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  • Episode 76 – Charles Orgbon III, Deloitte, Environmental Liability & Sustainability Consultant

https://youtu.be/s0otitQvzE0

Charles Orgbon III, is a Consultant within Deloitte’s Risk & Financial Advisory Services, where he specializes in environmental liability. Charles develops enterprise solutions for his Fortune 500 and public sector clients that improve business processes, maximize revenue, manage costs, address risks, strengthen relationships, and boost performance while also mitigating social and environmental impacts.

In this episode, recorded in 2019, Mr. Orgbon discusses the importance of “job-crafting our perceptions,” of working from within large organizations to make change, and of the myriad opportunities we have to cultivate a culture of stewardship and sustainability through our places of work. Working through vehicles such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and NASDAQ’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework, Mr. Orgbon articulates the competitive advantage increasingly garnered by businesses focused on corporate social responsibility, and that change-making within such a context is key to happiness and satisfaction with one’s work.

Before joining Deloitte, Charles gained almost a decade of non-profit management and leadership experience with various environmental, philanthropy and youth volunteerism organizations. For example, Charles developed and led Greening Forward from 2008 to 2017, which became and continues to be a leading organization in the United States that’s devoted to training and funding student environmental leaders, ages 5-25. Leveraging this experience, Charles also served as a strategy consultant for numerous government agencies, foundations, and non-profits.

Charles’s work in the sustainability and non-profit leadership space is validated by over 31 local, national, and international awards, five book mentions, and over 100 speaking engagements since 2010.

He is currently writing a young adult memoir, “My Name Isn’t Charlie,” about his intersectional identity as a queer, black man. You can follow his journal at: charlesorgbon.com.

RESOURCES:
charlesorgbon.com
Twitter: @corgbon

Transcript

(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes - grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

Hey friends, this next podcast episode is with Charles Orgbon from Deloitte.

We recorded this before the COVID outbreak, so I just want you to know that the pandemic

wasn't yet on our radar at the time.

I hope you enjoy.

Welcome to the YonEarth Communities Stewardship and Sustainability Podcast Series.

Today, we are visiting with Charles Orgbon III.

Hi, Charles.

Hey!

How are you doing?

Good. It's a pleasure to be on the show and talking about these important issues.

I'm really excited to have this opportunity to talk with you, Charles.

So Charles Orgbon III is a consultant with Deloitte's risk and financial advisory services.

Where he specializes in environmental liability.

Charles develops enterprise solutions for his Fortune 500 and public sector clients that

improve business processes, maximize revenue, manage costs, address risks, strengthen relationships,

and boost performance while also mitigating social and environmental impacts.

Before joining Deloitte, Charles gained almost a decade of nonprofit management and leadership

experience with various environmental philanthropy and youth volunteerism organizations.

For example, Charles developed and led Greening Forward from 2008 to 2017, which became

and continues to be a leading organization in the United States that's devoted to training

and funding student environmental leaders ages 5 to 25.

Leveraging this experience, Charles also served as a strategy consultant for numerous government

agencies, foundations, and nonprofits.

Charles' work in the sustainability and nonprofit leadership space is validated by over 31

local national and international awards, five book mentions, and over 100 speaking engagements

since 2010.

And Charles is currently writing a young adult memoir called My Name Isn't Charlie

about his intersectional identity as a queer black man.

You can follow his writing journal at Charleswardbond.com.

Charles, it's such a pleasure to have you on the show today, and I'm really excited to

dive into our conversation.

And I think to get started, I just want to ask what's your connection to the environmental

movement and how did you get started with it?

Certainly.

In 2008, I was just 12 years old when I founded and led Greening Forward, which you mentioned

earlier, it's an organization that has now grown to become one of the largest and longest

running youth-driven environmental organizations in the country, and Greening Forward is composed

of high school and college students, and we're doing grassroots environmental activism.

I left the organization in 2017, but I continue to serve a new generation of leadership that's

helping to guide things forward for the organization.

Students everywhere are witnessing the effects of climate change, such as our prolonged

fire seasons and melting primar floss and intensified storm seasons, and in the wake of

realizing what's going on, students are also recognizing that our future is not secure.

So Greening Forward provides an opportunity and outlet for those young people to be a part

of the solution, not just the witnesses of our changing climate, but to actually be

solutionaries in creating a new possibility.

For the longest, I have thought that activism looks like Martin Luther King Jr., and Cesar

Chavez, and the Lorax, and that was the only way we could make a difference is through

grassroots organizing, but I also realized through working with Greening Forward and some

of our corporate partners, there's also a lever to be examined at the corporate level

as well, that individuals working at the community level on behalf of people in opposition

of mass and systems are so important, but we also need people who understand these issues

in those massive systems to create change as well.

And so that's when I started looking at making the transition to the corporate sector, to

scale the impact of my activism, and as activists, we must understand that that lever is available

to us as well, just like working in NGOs or philanthropy and government as well, it will

need to use all of these tools that are available to us and build as many partnerships and

coalitions as possible.

So now I'm making an impact in the corporate space as an environment.

It's so exciting, and it's such a positive and hopeful story and evolution in your career

pathway, and I have to admit, I love the Lorax and high school actually bit a paper on the

Lorax and Dr. Sousa's writings related to environmental and social priorities in our time.

And I mean, it's a huge shift that you made going from that NGO and philanthropic work

into your work with Deloitte, and I'm curious from your vantage point, do you think corporations

truly care about climate change?

Yeah, that's such an important question to Aaron.

A lot of people in the nonprofit space now that I work in the corporate space, they find

clever ways of asking Charles, do you still believe in climate change?

It's hard for them to imagine that corporations do care because I mean, we have to recognize

that corporations have been responsible for some terrible things that have largely affected

society such as Inron and the Deepwater, Verizon Olsville, and I'm just not a fan of the

puppy dog filter on social media either.

But at the same time, corporations can wield the power to also create social and environmental

change as well.

And that's what we're realizing that there's greater importance on these kinds of conversations

in the corporate sector, and we can just look to, for example, the unprecedented shareholder

activity in the 2017 proxy season that set a clear message that shareholders want to fully

understand how climate change will impact their business.

We can look at the sustainability accounting standards board investor uptake, so our investors

are considering a board level risk if we don't have a plan about climate change or we're

not addressing our supply chain or we're not trying to reduce our impacts on the environment.

Or the global reporting initiatives update standards is helping to give us some shared

language about how do we report sustainability and how do we talk about it or financial sustainability

boards task force on climate related financial disclosures, the TCFD, and their recommendations

or what the stock exchange is doing around NASDAQ ESG guidance.

So the reality is that corporations can't afford to ignore what's going on.

When a soda company, for example, thinks about its product strategy, it has to consider

that product is made up of 99% water, and the company can't choose to ignore how climate

change will drastically change water availability around the globe in the coming decades.

So that's a risk to business.

So corporations have to care.

It's just amazing to hear some of the kind of perspectives and some of the drivers motivating

folks.

I would imagine a lot of our audience perhaps are familiar with things like the sustainability

accounting standards board, but probably a bunch of folks aren't as familiar.

I'm curious, where are those mechanisms actually doing now and how is that changing the global

economy in a way that maybe we didn't see five or ten years ago?

Sure.

These are all tools that corporations can use to help figure out what's material for them.

What do they want to report on?

How do they think about their sustainability strategy?

When I say material, every company is making an impact in the environment in very different ways.

The way that a tech company impacts the environment and its people is very different than consumer goods

or hospitality and travel industry.

And so when we think about materiality, we must think about how do we create environmental

programs and solutions that are going to be addressing the biggest ways we're contributing

to environmental degradation.

So sustainability accounting board standards and TRI are examples of giving us a framework

for thinking about how do we talk about sustainability and what's important,

where do you want to see our impact as a company?

It's really interesting to hear about.

You obviously have a role in helping corporations move the needle trials, but what about when you're

dealing with companies and institutions where the employees themselves don't have a clear sustainability

responsibility?

Sure. I would say that the biggest opportunity for any company that wants to be more sustainable

and think more about how it's creating an impact in the lives of other people and the environment

is to first think about their company culture.

I feel like that is a missed opportunity if we're not thinking first about company culture around.

These issues, because if the culture exists, I believe that the internal pressure can be exerted

to move the company further, to move the needle further on some of these issues.

And I like to tell employees in any organization whether you're a non-profit organization or

you're a for-profit organization or the government. The good news is you don't need a formal title

such as Chief Sustainability Officer or Social Impact Manager to do good and drive good in your

company. Whether you care about transitioning the economy to adjust clean energy future or

creating transportation solutions that reduce our national depends on fossil fuels,

there are actually clever ways to hold those passions and still create impact no matter what you do

from 9 to 5. Every employee holds passions, values, beliefs, fears, and when we show up to work,

we're allowed to bring our humanity with us. So if you're an accountant, if you're a janitor,

if you are the CEO or anyone in between, you can help create that culture within your company

to care about these things and start to identify opportunities internally that you can

projects that you can take on and drive that can help move your company forward.

Yeah, I love this. There's such a strong message and narrative of empowerment in what I'm hearing.

I'm picturing this diagram, this image where you have a corporation and you have shareholders

on one end becoming even more concerned and active about what's going on with the social

and environmental stewardship. And then on the other end, you have consumers, you have customers

increasingly paying attention to corporate practices. And then in the middle, within the organization,

you have employees increasingly taking on leadership roles to help make change from within.

It's such an exciting dynamic and really a beautiful way of thinking about how those ecosystems

are working in those corporations. And I'm wondering what about when you're encountering people

and employees who aren't necessarily feeling activated around these issues or perhaps aren't seeing

that they have a role to play or perhaps even don't care much about that.

Sure.

So if you want to be happy in your work, there becomes a time where you can begin to examine

what power you have to change the things that you don't like or to fill a greater connection

to your work as well. And so the term is called job crafting actually. When employees can

create their own work streams and follow their passion projects and their employees have either

asked for permission or simply volunteered anyways to lead campaigns that are changing the

purchasing behavior of their business units so that services and products, for example, are sourced

with a special emphasis on sustainably sourced or locally owned and minority owned businesses

or their companies that are phasing out plastic straws from their corporate cafeterias.

Or there are employee initiatives around investing 401k and pension plans from extractive

economies such as oil and gas. There are employees and who are encouraging meetings to be

vegetarian or vegan because annual agriculture has a significant impact on environmental quality.

Or they're launching well-being and sustainably campaigns that encourage biking to work.

So these kinds of projects can really help someone who's not feeling a strong connection to their

work or feel like they're making a difference. These projects can help them begin to create new

possibilities for their work and their job. Yes, this is really cool. So what I'm hearing is that

as we at the individual level, you know, take more responsibility really for our own happiness

and well-being within the context of our corporate job. One of the ways we can cultivate that is

by becoming more engaged and active in some of these ways we can help to make a difference.

And I think it's a wonderful message. I have to give one quick shout out to some of our friends

doing work in the regenerative ag arena with responsible regenerative animal husbandry and that

when we're talking about veganism and vegetarianism, it's so important to have this robust dialogue

around some of these other dietary choices and clearly all of our food and beverage choices are

having tremendous impacts on soil, on water, on the health and well-being of communities all around

the planet. And so it's I think really important that we're really cultivating an informed,

sophisticated conversation around this thing. So I just have to give that kind of shout out as

we work with so many regenerative farmers throughout the country and really

we'll provide working on those issues. It is maybe one of the easiest things that we can do

to make a difference in the environment is reduce our meat consumption. And one of the things

that we're working on in the Deloitte office is piloting ways, a project to encourage

people to not order beef, essentially, distance and device people from ordering beef for

meetings. And we're calculating the impact of that because beef of all of the meats are the

most land intensive in water and energy intensive. Yeah, I so appreciate that and I know also that

a lot of our friends that are doing the soil building work are actually working with

sustainably managed cattle and that sort of thing. So it's a big conversation and obviously we

won't dive deeply into that right now, but I think it's amazing that you're helping to push

the envelope and have these change making options and activities available to your colleagues.

And I'm wondering at your work at the Deloitte office in San Francisco,

what would have been some of the most interesting job crafting tasks that you have helped to bring

to the company, Charles? Sure. Yeah, so there's in my role a client-facing aspect and then an

internal aspect. So client-facing is how do we think about sustainability and environmental

challenges within our clients? And then internally our Deloitte practitioners, how do we make sure

that our business operations are as sustainable as possible? And part of it is this in the San Francisco

office is me and another colleague and I came together and we created the Sustainability

Business Resource Group for the San Francisco Bay Area and all of the offices that are around

San Francisco where we're helping to influence practices and attitudes within our office.

But we first actually realized that we needed to build our community. So we got the proof of

to send out a comprehensive survey and the survey allowed us to understand what the practitioners

already understand that Deloitte was doing and what could we do more and who wanted to be involved

and helping Deloitte move forward. And so that allowed us to identify a few people too who

became some of our first members and now we're driving work streams that are looking at how can we

reduce our energy consumption in the office? I can re-make sure people know how to compost,

you know, that's actually going to challenge for us how to compost in San Francisco and so our

role as a business resource group is to teach our practitioners what that means. We've brought in

some pretty cool dynamic speakers to also engage our Deloitte community around ways that they can

be more sustainable at home as well as in the office and soon we'll be diving more into community

engagement as well. That is so exciting and I love the focus on the compost and that's one of the

big focal points for our work through the Winers community for community mobilization, climate

action, soil regeneration and it's really interesting especially in the urban environment that,

you know, composting is more easily done in some settings than in others and we're as we're

recording this we're writing the holiday season in my daughter and her boyfriend asked actually

for a worm composting bin for their urban apartments in St. Louis and it's so cool that that's

one of the strategies that we can deploy in the more urban settings where maybe we don't have

access to the yard or the land that we might find in the other settings and it's obviously

such an important day-to-day thing we can all be doing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,

methane emissions from landfills, while also contributing to the soil building that helps draw

down carbon from the atmosphere and I love hearing that you guys are focused on that as well.

I'm wondering what, go ahead Charles. Well in San Francisco the city makes it super easy for

us because composting is the law so in some respects being an environmentalist in San Francisco is

easy but we're you know Deloitte works around the world Deloitte works all across the United States

and what we're doing in San Francisco can also be replicated in other cities as well and

so we're seeing that like our idea with the survey and helping to first establish a baseline

level of like awareness has already been replicated in several offices and folks have asked

to say oh how how did you get those folks to come into your office and talk to your

talk to the Deloitteers about sustainability and so that's something else that's really cool

about starting these kind of grassroots internal grassroots internally campaigns is that you can

then collaborate with other people if your company has other offices and spread what you've learned

in your resources and the materials you've built and so that helps make that helps build the culture

right that helps send a message to the leadership that folks care about this and this needs to be

something that we as a company need to be thinking about and so again the importance of all of that

is that corporations wield a lot of power to create change and again I think the missed opportunity

is how individuals in that company who may not who may not clearly see themselves as a sustainability

person can still make a huge difference like the people who are on our business resource group

do not have a client-facing role in in this topic like I do but they're still making an impact

yeah that's so beautiful well and I love the the message around the collaboration with other

organizations and of course that is the 17th and final of the United Nations the global

communities sustainable development goals collaborating with other organizations and that's

probably a good segue to remind our audience that this is the YonEarthcommunities stewardship

and sustainability podcast series and today we are visiting with Charles Wardbone III from Deloitte

from their San Francisco office where he's in the risk and financial advisory services and

want to give a quick shout out to some of our sponsors and partners who make this series possible

that includes Patagonia, Purium, Earth Coast productions, Waylay Waters, Equal Exchange,

Delig Family Foundation and Alpine Botanical so a huge thanks to all of you for your support of

our work both the podcast, digital media resources and the on-the-ground in-person community

mobilization activities that we're bringing to communities all around the country and I also

want to give a huge shout out to all those individuals out there who have joined our monthly giving

program and if you haven't yet joined and you want to you can join at any level you just go to

whyunder.org, click on the donate or support links and you'll get to the spot where you can select

the amount you'd like to give on a monthly basis. If you want to give at certain levels to get

some of the rewards just give me a holler and I'll make sure you know all about the programs that

we have there for you and Charles it's just wonderful to hear about the leadership that you

and that Deloitte are deploying throughout the world with all of these different corporate and

organizational connections that you all have and I'm wondering when you're thinking about

employees at other firms who may also want to establish similar programs to what you've established

at Deloitte what advice would you have for them? Well first you need a senior leadership ally

and this is someone who can work with you to remove real blogs and identify firm funding sources

and just help make appropriate connections and we're lucky to have found a partner in our firm

Kevin Fried who works to make sure that we're moving things for he's our champion but second you

must build your community of like-minded professionals for us the starting point there was

using the survey like we like I mentioned earlier and that worked well because it was sent to

everyone in the office and got lots of responses but whatever you do you will need others across

other departments to join you in making impact they'll bring important perspectives to the

opportunities and you can help and they can also help add just context to the challenges within

company as well. It's so cool and there are two key terms in our discussion today that I just

love and I'm starting to hear more and more one being solutionaries and the other being job

crafting and I'm wondering what are some of the other levers of job crafting that you're seeing

and that you've utilized? Yeah so job crafting could be thinking about your role and differently

and so the examples before of like taking on this project or using your power maybe you're

already creating a catering order but like using your power to choose a caterer that sources

their products locally right or like these are ways that we can also job job craft and just

thinking about our role differently and the resources and helping to use the resources of our

company to make an impact but also you could job craft your relationships you can change

the nature or extent of your interaction with other people I mean by that is when we

build deeper intentional relationships with it with our colleagues we can learn and grow while

also deepening our sense of greater purpose so this is really I think that's really important too

is like before we can create change within corporations we have to actually know who we're working with

so I think building those meaningful relationships is really important and then we also can job craft

our perceptions you know now that I work at Deloitte I find myself in rooms with many

accountants and I'm this old person with a sustainability background and naturally accountants

have expressed their happiness to me especially around busy season of course such a such a wild

time of the year for an accountant and an account at a large firm for instance might choose to think

of her job as two separate parts one not particularly enjoyable like staring at hundreds of pages

of documentation dealing with hospital clients or one very meaningful part creating a more responsible

business climate for which our entire economy is based upon like an accountant is so necessary

so I think that how we perceive the work is also really important too even when I was running

greeting for and I was working in a nonprofit space there were certainly times where I did not feel like

I was making impacts because doing work still means that people are going to say no or that some

people are very difficult to work with and it doesn't matter if you're in the nonprofit space

working with kids to make a difference or you're working with billionaires to help them figure out

how can they reduce their environmental impact right so there's still going to be challenges with

every job and so thinking about the percept how we perceive the work is really important as well

because it's likely that everyone's job is making impact it's just something you have to

and it may not be clear it took us all the time well so you're I mean you're really working in a

lot of different channels and you're up to so much and on top of all this you're also writing a

memoir right and as I mentioned earlier it's called my name isn't Charlie and does the memoir have

the connection to sustainability um sort of the the memoir manuscript is already written but

writers are in the business obviously of like constantly rewriting then writing so I'm currently

looking for a literary agent yes you're you're also an author as well so I make it relate to that

the memoir discusses my coming of age as a poor black man in the south and it finds comedy and

what was actually a pretty difficult childhood it's a story that discusses my mom's mental illness

and poverty and bullying racism and how that all affected me and ultimately the mission is that

we can save a young person's life who's contemplating suicide like I once did when I was a teen

who will read it and discover that there are other options in the future so much brighter

my dad actually read the manuscript and it was so powerful to him that he was once super homophobic

and since lightened up and it's finally began to accept me for my complete identity so I think

that that's a really great sign I'm really happy in what the writing has already done

I'm also looking for literary agent representation at the same time and hopefully we'll be

I'm sure it will catch the interest of a publisher and we'll be traditionally published

yeah that's that's really wonderful to hear and certainly as a fellow writer I can appreciate

the process it takes a lot to create and share a book and you know I'm just I'm just struck I know

a handful of white folks from the south who really struggled with that culture growing up and of

course to be a person of color from the south that's a whole nother level of challenge and struggle

that I think a lot of Americans perhaps don't fully appreciate Charles and to also be a person

with a queer identity on top of that I mean it's clearly I would imagine that in the memoir

you're sharing that there were a number of times that were extremely painful for you and

I think it's so important for that kind of story to be shared with the broader world and here you

are despite all of those challenges with an amazing career doing all kinds of great work with all

kinds of different people throughout the country and in worldwide and they're such a hopefulness

in that message and in that story Charles I'm just really grateful you're sharing that with folks

thank you but actually to answer your earlier question about the connection to sustainability

I think my path into sustainability and a writer are both expressions of my activism

they're both things that need to be addressed the inequality that exists in our world that he

spoke of and then also that we need to work together to really create a more sustainable solution

for a lot of the problems that we're facing so I like to think my life is more meaningful when

I'm devoted to a cause through passionate activism and I look to Alice Walker's quote where she says

activism is my rent for living on the planner yeah so I love that quote I'm um

bear with me I'm gonna try to write it down so that we can put in your show notes

using my own version of shorthand here

cool I've got it well I imagine two Charles that the title my name isn't Charlie I guess

we'll have to read the book to find out why it's called that yeah yeah and so folks just to remind

me yeah yeah it's catchy and I want to keep I want to keep the Ben Trieg there yeah and I just

I want to remind our audience they can go to CharlesOrgbon.com to follow with your writing journal and

then people can also connect with you on twitter at sea orgwam it's a c-o-r-g-e-b-o-n and of course

this this will be in the show notes and Charles it's such a joy speaking with you today and thank

you so much for sharing your insights and the work you're doing at Deloitte with our audience and

before we sign off is there anything else you'd like to share any final message you'd like to

convey to our audience no I think you think you think you I think you took the the my last words

from me when you encourage people to check out the website or just connect with me on twitter those

are good ways to stay in touch and I look forward to continuing to engage with the why on earth

community and and hosting you whenever you come to San Francisco and thanks Charles yeah really

looking forward to that visit sometime in 2020 we'll be following up on some of those details

in the coming weeks and it's going to be a lot of fun connecting again in person after sharing

this conversation with our audience sweet thank you yeah thanks Charles have a wonderful day

all right take care the YonEarth community stewardship and sustainability podcast series

is hosted by Aaron William Perry author thought leader and executive consultant the podcast and

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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 76 - Charles Orgbon III, Deloitte, Environmental Liability & Sustainability Consultant
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