Katie Sarro

Podcast Interview

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BFP: What do you do?

KS: I am currently an independent consultant based in Washington, D.C. I work at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which provides a forum for its 200 member companies to share best practices in sustainable development issues and to develop innovative tools that challenge the status quo. (You can read more about WBCSD here).

I work with WBCSD U.S., Inc. to promote WBCSD activities throughout the U.S. as well as with the Development Focus Area on issues such as inclusive business ventures, providing access to energy and socio-economic impact assessment. This includes writing case studies and articles that highlight member companies’ contributions to the sustainable development of emerging economies to increase the visibility of WBCSD and its member companies and build energy around these initiatives.

BFP: What is the best part about your job?

KS: The best part of my job is knowing that the work I am doing has the potential to have a major impact on the future. I truly believe that there is a significant opportunity for the private sector to contribute to socio-economic development and to do it in an environmentally sustainable way. It’s exciting to know that I am playing a part in spreading the word about some of the great things companies are already doing in this area that will hopefully revolutionize this space.

BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?

KS: The international community has increasingly looked to the role of business in meeting the upcoming 2015 MDG deadline. To engage the private sector in a replicable and scalable manner, there must be a business case for intervention. Companies’ contributions should therefore go beyond philanthropy and promote inclusive growth. The greatest challenge has been aligning varied stakeholder interests to find and promote the synergies between development goals and a company’s core business operations.

BFP: How have you overcome these challenges?/ What advice, would you give to others?

KS: What makes WBCSD’s approach unique is that outputs are developed and road tested by its members to maintain the business angle and ensure that initiatives are company-driven from start to finish. Based on this, the best advice I can give would be to keep in mind that private sector sustainability initiatives cannot be imposed. They should be incorporated into core business activities and driven by the mission and values of the company.

BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?

KS: I began my trajectory into the field of sustainable development by doing a unique MBA that focused on international organization (you can read more about IOMBA here), concurrent with a Master of Public and International Affairs degree. Building a strong foundation in both public and private sector affairs is essential to understanding the complexities involved in cross-sector collaboration and the importance of aligning stakeholder interests. Everyone will follow a different path, but starting somewhere you can gain an understanding of both the public and private sector is essential.

BFP: Finally; what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?

KS: BFP brings together some of the most renowned professionals across different sectors and facilitates an open forum for sharing information and best practices in the area of development. By being a part of the BFP community, I hope to be able to share my own knowledge with regard to sustainable development while learning from other members and staying current on issues that are continually evolving.

Editor’s Note:

Thank you to Katie Sarro for taking the time to do this interview.

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