NIB Career Q&A: John Rooks, Founder, The SOAP Group

John RooksJohn Rooks, Founder, The SOAP Group is moderating the “Effective CSR Marketing” panel session at the Net Impact Boston Career Summit on February 21st. Here’s a sneak preview of what you’ve got to look forward to.

What inspired you to pursue a career with positive social or environmental impact?
As a kid I was a huge whale nerd which lead me to GreenPeace, which lead me to EarthFirst!, which led me to Edward Abbey. From there I was hooked on the combination of scientific observation found in naturalist writing, the punk rock vibe of Ecoterrorism, and the flow of communicating ideas to create behavior change.

Most of my early professional career was a combination of teaching writing at Universities and marketing for environmental compliance and engineering. Then I worked for 5 years in the belly of the beast – an Advertising Agency. I woke up one morning feeling depressed and dirty. I decided to weld together a business that would blend my academic training in Cultural and Writing Theory with my professional careers in consulting and marketing. The result is The SOAP Group now in its 12th year.

What’s the most interesting/most fun/most challenging aspect of your job?
I love working with employees to help them view their job through the lens of sustainability. I’m fortunate to travel around the world working with employees at factories. I love learning what sustainability means to them; it does not mean the same thing in Georgia as it does in Thailand or Ireland. All sustainability is local and needs to be communicated in those terms. Translating the cultural nuances (even from corporation to corporation) of sustainability while still remaining true to the universal truths of science is an amazing challenge. This is why understanding the culture of sustainability is so critical to the equation.

What advice would you give to those looking for a career with a positive social or environmental impact?
Figure out what you are good at and then fit it into sustainability. Sustainability needs economists, agronomists, artists, communicators, editors, teachers, etc. It needs all vocations. It needs a paradigm shift so that it is no longer a specialization unto itself, but a subset of all specializations.

Sign up today to come to the Career Summit on February 21st and join the panel “Effective CSR Marketing: Aligning CSR Strategy with Brand Marketing Objectives” to hear more from John.

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