Gwen Migita (@gmigita), Vice President Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship at Caesars Entertainment, discusses the evolution of corporate sustainability and what she thinks companies can start doing to make high-impact change.
Keep reading to learn about her time as an MVP soccer player and the experiences that led her to dedicate her career to corporate responsibility.
What project are you most excited about right now?
GM: I’m really excited about the life-saving work Caesars is doing to counter sex trafficking. This work has gained a lot of support within the company and is probably the most impactful program we’re working on now in terms of creating meaningful outcomes and influencing the hospitality industry.
For us, this means having a very comprehensive, best practice approach to the protocol of our security teams and finding ways to engage security officers and global managers— embedding more purpose into their work. We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in the engagement level from security officers and management educating themselves on how to save people, or as one employee put it, “doing their job with a bit of love and compassion.”
Our work countering sex trafficking has caused us to push corporate America to talk about difficult challenges in the industries of hospitality, global business and convention travel. Travel in these industries tends to lead to a spike in sex trafficking. This is one of the dark sides of travel that corporations need to shed light on and those in the industry need to manage this in their own businesses more effectively.
Over the last several years and as a result of talking with sustainability officers in other sectors, we’ve come to the conclusion that to really make a difference, we need to begin addressing the tough stuff and go beyond what’s simply doable, safe, or measurable.
This work is also authentic to our company values in that it addresses what it means to develop vibrant communities in every jurisdiction that we operate in. A community isn’t vibrant if you have a shadow industry that feeds on the tourism industry. Hospitality companies are starting to do more work in this space, but not enough. Currently, the work tends to follow a training-first, protocol-second approach. We're trying to flip that around and shift to a multi-year protocol and cultural change.
That being said, authenticity takes years, and we aren’t looking to shine a spotlight or seek a lot of external credit in this area. We’re still working behind the scenes, which recently resulted in industry associations holding a first-ever summit on countering sex trafficking. This is a huge accomplishment to move the industry along and begin addressing the problem with a policy-first approach.
What inspires and drives you to work on sustainability?
GM: I’m inspired when I hear our employees talk about how proud they are to be working for the company. They're glad Caesars is speaking out on social justice or human rights. I’m also inspired by how the company has engaged on mega issues, such as global food security, climate and transgender policy.
I always felt that a part of who I am is how I engage in my community and give back. I’ve always been involved in community engagement and volunteering.
Can you share something about yourself that would surprise us? Any hidden talents?
GM: Some people might be surprised to learn that back in high school, I wasn’t as straight-laced or analytical as I’m perceived to be these days. I threw parties and was a rule-bender. At the time, I justified this because I realized that the people who succeeded in life later down the road were the “B” and “C” students, those with the social skills. I’m partially joking about that. But my behavior was also influenced by growing up in a very strict household and being closeted as a teenager. Then in college, I started to get serious about my career and cultivating leadership skills.
As for other talents, I was very involved in competitive soccer. My position was goal keeper. The last time I played a tournament was in 2003, in Thailand for the Asian Federation Championship which served as an Olympic qualifying event for 15 countries. I ended up being selected as the MVP of the tournament. This was my last serious competition, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to push myself mentally and physically to play at that level.
What do you work on in your free time?
GM: In my free time, I work on my family relationships. There’s always so much work to be done, but I really value being able to cultivate family relationships. For me, this means spending time with my spouse, one- and three-year old kids, or reconnecting with my parents and finding quality time to see them. It's very important that we spend more time with family.
When we’re together, we like to go back to the basics and simplicity of life— enjoying each other, walking along the lake, looking at rocks. I call it "screen-free" time.
Part of our family time is spent donating food from our backyard to a local food bank. We went from donating 400 pounds of plums last year to 100 pounds this year. Even though I encounter issues related to climate change in my work, experiences like this really bring the problem to light and become tangible.
If you had unlimited time and resources, on what type of work would you want to collaborate with fellow SB Members?
GM: Something that I’m passionate about is food security, particularly in the US. Even though Caesars and many other companies operate globally, our headquarters are in the US, and I think there’s a great opportunity to address food security issues in our own backyard. When you look at the studies on food insecurity in the US alone, you realize that we should have been able to resolve the hunger issue by now.
To really make an impact, we need to go beyond simply working together and really understand how our work intersects; approaching the work in achievable “bite-sized” chunks rather than tackling the entire system as individual companies. It's not just around sharing ideas, which can get a little old over time. I’d like to see us sharing metrics, outcomes and processes and coming up with real solutions that we can work toward.
Why is your participation in the SB Member Network important?
GM: It's very powerful to work with peers who share solutions and lessons learned across companies and industries. Meeting my peers at conferences and member meetings has been valuable in that it allows us to share solutions and build direct relationships. This typically leads to other ways we can work together and support each other’s work.
Anything else you'd like to share with fellow SB Members?
GM: Corporate sustainability strategy has focused on the environmental side for quite a while. However, we’ve acknowledged that it’s much harder to effectively impact social issues and make inroads on social impact strategy.
To talk about sustainability comprehensively, we need to find ways to constructively address areas such as racial equity. There is a critical issue of unconscious bias when it comes to those who are affected by systemic repression, social-economic oppression or environmental justice issues.
Caesars recently announced our 2030 goal to have 50% or more of our manager-level employees be women or minorities. Additionally, more sustainability officers and non-governmental associations need to work at the intersections between diversity and social impact strategies.