Susan KelliherSenior Vice President, People
With responsibility for leading human resources, EHS and corporate responsibility of one of the world’s leading chemistry companies, Susan aspires to make Chemours not just a great company to work for, but the greatest. The policies that she’s implemented and championed have helped Chemours foster a safer, more inclusive environment where people at worksites around the globe can thrive.
In her role at Chemours, Susan has shaped the company in significant ways, particularly regarding people, environment, health, and sustainability. She is the executive sponsor of the company’s Corporate Responsibility Commitment goals regarding talent, including a goal of hiring at least 20% ethnically diverse employees in the U.S. by 2030 and 50% women globally by that year. On her watch, the company has earned numerous accolades regarding safety and corporate responsibility.
Q: What is your approach to leading a talent organization?
A: I like to keep policies to a minimum and focus on being principle based and rethink the relationship between a company and its employees. For example, I believe that at least 90% of employees at a company want to do a great job and to do the right thing for their coworkers, their company, and its customers. That’s why I think programs, policies, and procedures should be designed with them in mind first and foremost, rather than simply for the 10% that abuse that trust. At the end of the day, we must create an environment where people feel trusted and have trust and confidence in Chemours. When we do that each person can do their best work.
Q: How has the concept of work safety expanded on your watch?
A: As a global chemistry company, safety is extremely important; in fact, one of our five corporate values is our Safety Obsession. But we don’t limit ourselves to physical safety anymore. We want our employees to be safe inside and out—or what we call Holistic Safety. That means we want to create an environment that allows people to be who they truly are and to feel included and respected. When we feel safe in that way, it allows us to be better on the job, which benefits everyone.
Q: You’re multilingual. Did you have any formative travel experiences?
A: When I was in college, I studied in China and spent three months traveling by myself through the country. It was so eye opening to experience a different way of living and to meet and connect with new people every day. People were so kind to me! In Qingdao, I stayed with a family who I met while traveling. They refused to let me go to a hotel and went with me to the public baths every day after I exercised. The emphasis in China on community over self—on we over I—still impacts how I look at the world today, and I can still speak, and sometimes sing, in Mandarin!
Q: You’ve said that you were born to work at Chemours. What do you mean by that?
I was born in Marietta, Ohio, which is near the Chemours Washington Works plant in West Virginia. My family has been in that area for over a century, and I have relatives who have worked in the plant over the years and who work at the plant today. In fact, employees at Washington Works knew my grandfather when he worked as a janitor at a local high school across the river. For me, working at Chemours is like coming home.
Throughout her career, Susan has led human resources teams at large, publicly traded companies, including Chemours, Albemarle Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, and The Home Depot, each earnings billions of dollars in revenue per year.
As the chief people officer at Chemours, she is responsible for approximately 6,500 employees at manufacturing and laboratory sites around the globe, including employees with specialized technical and scientific expertise that create some of the world’s most essential chemistry—bringing everyday convenience to virtually everything people touch—in industries ranging from automotive, paints, and plastics to electronics, construction, energy, and telecommunications.
Susan’s leadership portfolio at Chemours, includes people, environment, health, and sustainability. In her role, she’s helped Chemours become one of the world’s great places to work and has helped the company define significant Corporate Responsibility Commitment goals to reach by 2030.
She is executive sponsor for the Early Career Network. Formerly she was the executive sponsor for the Chemours Women’s Network, the company’s largest global employee resource group, and as a military spouse and dependent herself, she is an active member of VetNet, the company’s employee resource group for veterans and their families.
Susan is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Safety Council, volunteers with the It’s Time Wilmington, the city’s brand and marketing campaign, is a member of the Delaware Center for Horticulture, and is a passionate patron of the arts. In addition to English, she speaks Mandarin Chinese and some French and Spanish.
Susan earned a Bachelor of Arts in Asian studies and political science from Rice University, in Houston, Texas, and a Master of Business Administration, with a concentration in international business, from the University of Texas, in Austin.
Senior Vice President, People
My ultimate mission—as the leader of the ‘people function’—is to create an environment in which people are able to do their best and to become their best.