How She Leads: Pam Alabaster, L'Oréal

How She Leads is a regular feature on GreenBiz spotlighting the career paths of women who have moved into influential roles in sustainable business. In this edition, Maya Albanese interviews Pamela Alabaster, senior vice president of corporate communications, sustainable development and public affairs, at L'Oréal USA.

Pam leads the sustainability function for the largest subsidiary of L'Oréal, in addition to managing responsibilities for public affairs and corporate communications. Pam drives best practice strategies, policies and programs. She elevates competencies among employees, collaborating with teams on programs consistent with the global framework and objectives, and developing goals and performance measurements in coordination with L'Oréal headquarters in France.

Maya Albanese: At what point did you move into the sustainability function at L'Oréal?

Pamela Alabaster: I started to engage with the management committee on this topic in 2010, and the CEO agreed that there was a business case for sustainability at our organization. Although we had various initiatives speckled throughout the brands, we did not yet have a cohesive strategy. Having been in marketing leadership roles for the first 10 years of my career at L'Oréal and having spent the next decade building corporate functions, it was obvious to me that there was an opportunity to build a sustainability function. And this is one of the beauties of working at L'Oréal: You are able to be an entrepreneur inside the corporation.

MA: How do you apply each of your degrees to your work?

PA: My undergraduate degree in journalism gave me good writing skills and the ability to craft language for different audiences. The MBA has been instrumental in understanding return on capital, risk management and data analysis. The masters of science I'm about to complete at Columbia University has exposed me to new disciplines such as green marketing and accounting, ecosystem services valuation, greenhouse gas (GHG) management and measurement and sustainability reporting. In combination, these degrees have teed me up quite well for my current role.

MA: What are your top responsibilities in this role?

PA: On the communications side, I contribute to reputation management and crisis communications, but this is just 10 percent of my role. The other 90 percent is focused on public policy and sustainability, and looking for growth and innovation opportunities. I work with the brands and internal teams in our operations, research and innovation functions on performance around water, waste and sourcing of raw materials. Public policy and sustainability intersect all the time, whether it's around climate change or the disclosure of certain ingredients. Often my sustainability hat influences our perspective on policy, which helps make us more progressive.

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