With two decades of experience in sustainability public policy, Helen Munro understands the need to challenge the status quo.
As a Senior Public Policy Manager at Amazon, she champions innovative solutions to the climate crisis, and as a Board Member of Glamazon, she supports LGBTQ+ colleagues to challenge assumptions in the workplace.
Her advice on both fronts is not to build a complete point of view without first asking questions.
“I think the key is that you shouldn’t just assume why people make their choices or have particular beliefs before you talk to them. Get to know them with questions, rather than assumptions,” she said.
From an LGBTQ+ perspective, Helen says these assumptions can add an extra layer of emotional stress to everyday situations.
You have your big coming-out moments when you tell your friends and your family when you’re younger, but sometimes I feel like I come out on a daily basis.
“Whether it’s being introduced to new colleagues, or even your hairdresser or the parent at the school gate, people still often assume heterosexuality,” she said. “Obviously, you have your big coming-out moments when you tell your friends and your family when you’re younger, but sometimes I feel like I come out on a daily basis.”
“So you are very consciously deciding – sometimes tactically – whether or not you want to correct that assumption, what information you share, how you share it and how they might react. These are minor coming-out moments in everyday life.”
Asking the right questions
Helen has put this advice into practice in her day-to-day role with Amazon, too. As a senior member of our Public Policy team, she works with government partners and sustainability NGOs to help Amazon boost its sustainability efforts.
She engages with external organisations on initiatives, including renewable energy – Amazon is on a path to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025 – and how we are supporting nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. Amazon has invested $100m in the Right Now Climate Fund to help preserve and restore the natural world, including through biodiversity projects in the UK. Helen also works with government partners on new sustainability regulations.
“Our role is to shape and inform legislation, providing a service to the business so we can continue to innovate and deliver for our customers,” she said.
“Sustainability is a complex issue and it often feels overwhelming. From a business perspective, we need to make sure that policies are as effective as possible. From an individual point of view, it’s easy to feel that the climate crisis is too difficult to fix, but there are some really simple everyday things we can all do to make an impact – such switching the lights off, only boiling enough water in your kettle for what you need, and generally consuming well.”
Harnessing the power of the network
Individual actions add up, especially when they encourage others to join in. It’s why Helen is committed to tackling the climate crisis, and it’s also why she is ready to stand up as an LGBTQ+ person, and why she is committed to helping other LGBTQ+ colleagues to do the same through Glamazon.
As one of Amazon’s 13 employee affinity groups, Glamazon acts as a professional network which can help with career development and growth, but it also creates a space for colleagues to meet like-minded people at work.
The group has been shortlisted for this year’s British LGBT Awards, and in 2021 it was named as one of the top 10 LGBTQ+ networks in the world as part of the Global Diversity List.
Set up in 1999 as an email list for after-work drinks for Amazon’s Seattle-based LGBTQ+ community, Glamazon has grown to almost 20,000 members in 60 chapters worldwide, and offers a range of tools and support for both LGBTQ+ employees and their allies.
I think the key is that you shouldn’t just assume why people make their choices or have particular beliefs before you talk to them. Get to know them with questions, rather than assumptions.
The after-work drinks still take place today, and Helen says these are useful for the community to ensure it is visible within the business. Glamazon has just kicked off its Pride Month celebrations in the UK.
“The issues that Glamazon deals with are far-ranging,” she said. “We ensure that we are visible as an organisation, that people know we exist, and that they can come to us if they want to. But we also engage in more complex issues. For example, if we feel a product sold on our platform may be harmful to members of our LGBTQ+ community, we flag that.”
“We also do the fun things like have big parties around Pride Month. When everyone returned to the office from the pandemic, Amazon developed a ‘working from here’ initiative to help ensure colleagues feel proud of their workplace. At Glamazon we redesigned that slightly to say we’re ‘working from here with Pride’.
“We created a logo for it so that we can show that it's not just about Pride month or LGBTQ+ history month. We work here with Pride every day.”
Glamazon’s visibility as an organisation helps LGBTQ+ colleagues to bring their authentic selves to the workplace, and it also helps colleagues have constructive conversations about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), too.
“I’m really fortunate that the team I work with is hugely committed to DEI,” said Helen.
“We recently spent time as a team with a DEI expert, and talked through how we communicate with each other. Whether that’s cultural appropriations and misrepresentations or the assumptions we make about other people all the time.
“It was a really worthwhile exercise for our team to educate ourselves, to learn how things that might mean nothing to me might be a massive thing for you. I think we’ve all learned over the years that diversity leads to both better solutions and better decision making.