CSI Profile, Rosa Skinner, Whirlpool Corporation
Dive into the world of corporate social impact with Rosa Skinner, a driving force behind Whirlpool Corporation’s evolving CSR approach. With over three decades at the company, Rosa’s journey from corporate flight crew to Senior Manager of Global CSR & Community Relations is a testament to her dedication to making a positive impact.
Discover how Whirlpool’s CSR has transformed over the years, driven by a shift from traditional giving to a human-centric, data-driven model. And how the BuildBetter with Whirlpool initiative is creating climate-resilient homes. Rosa’s insights, including the importance of research and employee involvement, provide valuable lessons for social impact pros.
Alli Murphy: Please share a bit about the personal and professional journey that led you to become Whirlpool’s Sr. Manager of Global CSR & Community Relations.
Rosa Skinner: My career journey began working as a member of Whirlpool’s corporate flight crew. This role was always one that extended beyond the duties listed in my job description, greatly underscoring the importance of being proactive and attentive when it comes to managing many variables. It was during this time, and my experiences on the crew that I recognized my purpose was to pursue servant leadership in all I do. Guided by this, I merged my passion for servant leadership and experience with community engagement and corporate experience to join Whirlpool’s CSR & Community Relations team. I am proud to have played a role in creating our House+Home Social Responsibility strategy and bringing it to life daily by creating meaningful connections between Whirlpool, our employees, and the communities we serve.
Alli Murphy: You’ve been at Whirlpool for 30+ years – wow! How has the brand’s impact and approach to CSR changed in that time?
Rosa Skinner: One fact I love about Whirlpool’s history is that our CEO in 1969 wrote in a letter to his shareholders that we cannot separate our business from the communities in which we operate and hope to grow and prosper. We’re turning 112 years old this year, but this value remains constant.
In the past 30 years, however, our approach to CSR has undergone a significant transformation, and this has had a profound impact on our community engagement and impact. In the past, our CSR efforts were more focused on traditional corporate giving. However, following the pandemic, we have now adopted a new model for effective giving that embraces innovation, scales existing impact, leads with a human-centric approach, and harnesses data. We’re incredibly pleased with how this purpose-driven model has created transformative and meaningful change within our communities and relationships.
We also have plans to share more about this model with organizations in the coming months, so stay tuned!
Alli Murphy: You were an integral part of creating Whirlpool’s House+Home strategy and embedding it throughout the globe. Please share 1-3 lessons you’ve learned along the way.
Rosa Skinner: For those not familiar, Whirlpool Corporation’s House+Home is our comprehensive approach to social impact around the globe, rooted in our vision to be the world’s best kitchen and laundry company, in constant pursuit to improve life at home. House represents our global focus, enabling comfortable, nurturing places to live where individuals and families can make healthy choices and build their best future. Home represents our local focus, supporting resilient, thriving, and sustainable communities through education and neighborhood development.
A crucial takeaway from this experience was the significance of thorough research. We conducted stakeholder surveys, gathered employee feedback, consulted with philanthropy experts, and pursued various avenues of inquiry. All of these efforts were essential to ensure that the strategy truly reflected our company’s identity and our desired impact. It may sound daunting, but it was an incredibly vital part of the process in ensuring the strategy was authentic to Whirlpool.
Right from the outset, it was paramount to us that we actively involve our employees. We wanted to guarantee that this wasn’t merely a strategy tailored to Whirlpool as a corporation but one where our employees could actively participate in bringing our mission and impact to fruition through the creation of our House+Home Ambassador Program. It includes detailed plans for ways our employees can get involved in a transformational approach to volunteering, so employees would be interested, empowered and most of all inspired in bringing it to life.
Alli Murphy: One of Whirlpool’s key programs within House+Home is BuildBetter with Whirlpool, a collaborative initiative with Habitat for Humanity. How do you drive impact through corporate-cause partnerships like BuildBetter with Whirlpool?
Rosa Skinner: Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity share a deep commitment to helping families achieve housing stability, which is why our collaboration has spanned for almost 25 years! The BuildBetter with Whirlpool initiative is a product of our mutual desire to expand upon our existing efforts and make an even greater impact in this critical area.
BuildBetter with Whirlpool works to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events on homeowners by building 250 energy-efficient and climate-resilient homes, producing a long-term reduction in energy costs and protecting families from the increasing impacts of climate-related events like forest fires and hurricanes.
When it comes to making a difference together, it all boils down to having common values and talking with each other regularly. Both organizations need to agree on what they want to achieve together and share their thoughts openly. By keeping the conversation going, they can figure out what’s working well and what needs attention, which helps them work together better and make a greater impact.
Alli Murphy: BuildBetter with Whirlpool is reaching the end of its third year. What are you most proud of that it has accomplished thus far?
Rosa Skinner: The program’s third phase is currently underway, but I’m incredibly proud to share that the first two phases have led to 143 families receiving hazard-resilient and energy-efficient homes. However, sometimes it’s difficult to truly conceptualize what a number represents.
I will share the story of one of our BuildBetter with Whirlpool home recipients Susan and her daughter Emberley. Susan and Emberley were displaced in the summer of 2022 when a violent storm tore off the roof of their home. They lost so much that we all take for granted: security, personal belongings, privacy, and more. But now, they are receiving a home that was built with top disaster-resilient, as well as energy-efficient, building practices. Susan and Emberley will have the peace of mind that they are better protected and have a disaster-resilient home.
Knowing that 250 families will have a house that offers that protection and a home where they can grow is incredibly powerful to me.
Alli Murphy: Let’s close with a lightning round!
What trends are you paying attention to as Whirlpool strives to make a difference in 2024 and beyond?
Rosa Skinner: At Whirlpool and the Whirlpool Foundation, we really can’t emphasize enough how important data is for making things run smoothly and making smart decisions. Harnessing data-driven insights enables us to allocate funding resources strategically, pinpoint priority areas, and rigorously assess outcomes and impact.
What’s one way you prioritize your wellbeing amid your important work?
Rosa Skinner: I make it a point to regularly slow down and prioritize human connections, whether it’s taking an hour of my day to share a spa moment with my friend, connecting with a person in the coffee shop, or spending quality time with my family, building and nurturing relationships brings me deep joy and reminds me about the importance of real human connection. We all long to be seen and heard and these moments sustain my effectiveness in my role.
What advice would you give a CSR newbie for advancing in their career?
Rosa Skinner: Begin by immersing yourself in the world and community around you. Look into what other companies are doing — even if they’re in a different industry — to understand the challenges others have faced and how they developed innovative solutions to their problems. It serves as great inspiration and can spark incredible ideas and solutions to bring back to your work. Most of all, never give up on ideas that you believe in and let that passion inspire those around you!
About Whirlpool Corporation
Whirlpool Corporation is committed to being the best global kitchen and laundry company, in constant pursuit of improving life at home. In an increasingly digital world, the company is driving purposeful innovation to meet the evolving needs of consumers through its iconic brand portfolio, including Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag, Consul, Brastemp, Amana, Bauknecht, JennAir, Indesit, Yummly and InSinkErator. In 2022, the company reported approximately $20 billion in annual sales, 61,000 employees, and 56 manufacturing and technology research centers.