The business leader driving justice for all from the inside

NYU CIC
NYU CIC
Feb 11 · 5 min read

Champions of Change is an initiative started by the Pathfinders to highlight advocates who have made an impact in their communities and helped to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies (SDG16+). It provides an opportunity to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

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Trish Patton is an accomplished human resources executive with over 20 years’ experience with an extensive career directing strategic HR and Learning and Development initiatives. She currently serves as the VP Human Resources for The Body Shop North America, and has been in the position for 3.5 years. As part of her work, Trish coaches executives, leads strategic planning, succession planning, and orchestrates cross-functional HR initiatives, while fostering integrated team building for the entire North America team. Her passion is to be disruptive in HR by looking at policies and procedures differently and refocusing them on the company’s purpose. She has pioneered Open/Inclusive Hiring for The Body Shop to eliminate employment barriers and provide social mobility opportunities.

We spoke with Trish Patton to learn more about her work and what drives her:

What ignited your pursuit for more peaceful, just and inclusive societies?

Since our founding in 1976, The Body Shop has always believed that business should be a force for good and can drive positive change. Because of this, we live by our founder, Anita Roddick’s, purpose for the brand: to fight for a fairer and more beautiful world. It’s this purpose that drives everything we do — and specifically my work as the VP of Human Resources for the North America market.

I am inspired by our purpose to fight for a fairer, more beautiful world, as well as influenced by the brand’s long-standing history of activism. It was important to me to contribute to “the fight,” and I saw an opportunity to help make change through our work by increasing employment opportunities. Through our Inclusive Hiring initiative, I have found my own purpose, which is to make change and find opportunities for those who may not readily have them. I don’t see my “purpose” stopping there. I want to continue to build the ecosystem around Inclusive Hiring to increase social mobility and change the communities around us.

To achieve a peaceful, just, and inclusive world, what does success look like to you? And what are the key factors in achieving this vision?

In order to achieve a peaceful, just, and inclusive world, we found that a key factor in achieving success within our organization was not only to educate our staff, but also to listen to our teams. Our team is made up of such a diverse collective. We were able to learn so much from their own experiences — both at The Body Shop, and through previous roles and life experiences. All of this information allows us to be able to build out larger programming around training, speaker series, and more, to help identify places in the organization where we could incite change and better ourselves.

This is also instrumental in helping us to feel even more connected to our brand purpose and to understand how we can effectively and appropriately communicate with our consumers externally, via in-store initiatives, hiring programs, and social amplifications. I highly encourage every business to take a look within to help identify their own challenges, in order to address justice issues.

How does your work contribute for the SDG16+ goals?

The Body Shop has always been, and will always be, a community that fosters inclusivity and diversity. My job is to put a magnifying glass on our HR practices, and listen to our employees in order to implement initiatives and employee opportunities to ensure that we, as a brand, are “walking the walk” and practicing everything we preach, inside and out. This includes breaking down employment barriers through our inclusive hiring practices, internal anti-racism training, seminars, inclusivity and anti-racism task forces, and more.

Inclusive Hiring eliminates traditional barriers to employment and provides second chances for those who can’t find employment. When we launched the program, the biggest hurdle we faced was our own preconceived notion that we had to host background checks. When we took a step back, however, it became clear we were not only alienating an entire group of people from employment opportunities, but pre-judging candidates and assuming people would be unfit to work at the company. This was not the case! By breaking down our internal barriers, we increased our productivity year after year, and became more inclusive by providing employment opportunities for those people who may otherwise have not had the opportunity to work.

How has COVID-19 impacted your work? Are there any lessons learned from the pandemic that you hope to apply in future work?

Our people are at the core of our business and ensuring that they are safe is of the utmost of importance to us. From a people standpoint, you want to interact physically and in person with the teams, but we’ve had no choice but to shift our engagement virtually. To ensure that we maintain that point-of-contact and continue to engage regularly with the team, we’ve implemented what we call “care calls,” so we’re able to see, and engage with, the team on camera. This enables us to really understand what they are going through emotionally and professionally. We’ve had to look at how to support our teams who are working from home with children participating in virtual school — which we understand can be challenging in two — let alone one — parent homes. Throughout, we’ve been very flexible and supportive of the different needs of our teams.

There are many lessons learned from the pandemic, but I think the most important one is the resilience in our people and teams. There were so many obstacles to overcome throughout COVID, such as protecting our people and our customers. Our store teams were learning how to work safely in this new COVID-19 environment, but still interact with, animate, and sell to customers. They have been amazing in what they have accomplished, while never wavering in their ability to make The Body Shop a safe, yet fun place to shop.

What advice do you have for those seeking to make a difference for a more peaceful, just and inclusive world?

The biggest obstacle we’ve faced is breaking through the barriers that we, as businesses, have put in place — whether it be around hiring, training, internal resources, or day-to-day business objectives. There’s no “right” first step. Be loud and take action! It’s not enough to stay silent. As a collective, businesses should be leveraging their platforms to fight for what’s right. For businesses, the products we create, the campaigns we run, and the communities we support drive purpose as well as profit. We’re change-makers and for The Body Shop, we always have been. These days, more and more businesses are waking up to the idea of business as a force for good, and we’re glad to hear it. It’s going to take all of us to push through change!

Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

NYU CIC

Written by

NYU CIC

Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

The Pathfinders are a group of member states, international organizations, global partnerships, and other partners working to accelerate delivery of the SDG targets for peace, justice and inclusion (SDG16+). Hosted by the NYU Center on International Cooperation (CIC).

NYU CIC

Written by

NYU CIC

Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

The Pathfinders are a group of member states, international organizations, global partnerships, and other partners working to accelerate delivery of the SDG targets for peace, justice and inclusion (SDG16+). Hosted by the NYU Center on International Cooperation (CIC).

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