GLOBE VIPs (Very Impactful People): Gwen Migita
Over the past 30 years, GLOBE Series events have brought together a community of 170,000 change–makers, executives, innovators, dreamers, government leaders, inventors, thinkers, investors and youth. To celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’ve invited a few of those Very Impactful People to share their stories with us.
Gwen Migita, Global Head of Social Impact, Equity and Inclusion at Caesars Entertainment, found her way into sustainability in 2007. She had spent the previous decade working in market research but yearned for a more impact–oriented role. So, she wrote a job description for Corporate Director of CSR and sent it to her manager, the Executive Vice President of Government Relations and Communications. The result? She landed herself a promotion and a brand-new career.
Back in 2007, Gwen was a sustainability team of one. Today, her organization consists of four functions and 1,500 property chairs under environmental-social and responsible business groups for more than 63,000 team members at more than 50 destinations in the United States and five other countries.
How do you think a company’s social impact affects its sustainability and vice versa?
Social impact is core to our business. Caesars grew because of economic diversification efforts 30 years ago in areas of the United States that had little industry and double-digit unemployment rates. These jurisdictions licensed gaming operations like ours to fund infrastructure, schools, roads and emergency services. In some states, like Nevada, gaming operations contribute to the majority of the state budget for education.
Caesars is also the biggest employer in many of our regional markets. In places like Bossier (LA), Tunica (MS), Council Bluffs (IA), and Elizabeth (IN) we have two generations of team members who are core to our culture of service and giving back to the community. We exist because of our social license to operate, because the local community accepts and trusts us to be a good neighbor and employer of choice.
How has the idea of sustainability evolved throughout your career?
When I first started working in sustainability, the focus was on conservation of natural resources and soon thereafter, employee engagement and climate action. While still important today, the focus has broadened to include social issues with companies adopting the global Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, organizations that are committed to environmental sustainability are now challenging themselves to look at what their work means for inclusion and equity.
Moving forward, we need more third-party standards for social sustainability. There are investor research data and statistics focused on ESG—environmental, social and governance—indicators, but we need to better understand and define the levers of social sustainability. In contrast, the indicators for environmental sustainability are pretty clear. Even more conservative organizations that once fought against using the term ‘climate’ are now embracing environmental indicators, because they may have economic upsides or consequences that are useful to measure.
On that note, looking ahead to the next five to ten years, what sustainability goals are you focused on? How will you accomplish them?
Caesars has always had clear environmental goals, which we updated with Science–Based Targets last year, but we’ve also started to prioritize and better articulate social sustainability goals. In terms of Sustainable Development Goals, we’re particularly focused on goal 3 (good health and wellbeing), goal 8 (decent work and economic growth) and goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities). For example, we’re extending our work with a long-time diversity partner, Unidos US, to understand how to better identify Hispanic/Latino managers for hospitality careers. We extended this type of partnership in Baltimore with city officials to identify workforce development programs that are better suited for employers in the region.
Other partners who collaborate with us on the Sustainable Development goals include organizations like National Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), LULAC (League of United Latin America Citizens), and OCA Asian Advocates which aim to protect and support vulnerable populations, develop leadership and enhance civic engagement.
We’re also producing a white paper in collaboration with our national diversity partners around how to define and measure issues related to socioeconomic and racial equity. Currently, organizations working on these issues don’t have a common standard to use as a reference point. There’s also a lack of data related to racial minorities in the workplace. So that presents us with a big opportunity.
You work on such diverse issues. What’s been the most inspiring moment in your sustainability career?
A significant moment for me was a conversation I had with our global president four years ago. He asked me “If we put our flag in the sand on something, what would that be?” That was a real moment of truth in terms of thinking about how we could make transformational changes in our sector. Being a hospitality company, we decided to prioritize developing the best-in-class strategy for countering sex trafficking. To have that commitment from the highest level of our company and to be encouraged to be competitive at tackling a significant social challenge was inspiring.
That’s certainly an issue where Caesars could make a difference. What changes have you made since making that commitment?
We have a four-year strategy driven by security protocols. We’ve identified several hundred community engagement ambassadors within our security workforce who are trained to identify instances of trafficking in target regions, including southern Nevada and the Carolinas. We carefully identify opportunities and interventions to educate and save the victims. Otherwise, interventions can result in dangerous situations for our team members and the victims. We’ve also had to figure out whether we have the right support services in the regions where we operate and to what extent they can provide long-term support to victims. The initiative has given our security officers a higher sense of purpose. They’re embracing their jobs differently because it’s no longer just about crime and victims of other activities at the properties—it’s about saving lives.
Working with competitors and developing a ten- to twenty-year strategy is more challenging. Earlier this year, we launched the Shared Future Fund, which is an investment model used to create long-term positive change for victims of human trafficking that will be controlled and managed by Southern Nevada non-profit Impact NV. Internationally, we’ve partnered with groups like the International Tourism Partnership, which brings together hotel industry leaders to work collaboratively on social and environmental issues.
I’d like to circle back to your career. What challenge did you think you couldn’t overcome but did? And how?
Twelve years ago, when we first started our sustainability strategy, I had no team and no budget. Many inside and outside of the company questioned our intent, and whether or not it was right to prioritize the initiatives. Today, the sustainability team works with 250 CodeGreen managers at the properties on a monthly basis. CodeGreen is Caesars’ company-wide environmental strategy. We have expanded our role to Responsible Business practices such as food security and Meetings for Good. We also handle the strategy behind emerging practices such as ESG (Environmental Social Governance) benchmarks and assessments. Getting to this point involved many short-term actions and day-to-day activities that moved us towards our goals and showed the company the potential positive impact and importance of having a strong sustainability strategy.
With so much negativity in the news, how do you stay positive, inspired and hopeful?
First, by knowing news is news and that negative, extreme news tends to get more coverage; that helps me moderate and turn off the noise. Also, I tend to look at the glass as half full and view sustainability as a lifelong journey. It’s not linear. There are set backs, a few losses every year, and then there are steps forward—and a few steps to the side. Rather than seeing ourselves as victims of issues like climate change, we need to remember that we can shape our future. When I get discouraged in one area, I find encouragement in another. If my team runs into a road block on environmental sustainability, there’s something related to inclusion or equity where we’re making progress. It’s like a chess board—there are a lot of pieces to maneuver every day.