Stephanie Dolmat is a corporate sustainability leader and currently serves as senior director of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized talent solutions and business consulting firm, where she collaborates across the company to effectuate positive change. Stephanie is a graduate of Yale University, where she earned a B.A. in political science, and the Bren School at University of California Santa Barbara, where she earned a master’s degree in Environmental Science & Management. Stephanie’s love for nature and the outdoors emerged at an early age, when her mom introduced the names of birds and flowers, and continues to this day. She is passionate about our planet, politics and plant-based food, and spends her free time watching birds, doing crossword puzzles and devouring books of all kinds
John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people the planet and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider, and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States, and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.
John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and I’m so honored to have you with us today, Stephanie Dolmat. Welcome to The Impact Podcast, Stephanie.
Stephanie Dolmat: Thanks so much for having me, John.
John: Oh, it’s a real honor. Stephanie, you are the Senior Director of ESG at Robert Half. We’re gonna get talking about all the important things you’re doing over there but before we get to do that, talk a little bit about your background and how you even got here, and what inspired you along the way?
Stephanie: Yeah, great opening question. So I was really inspired from a young age. My mom took the time to teach my brother and I the names of flowers and of birds and of trees. I grew up thinking that that was, I think normal, but it’s something that I realized as I grew older, that I was actually fairly unique to be that connected with, and looking at the things in nature around you. So it wasn’t something that I really discovered that I wanted to do as a career until I visited my younger brother at the University of Vermont, finishing up his degree in environmental studies, and I attended a few of his classes. I said, I can’t believe you get to learn about this stuff. This is so cool. And he said, well, you know stuff, there’s some master’s programs in this, you should check it out. And the rest was history. I decided that I wanted to help organizations become more sustainable. I did that in the facilities realm, a real estate realm for quite a while, and operational sustainability. So all things, renewable energy, energy efficiency, human behavior change, which is, of course, an intriguing part of all of this. Then I actually worked, got invited to be on the team at Adobe to lead ESG. I didn’t really know what ESG was. And it’s really about the intersection of environmental sustainability, DEI, how companies are showing up as responsible companies protecting the data of their clients, and customers, all of the ways these things intersect, and it was really eye-opening to say, well, these, these are the ways, all of the ways that we can make an impact. So I started at Robert Half, a global talent solutions and business consulting firm about nine months ago in this role, and it has been a great ride. So I feel so lucky every day to get to do what I do.
John: So wonderful. Let’s step back for a second. What’s your brother’s name?
Stephanie: His name is Scott Franklin.
John: What did he do? Like what did he do with his environmental sciences background?
Stephanie: He was an organic farmer for many, for many years. Now he works actually helping to make the whiskey and beer industry more sustainable through their agricultural practices. So we both ended up going into sustainability, which I think is a great testament to our mom.
John: Yay, mom, and mom’s still alive?
Stephanie: Mom passed away, unfortunately, in 2015.
John: Okay, but that’s a great legacy, you get to carry on her love for the outdoors in the environment. What a great inspiration. Now, when you started doing ESG work on institutions and things that such when you got out of formal school, it really wasn’t a cool sector to be in sustainability and ESG hadn’t gotten the exposure that it’s gotten now, is that correct or not correct?
Stephanie: Absolutely. And this really came to life recently, when I was speaking with some master’s students who are in sustainability, and when I graduated from my master’s program over a decade ago, I had to think, how am I going to make a career in sustainability work? And now these students are coming to me asking how do we decide what area of sustainability to go into? And I love this change. I think it’s amazing,
John: Right. So you were really one of the beginnings you and your brother and others of your generation of pioneers to get educated in environmental sciences and sustainability and then to go apply it in the business world.
Stephanie: I think there are people who have been doing this for a long time, but in terms of having sustainability in the name of your career, that’s definitely new.
John: So let’s go back to the basics for our listeners and viewers. ESG, what does it really stand for and what does it mean to you, and how do you apply that at Robert Half?
Stephanie: Yeah, so ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance. It’s a bit of an awkward acronym because it doesn’t really describe what you’re doing. I think prior names for this have really been corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, sustainability, and that larger sense of how you sustain a company over the long term. All of these are really different ways to describe how a corporation shows up as a responsible business to all of its stakeholders. So that can be employees, clients, investors, partners, communities where you live and work, or the planet. ESG just happens to be the current way that people are describing this notion of I think, ethics and how to make sure you have a license to operate that people trust you as a brand and that they know that you’re doing the right thing.
John: As a global talent solutions company, were you the first senior director of ESG there, or had that role been filled before you were stepping into somebody’s shoes?
Stephanie: This was the first iteration. There was someone who was doing some of the reporting beforehand, but this was really the… we’re building a program, a cohesive program. It’s not like ethics is new to Robert Half. Robert Half is coming up on 75 years old as a company and was founded on the principle of ethics first, which was really one of the draws to the company for me, just knowing that this wasn’t a new concept, maybe ESG as the moniker of it is a new thing. But it’s certainly something that is built into the company as they operate. So one of the first things we did was actually conduct our first formal materiality assessment, to understand what topics as a talent solutions firm as well as a business consulting firm, what in professional services is relevant to our business. Materiality assessments are not looking at just what impacts society might have on you, but also as a company, but also what impacts you can have on society. So obviously, some of the topics that are most important are centered around our people. Those are things like talent, attraction, retention, and development, are we making sure that our employees are engaged and watching out for their well-being, certainly building an inclusive work workplace, and having a diverse workforce, came out as really top priorities. But it’s also about how we’re keeping our data secure and private for our clients and candidates. And then how we’re establishing accountability for our actions, are we investing in our communities, focusing on supplier inclusion, and really finding ways to make a more sustainable impact. So those are really the areas that are key for Robert Half.
John: You come in nine months ago, and basically, it was a bowl of clay, you can really leave your mark on because there wasn’t a great roadmap before you after 75 years. This is your baby now.
Stephanie: I do have to say that ESG is fundamentally collaborative, and there are fantastic people who I get to work with every day.
John: You get to codify it, as you said, you got to create these materialities and strata things in terms of level of importance and things. So how many people get are part of that process? How does that process work?
Stephanie: Yeah, so a lot of what I would say makes ESG so fun, in terms of a career is that relationship building and influence because when you think about those different areas that I mentioned about our people, and about keeping data secure, and how we’re making a sustainable impact. Those are across all different areas of the business. There’s almost really no area of the business that doesn’t have some, some part of ESG in it. So we just released our first ESG report, which replaced a former corporate citizenship report, and this ESG report, we actually counted it up. It was over 200 people who collaborated on it, to provide all of the stories and data that are in there to really help tell our story. So I’m proud that, in only nine months, we’ve been able to really establish a collaborative process to take all of the different pieces and put them together.
John: So for our listeners and viewers, I just want to give a shout-out here. We’ve got Stephanie Dolmat with us. She’s the senior director of ESG. To find Stephanie and her great colleagues, you can go to roberthalf.com, To find her ESG report, which she just referenced, you can go to roberthalf.com/esg-report. Stephanie, now, it’s so much it sounds so fun because it’s almost like you’re on an entrepreneurial venture inside of a 75-year-old, very successful, very iconic brand, building out this ESG sector. How do you go about your day and how do you decide what the priorities are of the day, the week, the month, etc? Like you said, it can be very narrow, it can be very wide, how do you choose?
Stephanie: That’s one of the best things is that no two days are ever the same. This is a very dynamic space. As you mentioned, this has really grown in importance across all stakeholders, whether you’re talking about potential employees who want to join a company that’s known for doing the right thing, or you’re talking to clients who want to partner with brands that share the same values. It’s really just skyrocketed in importance. And so any given day might see me giving a presentation to senior leadership about how ESG might intersect with their work, helping to respond to some customer inquiries on sustainability at Robert Half, helping implement programs, coordinating, doing a carbon footprint across the enterprise and value chain. I can just tell you, it’s never boring.
John: So really, for a lot of our young listeners who are now studying Environmental Sciences, or sustainability or whatever it’s called that their university or high school or postgraduate studies ESG, and the reporting that you do to show substantively all the great work and the hard work that you’re doing in your organization is doing is employee retention, employee attraction, client retention, client attraction. All four?
Stephanie: There’s many drivers. I mean, when you think about all of the different audiences who want to want this information, you’re speaking with your employees, you’re speaking with potential future employees, you’re speaking with clients, investors who are a big piece of this, particularly at all companies basically, who are publicly traded are rated and ranked on how they’re doing. And investment decisions are made based on this information. So it’s wide-ranging in terms of the audience. And I think one of the things that really helps is just to know, not all information is created equal for all audiences. Your employees don’t necessarily want to know the exact same things as your investors. So just making sure you understand who your audience is.
John: Given that you’re in a fascinating role, both public-facing, but also internal facing, where do you draw your inspiration from? And who did you look to for paradigms to follow that you thought were doing great jobs with regards to their own ESG programs, in terms of ESG leaders and brands that we know out there?
Stephanie: In grad school, I was lucky enough to have Lynn Scarlet as a professor. She was in the Obama administration, in the Department of the Interior. And one of the most interesting things that she said, that I’ve taken with me through my career is that she said, when we have these things like policy and regulation intersecting with science intersecting with how we actually act in this world, what is really needed in sustainability. And I think that this translates across that wider sense of sustainability and ESG is we need translators, we need people who can speak, who can see things from each of these different angles and lenses and translate to someone who may not be from that field, but can understand the implications, and how we might respond to those implications and address them. And I think that that sense of being a translator is something that I hold dear to me quite frequently because at any given point, you can be talking across any one of those different audiences. And if you can’t translate what you’re saying into something that the person sitting across from you will understand, and you won’t be able to influence and see the kind of change that you want to be. So I think, being a change agent can be hard work. And what I know is that I have just met so many people in this field who are hugely passionate about what they do. We support each other all the time. It’s not really competitive, I would say, or at least my experience has been. We all really help each other out, because we’re all facing a lot of the same challenges.
John: It’s fascinating you said that. I’ve never met anyone who said, I’m the Senior Director of ESG, or I’m the chief sustainability officer, there’s nobody with a really big one. And like you said, it’s not a zero-sum game, because it truly… pollution as we know, air pollution or water pollution is a cross-border thing. If there’s a nuclear meltdown in Japan, we feel it on the west coast, the United States. Similarly, in Europe, we feel it on the east coast. So it’s got the fact that it’s such a collaborative industry, and is also a great point that you make. What’s the most fun for you, though, out of all of this? I mean, there’s so much impact that you get to make every day and every year. In this new role, what are you having the most fun doing?
Stephanie: I mean, I think like you are, I’m a natural relationship builder. So I’ve just loved building relationships with the fantastic people who work across our company, and then across this industry or other partners we may have, I think there’s so much that we can accomplish together. It’s not like it’s all wins, of course, but I think I really enjoy celebrating both the small and the big wins. When we’re talking about every single company is, of course, navigating this world and how we have adjusted to the pandemic reality. And I think providing flexible work options for all employees, bringing in new benefits to on mental health, which has been so much at the forefront, and I’m glad it’s finally at the forefront of businesses and enterprises all across, like, these things are all helping us move towards a more just and equal world. And it can be, I think, one of the biggest things for me has been learning patience, is that you want to see all of this change happen at once. And that’s just not how it goes. So I’m very big into celebrating the small wins as well because even if it can sometimes feel incremental, it’s still helping build the world that I know so many people want to see. And so let’s celebrate that because every single win is moving things forward. That’s what I have fun with.
John: Oh, that sounds awesome. You mentioned earlier the issue of cybersecurity. It’s been argued before, and I’ve heard, that really smart people give lectures that ESG should actually be called ESG. See, because without cybersecurity and protecting, the goodwill and your clients and the assets of your company, it wouldn’t be a sustainable venture, just from the outset. So, talk a little bit about what was your exposure to cybersecurity before this, this this role that you have and how much have you learned about cybersecurity and the importance of it, it during the last nine months?
Stephanie: Well, first of all, my manager and SVP, who is our Chief Privacy Officer, and is responsible for it is gonna love you for saying that.
John: Well, it’s the truth though. People don’t think of it that way but it’s God’s honest truth.
Stephanie: I think so obviously, people who are in ESG can’t be experts in everything. So I used to have someone I worked with say you got to know a mile wide and an inch deep. So I am no cybersecurity expert. I did recently read a book by Nicole Pearl Roth, who’s a reporter for the New York Times called, This Is How They Told Me The World Ends. If you want a real-life thriller about cybersecurity, I can highly recommend it. It’s, it’s a bit of an intensive read. But I think cybersecurity is really just something that is a part of business now and knowing that it is part of something that businesses who deal with data, which is pretty much every business at this point, want to do the right thing by their clients and candidates and employees with highly personal information. So, this is definitely an area of focus for Robert Half both on the privacy and cybersecurity side. Building that trust or maintaining that trust with our clients and candidates is absolutely paramount. So, a lot of effort and focus goes into it and it’s definitely one of our most material topics in ESG. So I won’t claim that I’m an expert and I do know that it’s telling our story and how we tell it and what are the controls and procedures and processes that we’ve put in place from governance and operational perspective to make sure that we’re keeping people’s data secure and confidential.
John: Great point. You’re on the job for nine months now, you just published this new report, the ESG report again, for our listeners and viewers who want to find Robert Half’s new ESG report, you can go to roberthalf.com/esg-report. How hard is it getting buy-in and how do you go about getting buy-in? Obviously, you’re a great communicator and obviously, you enjoy what you do. Is it hard getting buy-in from the employee side, and get everybody involved and excited about the ESG journey now?
Stephanie: I do think you have to like people in order to crack the code sometimes because everyone comes to this from a different perspective. There is a lot of energy and passion around this, particularly on the employee side. And I love that there are so many advocates for this within the business because you can always find people who are willing to pitch in and help and people who have a particular passion or ideas that can help contribute. I think what I’ve found over my career is that sometimes you just have to find what makes people tick, some people really enjoy the competitive aspect of it. So if you show them what a peer is doing, and I want to do that, some people don’t respond to that. And some people are more interested in the accomplishment of being able to say, hey, here’s what we did and this is how this changed things. And so I think it’s really just trying to understand what different people’s motivations are, and seeing how you can work together. I think buy-in from the top is incredibly important. I’ve also seen a lot of groundswell from different organizations. And so I think when you have those two things hand in hand, which I’m lucky to have here at Robert Half is both buy-in from both the top and everyone else, it really makes for a lot of possibilities for achievement,
John: You have your finger on the pulse in so many ways of shifts that are happening post-pandemic, is work at home here to stay in your view, or a hybrid model, or where do you see that balance being struck? When it comes to, as you said, at the top of the show, great word, flexibility with employees, where is the happy balance, going to sort of end up being the new better normal?
Stephanie: Yeah, I’ve been really I think it’s great what Robert Half is doing, because not only is this for our own employees, but we’re placing people across the globe. And really helping understand what’s going to work for our clients, as well as for us has made a lot of shifts in how we operate as a business. So, that flexibility, I think, understanding what your client’s needs are, right? So it may not be all about employee choice, but it’s going to be flexibility and understanding what is going to work for someone’s particular situation that I think, is a very reasonable and human way to deal with the future of work, right? Because it’s not going to be the same for everyone. Some people are going to want or and or need to go into the office and work and for other people. It can be done largely remotely. So I think the flexibility approach, the employee choice, looking at hybrid models, all of that has been done very thoughtfully at Robert Half. I think, companies who are taking a bit more of a heavy-handed approach, we know that employees at those companies are going to be looking for new jobs.
John: Interesting. ESG seems to be, Stephanie, from what I see here to stay and the circular the shift from the linear to strictly economy as a general racial trend that also seems to be growing and is going to actually happen. The US has seemed to be a slow adopter historically, comparatively speaking to Europe, and to other parts of Asia, such as Japan and South Korea, which were maybe forced two generations ago to get involved with sustainability and circular economy type behavior, because of their size whereas America, we’re big, just dig another landfill, throw out stuff. But now with universities, like you went through and got the focus on environmental sciences and how to become a chief sustainability officer or the Senior Director of ESG. Talk a little bit about the coming demand for executives in this space. What’s some advice you could give to our younger listeners, because we have listeners that are in high school and college, and we track our listeners, and they’re all around the world? What’s some of the advice that you wish someone had given you, as they begin their journeys in this really, really fascinating and fast-growing field?
Stephanie: Good question. I think we’re living in times where there really seems to be an urgent need to focus on these big societal issues, like diversity, equity, inclusion, like sustainability. I’m so encouraged about the number of people who are looking for jobs that have this purpose who are looking to make a difference for the positive. And that is really helping companies see what part they can play in these big shifts that I think are taking place. It’s not easy work, it’s definitely necessary work towards contributing, having a healthy planet and people who can thrive no matter where they are. So, if you’re looking to get into the ESG space, something that has helped me is really to develop those skills in influencing and relationship building. I mentioned previously, that no one in ESG can really be an expert across all of these areas, right? It’s just so broad and diverse, in terms of the number of topics, but if you get experience in some kind of background whether it’s HR or legal or sustainability or whatever it is, undoubtedly, there is already some sort of ESG component in that. So I think, understanding how whatever skills you may already have, that help you build that kind of influence and relationship building or problem-solving, kind of aspects that you don’t have to necessarily be an expert in anything, in everything across ESG. Know one part of it really well and you ou can translate those skills across the breadth of it. And one other thing I think that I would add, is that in particularly in the east side of ESG, there are some very tangible skills that companies are looking for, I would say an entry-level position if you know specifically how to do a carbon footprint. That class that I took at UCSB, Bren School, was the class that launched me into my career because I knew how to do a greenhouse gas inventory. That was an incredibly important skill. I would say, people who know how to do lifecycle analyses of products, people who know who understand I would say the science behind what’s going on in carbon accounting, that is an incredibly useful skill that would translate so please do take your classes, younger listeners and these things. They are very needed skills.
John: Definitely. How about you personally? How green are you or how sustainable are you through your own house in your own life? How far does it go in terms of the car or energy on your roof or that kind of stuff?
Stephanie: One of the most impactful actions that I have taken, and I think everyone can take up because we do it three times a day is what you put on your plate. So I’ve actually been eating plant-based since 2013. And I love how varied and delicious meals are when I eat plants. I did have to be quite thoughtful. I essentially had to relearn how to stock my pantry. What to cook but I have to tell you, it is taken my partner and I to some fantastic places that we never would have found. Otherwise, if you don’t seek it out and there honestly has never been a better time to be plant-based on the proliferation of ingredients that you can find, if you have a craving and of course mine is sometimes hamburgers, right? Well, let me tell you, there are so many options for that now these days. So that’s what I think is one of the biggest things I’ve done to really transition. It’s both for my own health, it’s for the animals, it’s for the planet. I do it for all the reasons and I never expect perfection from anyone. But I do say that I am most proud of the fact that a lot of my friends say, Stephanie if you cooked for me, I would go vegan.
John: That’s awesome. That is really wonderful. Well, you’re talking to somebody who’s been a vegetarian since I’m 17 and I’m 59 now. I’ve been plant-based myself since about 2012 or ’13. And I’ll tell you a funny story. So back in 2011, a friend of mine, Seth Goldman, who was on the show, early days, he was the co-founder of honesty. He was now getting involved with another company says, hey, I want you to have a CEO one, we got to get a little visibility. So he goes, I know you enjoy being a vegetarian, vegan, or whatever, John, and this is all about that. So I said, fine. So I bring him on the show. He does a great job. He was the CEO of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown. We know what happened to Ethan now and how that… but you’re so right. I remember being a vegetarian when I was 17. My parents thought I was a Martian. There was nothing to eat, but now when you go into any store, Whole Foods, or anywhere else, the options are limitless. You can have anything plant they see almost one and never miss a thing.
Stephanie: And you know, my dog loves kale stems, we put kale in just about everything and that’s his favorite snack. I don’t know how we lucked out with that.
John: You know, but it’s so funny you say that. So many people, Stephanie, think that being plant-based is an all-or-nothing proposition. Let’s just tell people to start with one meal a day, just go plant-based one meal a day, you don’t have to be a vegan 100% of the time. Your life will improve just even one meal a day.
Stephanie: Yeah, or if you think about what you’re using in your coffee or tea, can you find something that you like that is different than dairy? My favorite is ripple half and half. It went off the markets during the pandemic for a few months, and I just about cried.
John: I love them. I think ripples are great.
Stephanie: It’s back, and I could not recommend it more. I don’t work for ripple or anything. I just love it.
John: That is just so wonderful. Stephanie, it’s exciting. I want to have you back because nine months is still the beginning of your journey and as we learned about sustainability throughout both of our own journeys, it’s ongoing. There’s no finish line. There’s always more to do and there’s always more you can do. For those who want to find Stephanie and her colleagues at Robert Half, please go to www.roberthalf.com. To find their new ESG report, please go to www.roberthalf.com/esg-report. Stephanie Dolmat, you’re making the world a better and greener place. I’m so thankful for you joining us today on The Impact Podcast and you’re always welcome back here.
Stephanie: I hope too. Thanks, John.
John: This episode of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and impact partners. Closed Loop’s platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps, and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop Partners, please go to www.closedlooppartners.com.