Christian Smith, Corporate Responsibility Manager

Christian Smith runs his own agency, Inclusi, which specialises in CSR and sustainability. Prior to this he worked as Corporate Responsibility Manager for etailer Asos for three years.
Christian was born in London and moved to Sierra Leone with his family for several years during his childhood before returning to the UK. He studied BA (Hons) Modern Languages, specialising in French and German, spending time in both of these countries during his studies.
After graduating and working in various jobs, Christian became a language teacher in Japan, where he lived for three years. He then returned to Europe to take a job as a European Researcher for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, focusing on France and Germany. His interest in sustainable clothing was inspired by his next move, when he moved to Brazil, living in Brasilia for a year where he studied Energy and Sustainable Development.
He returned to the UK to study for an MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development at University College, London (UCL) whilst working as a recruiter and market researcher for a fashion headhunting agency, Fusion Associates, and 24 Seven Inc. He consequently researched into sustainable fashion for his dissertation.
Christian launched Inclusi in 2013, targeting a mix of clients from his existing contacts and companies that have approached him. He has aimed to maintain a high profile since leaving Asos by attending relevant events and using social media. He has also been talking to venture capitalists about the new paradigm of sustainable production, to encourage them to invest in this area. Christian believes that:
We have a duty to look at the supply chain as well as our customers to provide an opportunity for a better product, and that means better in terms of quality and the raw materials that go into that product. It’s not product then sustainability, it’s both at the same time.
During his time at Asos, Christian was involved in liaising with colleagues internally, in addition to dealing with external organisations. Internally, he provided advice on CSR strategy including energy, waste, water, warehouse efficiencies, and material sourcing in the areas of logistics, procurement, supply chain and design. He was responsible for writing and implementing the Asos environmental policy, aligned with the
UN Global Compact. He also established an internal CSR communications programme, organising external speakers to give presentations on relevant topics at Asos Head Office. Christian collaborated mostly with Asos’s creative, marketing and IT teams, particularly relating to marketing communications for the etailer’s sustainable clothing section ‘The Green Room’.
They redesigned the content and strategy of the web pages together, communicating the stories behind the brands to raise the profile of sustainability activities and Christian also managed the Green Room Twitter account.
Another part of his role was to oversee the company’s adherence to government policies and regulations by creating reporting mechanisms for WEEE and waste packaging, as well as measuring greenhouse gas emissions data for CarbonNeutral certification using the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol.
Christian represented Asos in liaising with external bodies such as the British
Retail Consortium, WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) and community engagement programmes including projects with the Prince’s Trust.
Christian considers honesty, understanding, empathy and persistence to be the key characteristics for CSR practitioners, combined with the ability to take in complex information about sustainability and supply chains. Here he describes some of the challenges of working in a CSR role:
How do you take these messages out and really get people engaged and change the way they behave? How do you address these issues in a way that’s friendly, engaging and exciting without alienating  and making people feel guilty about things? Students now are a lot more social mediasavvy and they can find really interesting ways to start sharing these messages. I had the opportunity to go back to UCL and give some lectures about sustainability in practice and students asked me questions my colleagues would never dream of asking. It’s about having a target to alleviating human suffering and to cause less damage to people and the planet. We live in a consumerist world and it’s hard to get people to think about products in different ways. They need to understand that the products come from somewhere and what that journey is. We have a responsibility. I’ve been very influenced by the systems thinking course I did at UCL; we can’t just think about one area of things.
The moment you start talking about fashion you’re touching on fifteen or more other areas, such as how you provide for the transportation systems that allow you to be productive in society. It’s not just about making money all the time; it’s environmental impact, not just economic impact. What is really important is finding a new mantra. Something that alludes to something exciting, innovative and creative. What I want people to think about and act upon is to leave the world in a better shape than when they arrive.
Christian enjoys the research aspect of his role to such an extent that he says ‘you find some incredible things, so I don’t even feel like it’s part of my job because I love it so much and it’s something I’m permanently doing’. He is particularly interested in the potential for 3D printing (see Chapter 2 Retail marketing strategy) to make manufacturing more sustainable. Christian offers the following advice to anyone wanting to follow a career involving CSR:
There aren’t that many CSR jobs out there but there are many jobs that if you put your CSR hat on whilst you’re doing that job you might be able to have a lot more influence over the companies you work for than you’d think. If you want to go into marketing, go into it but put CSR at the forefront of what you do and challenge your clients and customers to come on that journey with you. Think about brand building, brand stickiness, brand value. If you’re a Supply Chain specialist then focus on reducing the company’s carbon footprint, transporting more goods by ship than airfreight, because you know it’s going to be better for the environment.
Christian also recommends that designers should find out how to design more sustainably, acquainting themselves with techniques that reduce waste, which can inspire the way they design, rather than simply following trends. He cites as examples of good practice the use of an innovative fabric that is created from a combination of milk and cotton, as well as products from the French footwear brand Veja. He considers there to be sufficient people working in CSR roles already and offers the following advice to academics and students:
It’s not just about going into CSR, what we need are everyday people to understand they affect the world, to go into the jobs they would have done anyway and to use their own knowledge to make a difference. To do this, we should integrate CSR into everyday courses.

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