Interview with Greg Dawson

To mark our 15th year in business our founder Wayne Reynolds is interviewing a wide range of highly accomplished corporate affairs leaders about their experience and views of the function. This interview is with Greg Dawson who leads corporate affairs at the FTSE 100 packaging business, DS Smith.

Bio

Group Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, DS Smith (current)

Vice President Communications and Public Affairs EMEA, Ford Motor Company (2016 to 2017)

Interim Global Public Affairs Director, AkzoNobel (2015 to 2016)

European Communications and Digital Director, Samsung Electronics (2013 to 2015)

Director of Global Communications, Virgin Atlantic (2010 to 2013)

Director of Communications, Travelodge (2005 to 2010)

What advice would you give to yourself 15 years ago?

You’re going to get there, enjoy the journey. I was 34 and on the executive committee of Virgin Atlantic working directly with one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his generation in Richard Branson. I was desperate to keep proving myself and probably took the job and my progression a bit too seriously at times – it is important to enjoy the ride.

How has corporate affairs changed over the last 15 years, and what do you expect next?

Modern corporate affairs is proactive and can be a catalyst for positive change within an organisation. It should be a key driver in delivering corporate strategy and most importantly, growth. 15 years ago the function was much more reactive and issues led. The ‘dark arts’ have gone and it’s now about helping the business to operate in the interests of a broad church and with transparency. The world is more volatile than it has ever been and events are moving faster and faster which means businesses need to be even more agile and work smarter if they’re to stay ahead. Corporate affairs is a critical enabler to help organisations to thrive in a fast changing world, ensuring business plans truly align with purpose and that there’s genuine belief from staff, customers and policy makers.

What three skills does a modern-day corporate affairs director need?  And if you could pick only one, which would it be and why?

Great news sense and the ability to write well have always been and will continue to be the most important skill in my opinion. Secondly, a clear understanding of the corporate strategy and the commercial opportunities this creates, for example at DS Smith we took a leadership position in the changing policy environment for single use plastics which, supported by thought leadership, enabled us to create deeper commercial partnerships with our customers and ultimately, increased revenue. Finally, the ability to interpret data and know how to use it.

What do you love about the job?

Working with brilliant people and adding value to what they do. To be effective you must understand what’s happening in the outside world and that makes it interesting. Being a corporate affairs director is a real privilege.

If you didn’t work in corporate affairs, what would you do instead?

I love writing, people and am studying wine. So perhaps I could work in a wine shop and write about it too.

What was the last book you read?

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s level 3 course book!

What would be your specialist subject on Mastermind?

Grape varieties of the Dordogne.

What do you enjoy doing away from the office?

I coach kids’ football and support Chelsea FC.  I also enjoy getting out on my bike and cooking a Sunday roast.

If you enjoyed this you may also like Wayne’s interviews with:

Caitlin Hayden, Group Communications Director at BAE Systems

Lisa Tremble, Chief People, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer at British Airways

Matt Ridsdale, Group Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Sky

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16th April 2024

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