Jorgensen, Special Advisor, United Nations Global Compact

Helle Bank Jorgensen, Special Advisor, United Nations Global Compact

TSSS: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.

Helle Bank Jorgensen: For the past 25 years I’ve consulted and worked with hundreds of companies such as Ikea, Nike, Unilever, Shell, Novo Nordisk, Maersk, Pfizer, Monsanto and Lego, many of those years as a Partner with PwC in Europe and in the US.

In 2012 I launched B.Accountability where we have created The Sustainable Enterprise ProgramTM – a step-by-step process to help companies identify and act on the risks and opportunities they might be missing to take the lead in the 21st Century. The program is based on my years of experience working with leading companies globally.

In 2013 I took on the role as Special Advisor to UN Global Compact and I’m now the Head of Global Compact Network Canada. I’ve also taken on advisory roles for World Climate Ltd, who organizes the yearly World Climate Summit; Six Degree People Ltd. who are finding leaders for a changing world; and I sit on boards; for instance the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (out of New York).

TSSS: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?

HBJ: At B.Accountability we work closely with companies to develop their sustainability programs. And with the UN Global Compact we are promoting responsible business principles. Internally we are also working toward becoming a B. Corp, and we recently made our website carbon neutral. In addition my colleagues and I have taken on to mentor selected people and we have decided to make a ‘pay it forward program’ where ‘the price’ for our time to mentor, is that the person will in return dedicate time to help others, and eventually send us a note about how they helped. We hope to create a ripple effect where we all give a little time to help others.

TSSS: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey and how.

HBJ: So many have affected my sustainability journey – the very first was Professor Alting at the Danish Technical University, who gave me a chance to develop what was later coined the Worlds First Green Account. He took in a person, me, with a business law degree that studied to become a financial accountant … and he taught me about lifecycle assessment, pollution and externalities. He got me on the sustainability path 25 years ago.

The second person I want to mention is my first boss at PwC, late Jorgen Cramon, who gave me permission to use 50% of my time to build PwC’s Sustainability and Climate Change practice after I had bugged him month after month about how important this area was going to be for companies. Later on it was PwC’s former Global CEO Sam DiPiazza who is still a great mentor to me. He gave me the chance to move to New York to develop the Sustainability and Climate Change Practice in the US.

I have so many other great people to thank – including all the great people that I’ve met since I arrived in Canada. I’m truly amazed about the number of Canadian thought leaders – including Brad Zarnett who I admire for having started the Toronto Sustainability Speakers Series.

TSSS: What is the best advice you have ever received?

HBJ: The best advice I’ve ever received is this: “Think big and get on with it!”

I believe that I’m not alone when I say that I from time to time can feel despair over how long I’ve worked to get companies on a sustainable path – and how much we still have to do.

What continues to inspire me are my mentors and that I have had the chance to meet many international trailblazers and world leaders such as former President Bill Clinton, Christiana Figueres who is the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Former President Mary Robinson among others who have kept my spirit up. I truly admire my mentors and the world leaders I have had a chance to meet. They have all given me the belief that it all matters and that there is only one way – forward – “Think big and get on with it!”

TSSS: Can you share a recent accomplishment that you’re especially proud of?

HBJ: I’m really proud that I’ve been selected as one of 12 global facilitators for UN Global Compact Lead Board Program – a unique program designed to stimulate strategic, company-specific and action-oriented dialogue among Directors and Senior executives.

I’m equally proud that the number of Global Compact Signatories in Canada has increased by 22% in the last year. I have a truly first-class team and our goal for 2014 is 101 companies, as Global Compact Network Canada was Network number 101… So please visit www.globalcompact.ca to join Canadian leaders working to progress on Human Right, Labor, Environment and Anti-corruption issues.

TSSS: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?

HBJ: Embed externalities into the prices of goods and services, so we pay the true price of the goods we buy.

My very first real job was at the Life Cycle Centre at the Technical University in Denmark. Here we worked on life-cycle analysis and I was tasked to work on life-cycle costs or externalities. My Masters thesis was about how we should have the ‘full-cost’ included in the Financial Reports. When I joined PwC my vision was that more information about employees and the environment should be included in the annual reports. In addition, the balance sheet should include the costs of environmental degradation. At PwC we later developed ValueReportingTM, which has now developed into Integrated Reporting.

Embed externalities into the prices of goods and services, so we pay the true price of the goods we buy. It is fantastic to see more and more companies and investors embark on integrating long term sustainable thinking into their business and investment decisions as well as their reports. While there has been substantial progress since I began this journey 25 years ago, I hope in my next 25 years I will have the chance to see my vision of true pricing/costing realized by companies. Working with so many leaders, like those within the TSSS community, those involved in the UN Global Compact, and many others inspires me to keep pushing for more progress.

To read about other exceptional Canadian Women in CSR, please follow this link.