Healthier Air for All Requires All of Us

Gina Tesla
Gina Tesla
VP ESG, Sustainability, Social Impact and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; and Coupa Empower Board Chair

Gina Tesla leads Coupa’s Environmental, Social, and Governance team, spanning sustainability, social impact and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She also serves as the Empower Board Chair (Coupa's Women's Employee Resource Group).

Read time: 4 mins
Healthier Air for All Requires All of Us - Global Impact Week at Coupa

It feels different for everyone. It might start as a slow tightening in the nose and throat, a thickening of mucus lining the bronchial tubes that bring air in and out of the lungs. Or maybe you don’t notice it until you reach the top of a staircase, when you’re suddenly winded, and then wheezing. Even for people without asthma, polluted air can be deadly. Poor air quality causes about 7 million deaths around the world each year, which includes the premature deaths of about 107,000 people in the United States. And if you are poor and living in a marginalized community, you may not have access to inhalers, nebulizers, air filters, or prenatal care.

Given the scale of the problem, you might be thinking, “how can any person or organization tackle this?”

It’s a fair question. And the truth is that no single entity can address this challenge alone. It takes a village. And that’s exactly why we wanted to take part. Because without breath, there is no life.

There are many reasons why “none of us is as smart as all of us” is a common phrase at Coupa: we believe in the power of collaboration. We believe creating impact requires partnering with local and international nonprofits and academic institutions. We believe in bottom-up and top-down contributions equally. We believe in hands-on volunteering. And we believe in bringing in executives and our board. It’s not enough to talk about impact. We have to take action.

Why Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters at every level of the business

More and more people want a sense of purpose and meaning at work, and there is mounting evidence that doing good is not just good for business, but also a business imperative. From my perspective, it’s a no-brainer that these things go hand in hand. But how could we make it feel tangible for our employees, our leadership, and the communities in which Coupa works?

In April of this year, my fingers twitched as I stared at my computer screen, waiting to see how many of my Coupa colleagues would join to learn about a new healthy air project in partnership with Earthwatch, Sustainable Silicon Valley, and the Yale School of Public Health. As we honored Earth Day, I was excited to launch a multi-phase project that would work at the intersection of environment, public health, and social justice. I also wanted to make sure we could help employees feel excited about the initiative so that they would want to take part, and to make sure we brought Coupa’s results-driven approach to these important issues.

Over the next few months, Coupa volunteers worked with Earthwatch and Sustainable Silicon Valley to place air sensors all around the San Francisco Peninsula to test and monitor air quality. Placing enough of these sensors around the area and in geographically and socioeconomically diverse areas was important, given how much environmental and climate justice matters in clean air initiatives. Healthy air should be a right, not a privilege.

After two months of monitoring and analyzing the data from these sensors, the Yale School of Public health presented to Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn and the full executive team during a full-day workshop intended to inform and engage the team. We were so thrilled that they would invest their time and energy in this issue. Rob and the team were impressed by the opportunity to make an impact on an issue affecting the whole community. He saw real potential to engage the Coupa Community and focus on our ESG efforts, together with our Sustainable BSM product, on this issue. Similarly, the board was also excited when we presented the idea to the Nominating Governance Committee, and Rob agreed to get the Board involved to volunteer their time to determine what a long-term commitment to healthy air could look like.

ESG initiatives are not one-and-done

A commitment to healthier communities is not new to Coupa, but this effort is a part of a larger story. We are still learning and mapping out what long-term, sustainable impact looks like, but ESG and caring about the communities we live, work, and breathe in is a core part of Coupa culture.

Corporate responsibility for healthier people, a healthier planet, and a healthier business

Coupa's ESG impact goes beyond volunteer projects and pro bono serving opportunities. It's integrated into our product offerings by helping customers measure and achieve their sustainability targets, increase diversity and reduce carbon emissions in their supply chains, and more.

Our product and ESG teams are closely linked and the healthy air initiative is a great example of that. What started as employee volunteering has expanded and escalated to a company-wide initiative.

I am proud of every single Coupa employee who has taken part in these initiatives. I am proud of the partnerships we have built. We still have more to do, but I hope our example can illuminate a path for other companies looking to make an impact as well.