SONAE SIERRA – shopping experience and sustainable development

Sonae Sierra is an international company which owns, develops and manages properties in the shopping centre sector. We’ve talked to Elsa Monteiro, Head of Sustainability at Sonae Sierra, about company’s CSR initiatives in Romania. Elsa’s responsibilities are to support, coordinate and monitor the Sonae Sierra’s Safety, Health and Environmental Policy and Management System, and to coordinate the Company’s Sustainability Policy and strategy.

Elsa is member of the managing committee of the European Property Federation; member of the INREV Sustainability Working Group, and the Greenprint Carbon Index Committee.

– How did you get involved in Social Responsibility sector? For how long have you been working in this field?

– In 1995, I joined Sonae Sierra as Head of Institutional Relations, Environment and Communication. At the time, Sonae was already member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. So the company was already challenged by its President to incorporate environment in the business strategy. That is why environment was also part of my job, which included leading the Environmental Policy definition and implementation within all the activities of the company, transverse to all organization.

In 2004, I lead Sierra evolution to a Corporate Responsibility policy and strategy, including reporting according to GRI. And in 2009 I became fully dedicated to sustainability coordinating the Company’s Sustainability Policy and Strategy including its Safety, Health and Environmental Policy and Management System certified according to ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.

– Which was the biggest professional challenge since you have been working in this sector?

– The main challenge working in this area is to set the benchmark and then remain as pioneer at the forefront of best sustainable business practices.

There are today innumerous companies promoting their initiatives in this field, but only few have a really comprehensive and integrated approach with the business. We believe that we are able to set the industry standard by training and engaging not only our colleagues but also our stakeholders as for example, our tenants, suppliers or visitors. The end result is a common contribution for the improvement of operational efficiency and new sustainable business solutions. This can only be possible by stimulating and engaging all peers, and results is a transversal positive achievement for a sustainable and responsible business activity. Likewise, we are able to improve our efficiency, save resources and avoid costs on a long term run, while socially contributing to sustainable community impact.

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