Rising Stars in Sustainability: Erika Meschkat, The J.M. Smucker Co.
For our Rising Stars series, we're featuring the next generation of leaders who are working toward a more sustainable world. We recently spoke with Erika Meschkat, Senior Analyst, Sustainability, at The J.M. Smucker Co., to learn about her role, what she finds most challenging and rewarding, and more.
What is your role at The J.M. Smucker Co.?
As a Senior Analyst, Sustainability I am a key administrator of our sustainability data management system, working across the enterprise to assess data for our GHG accounting practices, especially within our company-owned facilities. This data is utilized for reporting and communicating to customers and other critical stakeholders. I also toggle out of the traditional analyst role to support the activation of our Smucker Sustainability Strategy, particularly related to employee engagement and charitable giving. Related to sustainable supply chains, I also lead our Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain certification program.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in corporate sustainability?
After completing an undergraduate degree in Sustainability and starting my career during an economic downturn in the public, non-profit and academic sectors, I wanted to gain cross-sector competencies to tackle systems issues more fully. This path pushed me towards an MBA in social and sustainable enterprises in 2016. I continued to devote myself to that work, while maintaining my passion for the public sector, working as the Sustainability Manager for the City of Cleveland. It was through that experience, working with many corporate sustainability professionals on the City’s Climate Action Plan, that I found myself wanting to affirm my skillset in business. I knew that culture and genuine commitment to sustainability strategy were non-negotiable for any corporation I joined. Being from Northeast Ohio, The J.M. Smucker Co. was the ideal organization to work for. Exploring the company, I learned more about the great team committed to maturing the company’s sustainability strategy. Once joining the organization, I saw firsthand how our executive leadership team was authentically supporting the work. I witnessed that from my first week there...and three years later, I see it still.
What have you found most challenging and/or most rewarding about your work?
Systemic change is slow and takes diligence, commitment, and consistent awareness building with a focus on cultural shifts. Your work is not always going to bear fruit in front of your eyes and sometimes you will need to work through competing objectives. Thankfully, the upside of this challenge is that the work allows you to be exposed to many different people to support your goals. I have met the most intelligent, inspiring, and hard-working people in (and outside) this field who are committed to not just a career, but following a passion for environmental stewardship, human empathy, and a just economic future.
What are you excited about for the future?
I am so incredibly excited about the growing number of corporations committing to meaningful, science-based targets to address global climate shifts through their respective industries. In particular, I am eager to see how our efforts to engage suppliers and promote a sense of agency among our employees will reduce our impact across the value chain. Additionally, the most powerfully motivated organizations, those best positioned to meet the future head-on, are those who have connected sustainability strategy with broader ESG commitments.