Kevin Anton was named Chief Sustainability Officer for Alcoa in August 2010. In this role, he is responsible for developing a comprehensive strategy that integrates all of the Company’s sustainability efforts. Kevin currently serves on the board of Earthwatch Institute, an international nonprofit organization that promotes action and understanding necessary to sustain the natural environment. Earthwatch Institute is an Alcoa Foundation partner. Kevin provides his perspective on finding the right match when considering joining a board.
In 2012, I joined the board of Earthwatch Institute. Having a history with for-profit boards, I had a base level of expectation. There are many similarities: meetings and committee work, the emphasis on governance, exposure to leadership and developing a compelling and competitive strategy. There are differences, also. When reaching out to members of the private sector, it helps to explain the importance of relationship-building, especially as it relates to fund development. Additionally, here are three points of advice that I would give to others considering getting involved.
1) Diversity matters
Earthwatch has a long history of leadership in cutting-edge scientific research and their product is remarkable. Their request was for someone who had a business perspective to bring a different viewpoint to the table. Since I joined, we have taken some great steps that will ensure the infrastructure is in place to continue delivering outstanding science for years to come. Having a diverse board proved to be a real asset.
2) Transparency is critical to finding the right fit
When considering how to expand your board strategically, be willing and able to articulate your strengths and opportunities. The organization and candidate should be putting their cards on the table as this match becomes a serious option. What are both parties expecting to get out of the relationship: what are the requirements and commitments?
3) Strategic alignment
There are many reasons people join boards. I wanted to help guide an organization that was in alignment with my personal values and professional experience. As a 15-year Alcoan, it was also meaningful to me to join an existing Alcoa Foundation partner to strengthen the relationship and demonstrate the commitment between our organizations.
The time I’ve spent with Earthwatch has been personally and professionally rewarding. I actively encourage nonprofits to continue to reach out to their business partners.