Submitted by Kimberly-Clark Corporation
Lisa Morden, Kimberly-Clark’s vice president of safety, sustainability and occupational health, is passionate about protecting the environment and caring for the company’s employees, consumers and society at large. We spoke with Lisa about her career path and her advice for young women and girls, what inspires her, the legacy that she wants to leave, and the importance of courageous leadership.
Q: Where did you grow up, and how has that impacted your world view?
LM: I grew up in a small northwestern Ontario town in the heart of the Canadian boreal forest where Kimberly-Clark actually sources much of its pulp for our essential products. Many of my friends and family members were dependent on forest products or natural resources for their livelihoods – not to mention that we spent most of our time outdoors as kids. This definitely shaped my appreciation for the economic, social and environmental values of these natural resources.
In addition, my family spent several years in the Middle East and South Asia when I was a kid. My father worked in hydroelectric power generation, and he had several assignments in Iran, Pakistan and nearby regions working with the Canadian International Development Agency. I saw the socio-economic differences, massive quality of life disparities and so many people living in poverty in that part of the world – in addition to the consequences of conflict and insecurity.
Upon reflecting, I realize now how these two incredibly different life experiences shaped my views on the world and ultimately shaped my career choices.
Q: What brought you to Kimberly-Clark?
LM: As a student, I had a part time job in a commercial lab located in the university I was attending where I conducted environmental testing for a pulp facility in Canada that Kimberly-Clark used to own and operate in Terrace Bay. When Kimberly-Clark posted a role for a summer intern, I jumped at the opportunity. Before you know it, I was collecting and sending samples to the lab in addition to working on the facility’s environmental control programs and processes.
My experiences at Terrace Bay solidified my passion for environmental management. Pulp facilities and their woodlands operations are very environmentally intensive, and we had complex challenges on all fronts, but what I saw from the people and teams there as we rallied together to address and solve these challenges was incredibly fulfilling. I was hooked at that point, and I have continued to seek ways to replicate that experience with teams I’ve been a part of ever since that period of my career at Terrace Bay.
Q: Over the course of your career, you have worked in engineering and manufacturing fields that have historically been fairly male dominated. Has bias ever impacted your career?
LM: Like many in my generation, when I first started in my career, I would often be the only female at the table – but that has changed a lot over time. Also, it was very clear that as women were increasingly taking on technical roles, they were contributing with differentiated perspectives and energy that was a benefit to any team.
As someone who is naturally on the quiet side, this was both exciting and empowering. There have been so many amazing women role models at Kimberly-Clark over the years that have paved the way, and I feel fortunate to follow in their footsteps.
When bias appears, I choose to say, here is the goal or objective that we are going for, what actions to I need to take, and who are the best collaborators to help get the job done? There is little room in that equation for behaviors that get in the way, so we must be courageous in having the conversations that call out bias while recognizing that great collaboration and results are difficult to come by without an inclusive growth mindset.
Q: What advice do you have for young women and girls who are interested in an engineering or manufacturing career but are nervous about potential bias?
LM: It is important to always remember that others’ biases don't define you or your capabilities, and they don’t define your ambitions. We can all play a role in breaking down bias, but none of us should let other people’s beliefs define who we are and what we think about ourselves
Q: Is there any advice you wish you could have given yourself when you were a little girl?
LM: Be bolder, say what you think, and be courageous. The courageous leaders are the ones who change the world.
Q: You’re a mother of three. How has motherhood impacted your career?
LM: I’m probably not unique in this regard, but becoming a parent really brought into focus for me the existential issues associated with climate change, environmental deterioration and social inequality. Being a mom has given me an increasing sense of urgency to act, and I’m so fortunate to be able to do that through my work.
Becoming a mom also gave me a new appreciation for my husband, who has been an amazing partner in our life journey. He props us all up, and I’m thankful every day for everything he does for our family. As our family grew, we learned together how to calibrate career with home life and find the right balance. That ‘balance’ is different for everyone, and we’ve been lucky to find one that keeps us all happy and engaged!
Q: What has your journey looked like at Kimberly-Clark?
LM: After my first role at Terrace Bay, I held various environmental, health and safety (EHS) roles supporting Kimberly-Clark’s manufacturing sites around the world. I then moved over to Kimberly-Clark Professional on the global strategy team where we developed one of the first commercial programs that focused on sustainability. It was a great opportunity to be customer and end user-facing while working with the sales, marketing and research and engineering teams.
I also had an opportunity to serve as the product/category manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional’s bath and facial tissue business in North America. This was a stretch role, and I was so fortunate to have sponsorship and great coaches along the way. The leaders at the time also encouraged me to bring sustainability into the work that we did, which of course I adored.
Kimberly-Clark is a great place to reinvent your career while learning new skills in different capacities. I’ve worked for incredible leaders who have taken risks on me and given me amazing opportunities to stretch and grow.
Q: Looking back, what’s the highlight of your Kimberly-Clark career thus far?
LM: Actually, I think it is more the journey than a single highlight. But I would say that taking the work we’ve done in areas like building advanced wastewater treatment plants, drastically reducing the amount of manufacturing waste sent to landfills, improving forest management practices in our supply chain, reducing our climate emissions, and being able to share these stories with our employees, customers, consumers and NGO partners is certainly a point of pride.
We never would have delivered these kinds of improvements without continuously setting aspirational sustainability goals along the way, so each generation of goals hold a special place in my heart!
Q: You wear many hats in your role at Kimberly-Clark — sustainability, safety and occupational health. What links all of them together?
LM: The golden thread is about making lives better for people inside and outside of the company, with the smallest environmental footprint. This incorporates our efforts to ensure that 1) Our workplaces and supply chain are safe, healthy and respectful of human rights, 2) We advance the well-being of people in vulnerable and underserved communities, and 3) We safeguard natural systems and reduce our environment impact. Healthy people need a healthy planet.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
LM: What I have learned in working with many environmental organizations as part of my job is that you will not find more mission-driven people on the planet. They are laser-focused on making a positive difference and driving large-scale change.
When I work with our partners at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace, I’m always struck by their deep commitment and enduring energy for what they do. They are a source of inspiration, insight and motivation for me – even when we sit on opposite sides of issues some days.
Q: Kimberly-Clark is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. What is the legacy that you want to leave at Kimberly-Clark and in the community where you live and work?
LM: EHS and sustainability at Kimberly-Clark started off many years ago with a couple of goals and various compliance programs, and we’ve built that into something that is helping the company to deliver its purpose of Better Care for a Better World. That means providing our essential products to consumers while maximizing the social benefits and minimizing the social costs. In this rapidly changing world, we are building a strong foundation for the next 150 years.
Q: Do you have a life mantra?
LM: I’m quite focused on how people feel when they engage with me. I hope they see the world of the possible and feel like they can make a meaningful impact.
But at the same time, sustainability and safety work is really hard, and the courageous message is often a difficult one. Maybe it is more of a mission than a mantra, but I try to be a leader who inspires people while creating a sense of urgency so we can drive even greater impact and make progress toward a better future for us all.
Kimberly-Clark Corporation and its well-known global brands are an indispensable part of life for people in more than 175 countries. Every day, nearly a quarter of the world's population trust K-C's brands and the solutions they provide to enhance their health, hygiene and well-being. With brands such as Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex and Depend, Kimberly-Clark holds No. 1 or No. 2 share positions in 80 countries. To keep up with the latest K-C news and to learn more about the Company's 143-year history of innovation, visit Kimberly-Clark Sustainability or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
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