Carolyn Gindein joined us recently as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Manager and her responsibility is to help us bring CSR activities to the next level and drive them. She has vast experience in CSR from diverse global and pan-European organisations and she is incredibly positive about the work she will be able to do at Kiwi.
“Kiwis seem very open to understanding more about CSR and curious about what we will do. I think that the culture corresponds to CSR values and it’s a true team spirit. I feel that everyone wants to give to communities and to help in many ways,” said Carolyn.
Read on to learn more about her passion and plans for CSR at Kiwi.com, her understanding of our culture, lessons learned and how traveling changed her life.
Hi Carolyn, how did you become interested in Corporate Social Responsibility?
I first became interested in CSR when I was working in a mining company back home in Australia which was roughly 20 years ago. Usually, those types of companies face bad publicity but I witnessed how their involvement in CSR can reduce their negative impact on the planet. CSR wasn’t such a popular subject then as it is now, and people weren’t so aware, but that company was already doing a lot to reduce the damage, for example, reforesting areas where they had mined, doing education and skills training and local job opportunities for the communities that they worked in. This all made me interested in learning more about CSR. Later I quickly moved into the project management area because that was where my background and skills were but I remained linked to CSR activities through projects and my interest.
What is your observation of the Kiwi.com culture so far and how does CSR connect to our culture?
What I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced are fantastic. Everyone that I’ve encountered responded to me in a welcoming way and was living the Kiwi.com values by assuming that I’m already doing great things, even on my first day when I’ve done nothing! I was nicely surprised how excited they were about all the things we’ll do. I feel the spirit of CSR is already within the values of Kiwis and that we’ll easily build on that culture and do amazing things here.
What does CSR mean to you?
When I and my 3 siblings were growing up, my parents used to tell us that we are all equal and to treat each other that way – especially if we were arguing! I live by this belief outside of my family as well and it was only as I got older that I realized that builds inclusivity. Even as a child I would defend a child that someone was picking on. I always believed that no one should be treated differently. It’s not only about equality but also equity, giving someone what they need to be equal. I would say I live by those values.
CSR is a big subject and not (only) raising money for charity. It’s also about the environment, people, and the planet. To me personally, it’s about making sure that what you (as a company) do is ethical. You create good working conditions, you are responsible for the way you manage the company to stay profitable but also give to communities and do good for the Earth because we all need this planet.
What are the first things that will be done related to CSR?
We already have a lot of actions in place such as donations, volunteering, crisis support but we’ll need to add structure so that we can track our activities, focus on a wider scope of CSR and educate Kiwis about what CSR is as a whole. When I say we, I mean me together with our CSR Committee team but I must fully define the focus areas. For a start, I understand the Committee previously identified diversity, inclusion and equality and carbon footprint as being important to Kiwis. Goals for those areas will need to be identified and set.
When it comes to carbon footprint for example, we can set goals and work toward reducing our own carbon emissions and we can educate our customers to travel more responsibly not only in terms of transport but also the activities they do and how to choose greener accommodation options. We can promote customer carbon reductions by offering those choices.
We’re currently not vocal enough about what we have done so we also have to talk more about the activities using tools like our blog articles to share with all kiwis and eventually to tell our customers.
Our Care Crew did a lot of work-related to helping refugees from Ukraine so far and it’s a very important thing we will continue to focus on.
What would be the biggest lessons learned from your career as a CSR Manager?
I tend to see a whole giant picture and try to do it all and a reminder to myself every day is “you can’t do everything at once.” It’s probably my biggest learning overall, to prioritize, otherwise when you identify gaps and try to fill them all at once, it becomes an overwhelming task and you don’t feel like you’re actually achieving anything.
Why did you decide to move to the travel industry?
I truly believe travel widens our horizons. The more you travel, the more different cultures you experience, the more understanding and inclusivity you incorporate. I solo traveled for 18 months, because from Australia it’s harder to travel often so when we go, we travel for a long time. I experienced how travel can enrich you and make you more open. I also saw that through my son. When he was a child, I traveled with him to other countries and I believe that because of that experience of growing up and seeing diversity, consequently, as he got older, he became more open.
He had a lot more varied friends than other kids, he was the one to approach the new kid that arrived at school, and when he grew up, he also took himself to travel around the world. I feel these are the reasons I also wanted to work in the travel industry, I believe in the value of travel. I understand there is damage from such as carbon emissions so it’s the reason I want to help the business in this way and make positive changes so we can all keep traveling.
Traveling 18 months sounds very dynamic. How did that experience change your life?
It was dynamic! When I started my trip, I didn’t have any specific plan other than starting in the US and working in a summer camp for 6 weeks. Before I left on the trip everyone was saying that it’s risky because no one will know where I am, they were worried about my safety. One friend made a joke that I’m like James Bond, a man of mystery and that’s how I decided to start a blog about my travels and name myself an International Woman of Mystery.
It really did change my life. It made me realize how strong and resilient I am. How independent I can be and how I can get myself around all kinds of places. I became more confident, and I started living much more minimally. I was living out of a bag for all this time and it made me realize how unimportant materialistic things could be. Today I still like nice things but I always ask myself, “do I really need that?” I’d rather go and spend my money on some experiences.