Corporate Responsibility Q&A with Derek Oliver


Derek Oliver (he/him) | Head of Government Affairs and Corporate Responsibility

At Wayfair, we’re building our home with the future in mind. This means helping to provide the feeling of home for those in our communities, developing a more inclusive workforce, and doing our part to protect our planet for future generations. We’re building a foundation that rests on value creation – mindful of how we impact our customers, our supplier partners, and our teammates.

While our corporate responsibility work is not new, we’re accelerating and gaining momentum, which sets us up for a new stage in our journey. We recently released our inaugural Corporate Responsibility Report, where we’re sharing some of the work we’ve done and setting ourselves up for future transparency and accountability.

We sat down with Derek Oliver, Wayfair’s Head of Government Relations & Corporate Responsibility to talk about CR at Wayfair, and why this is such an important milestone.

What is the significance of publishing this CR Report and why now?
Corporate Responsibility has been an organic element of this company since it was founded, and we have always spearheaded impactful initiatives to support both our employees and communities – but we’ve never talked about the work we’re doing outside of our own walls. Not only is corporate responsibility/ESG becoming table stakes for companies the size of Wayfair, but CR is a critical part of who we are and we have a lot to say!

We’re issuing this report partially to share the great work that’s been done over the last several years we’ve been in business, but also to hold ourselves accountable and mark our commitment to transparency.

What are you most proud of in this report?
Our carbon reduction goal. While we have been internally assessing our carbon footprint for several years now, this announcement means we are publicly holding ourselves accountable as a business to carbon reduction in the long-term.

Another theme of the report is our ability to care when it matters most. It is impossible to overstate how challenging the last couple of years have been for all of our constituencies: consumers, employees, suppliers, and communities. Whether it be the Meals to Go program that provided our field employees with warm meals for their families while supporting local businesses, to the quick pivot to virtual volunteering during the pandemic, to the in-kind donations provided to housing organizations, or to the disaster relief we were able to provide for several countries in their time of need - we have regularly demonstrated that we will show up for our team.

What does Corporate Responsibility mean at Wayfair and how might it differ from other companies?
Our business is based on home and our mission statement is centered around people and homes, so we bring what we have and what we know best to strengthen our communities. We also recognize that home can mean lots of different things to lots of people and therefore we are constantly striving to be creative in how we provide and serve whether it be displaced people in a war, emergency relief during a disaster, furnishings for a school classroom, etc. etc.

We truly take our notes from our employees — the feedback loop is strong here. This is part of our legacy in how CR programs initially came together, but it is also part of our future. We want to enable employees to take advantage of various tools we have in place to unlock their passions and be directly involved in their communities in a meaningful, authentic way.

What are some of the unique opportunities and challenges Wayfair faces as it relates to progressing its corporate responsibility agenda? 
Our business model presents some complex challenges for advancing sustainability. Since we rely heavily on partnerships with our landlords, our third party carriers, as well as our 23,000+ suppliers, the full carbon footprint of our company is shared across many owners. So while our business demands that we make selling frictionless for suppliers, we are also committed to working with them to improve the sustainability of their own operations, while simultaneously investing in reducing our own emissions.

As for opportunities, the possibilities are immense because we’re early in our journey and the business is still growing quickly. We know we still have a lot of work to do to reduce our GHG emissions, to move the needle on increasing our diversity, equity and inclusion, and ensuring we’re giving back to our communities, but the Wayfair team is committed to making the world a better place for future generations.

How do you encourage and enable Wayfair employees to get involved? What are the forums and resources available to them?
I can go pillar by pillar for this answer.

  • Our Community: We have an employee match program, which lets employees donate to causes they care about or volunteer with, with a company match. 
  • Our Workplace: The essence of this pillar is for each of us to go out of our way to make Wayfair a fun, warm, welcoming, and inclusive place to work. It’s in Wayfair’s culture organically in the way we onboard new hires with care, prioritize mentorship and informal coffee chats, and invest in learning about our team members as individuals outside of work. Having previously been in a Talent role at Wayfair myself, I feel like the secret sauce of our workplace is in our ability to support internal mobility and career exploration through both formal and informal channels.  
  • Our Planet: We see this as an opportunity for employees to think outside of the box, and encourage all ideas from local or team-based recycling drives, asking suppliers/partners/vendors how we can favor sustainable products/processes, and even their own commuting patterns.

Wayfair is committed to taking an active stand to protect our environment. Read our latest Corporate Responsibility report here, and read more about Wayfair’s sustainability initiatives here.