Seeking Sustainability Loyalty: Debbie Baxter of LoyaltyOne Talks CSR (Part 1 of 3)

Debbie BaxterLoyaltyOne is no stranger to accolades about its corporate responsibility programs. More often than not, it is mentioned as the company to learn from on employee engagement, community involvement and innovative ways to drive sustainable consumer behaviour. Awards include: Canada’s Best Employer (2012), Canada’s Greenest Employer (2011), and Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures (2011), to name a few recent ones. For Debbie Baxter, Chief Sustainability Officer at LoyaltyOne, it is positive reinforcement but by no means a signal to slow down. I spoke with Ms. Baxter to learn more about the company behind all those awards.

The Not So New CSR program
LoyaltyOne has had CSR as part of its “DNA” for about 20 years. Company founders originally built CSR into the values of the company, focusing on community and employee engagement. The environmental or sustainability component of CSR was introduced in late 2007 through staff-driven activities around the office. Participation in the Living Environmentally Aware Forum (LEAF) helped launch actions to reduce workplace environmental footprint, such as ending the use of Styrofoam cups.

“I joined LoyaltyOne in late 2008 to embed sustainability into the company’s business processes,” Baxter notes. Today, her task is to be the lightning rod that brings executive interest and ideas together with employees’ desire to contribute. “It really helps that President and CEO Bryan Pearson is very passionate about sustainability,” she says. Baxter adds that the company has plenty of staff that wants to participate in charitable events. “My job is to help channel the passion from both directions into focused programs and initiatives that align with LoyaltyOne’s key areas of corporate responsibility.” Many sustainability professionals would be envious. Engaged workforce is not always easy to come by.

Part of the secret may be in the culture of the organization. Parent company Alliance Data shares the same values and spirit of corporate responsibility programs as LoyaltyOne. Some things remain uniquely Canadian. “We lean forward in areas where the focus is greater for Canadians, such as the environment,” Baxter explains. Environmental work resonates to a greater degree with Canadian employees, whereas south of the border community investment and volunteer projects are more popular.

Prioritizing Key Areas of Corporate Responsibility
LoyaltyOne has focused its corporate responsibility work into four key areas:

1. “Reducing our environmental footprint,
2. Making meaningful contributions to the communities where we do business,
3. Creating a rewarding and engaging workplace culture, and
4. Protecting the privacy of customers’ information.” [1]

I was curious to learn what process the company used to narrow down its options. Especially when the “choosing” is typically done by corporate executives, but related initiatives often need to resonate with employees and other stakeholders alike, in several offices and communities.

Baxter replied, “For our company the focus on privacy and communities has been there for a long time. But there was a need to try and shape the priorities that would resonate with stakeholders.” She continued, “We took a step back and looked at who our stakeholders are. For any company, the first step should be to first identify stakeholders then focus the program. The program is shaped based on knowing who the intended audience is and what they will be interested in.”

For LoyaltyOne, the key stakeholder groups identified were staff and business partners/customers. The company created four “lanes of corporate responsibility” to ensure that they speak to these two groups. These four priorities resonate both inside the company and externally. Each key priority or “lane” has a variety of tactics and activities that ensure the right level of value is gained from specific commitments.

Corporate responsibility programs are not static. Baxter notes that the various programs and initiatives are revisited annually. Tweaking is done where appropriate, with the involvement of the leadership team.


This is Part 1 of a three-part series on LoyaltyOne’s corporate responsibility initiatives, as part of an interview with Debbie Baxter, Chief Sustainability Officer. In Part 2 Ms. Baxter provides examples of community and environmental campaigns that have enabled the company to continuously engage with its employees.


LoyaltyOne: Our Corporate Responsibilities.

Originally posted on Just Means

Meirav Even-Har is a Justmeans staff blogger.  She reports on Canadian CSR issues. Meirav is an independent sustainability consultant and writer working in Toronto, Canada. She specializes in green buildings, water issues and stakeholder engagement. TWITTER: @CSR_Meirav LINKED IN:…