How She Leads: Kathrin Winkler of EMC Corporation

How She Leads spotlights the career paths of women who have moved into influential roles in sustainable business. This week's interviewee is Kathrin Winkler, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at EMC Corporation, where she brings together a wide variety of stakeholders across the enterprise to advance sustainable development initiatives.

EMC is a global company that enables organizations, in every industry and sector, to transform their operations and deliver Information Technology as a service. EMC's storage hardware solutions promote data recovery, improve cloud computing, and help IT departments to manage, protect and analyze information in a more agile and cost-efficient way. EMC has committed to improving its operations and becoming more transparent through setting ambitious environmental impact goals and consistently reporting on its progress. The company has been publishing an external sustainability report since 2008; its most recent report came out on June 23, 2010. This year, Corporate Responsibility Magazine ranked EMC among the 100 Best Corporate Citizens, and Corporate Secretary Magazine recognized the company for its corporate governance practices.

Maya Albanese spoke with Winkler about the path that lead her to be a successful sustainability professional in a large company, and the opportunities and challenges that she faces as a prominent leader in relatively new and rapidly-growing field.

Maya Albanese: How did you acquire this role within your company?

Kathrin Winkler: This was a brand new role the company created as more and more focus was being put on sustainability. I had been with the company for just over 8 years, starting in product management for one product line, and then taking on product management for the hardware-engineering group. It helped that as Senior Director of Product Management, I was already involved in initiatives around energy efficiency for IT and in starting the Design for the Environment program.

MA: Do you have a department or staff working on your initiatives?

KW: I have two employees that work with me in the Office of Sustainability, but I also have a virtual cross-functional team. There are many people whose job titles do not include 'sustainability' but whose jobs could be framed as sustainable development roles, such as those who are managing marketing & communications, the take-back and Design for the Environment programs, compliance for e-waste, etc.

MA: What is the most effective program you have to engage employees in your initiatives?

KW: There are two different kinds of issues here. One is when we're looking for a functional group to take on a new set of goals, and then we're very focused on planning a strategy to help that group of individuals put together a proposal and raise it within the organization. The other is when we need to broadly engage employees to improve the way they do their jobs.