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Grady Crosby on driving change through sustainability and impact

Northwestern Mutual’s vice president shares his vision for empowering the next generation

In the fast-evolving landscape of corporate social responsibility, Grady Crosby stands as a beacon of leadership and innovation. As Vice President and Chief Sustainability and Impact Officer, Enterprise Sustainability and Impact, at Northwestern Mutual, Crosby brings a unique blend of legal expertise, community engagement, and a deep commitment to fostering equity. In a recent interview with Kevin E. Hooks, host of “Equity in Focus,” Crosby delved into his journey and the transformative initiatives he spearheads. Here’s a closer look at the conversation.

From humble beginnings to corporate leadership

Crosby’s journey began in Winston Salem, N.C., where he grew up in a supportive environment that valued education and perseverance. A proud alumnus of Howard University and Wake Forest University School of Law, Crosby’s path was shaped by a blend of ambition and serendipity. Reflecting on his upbringing, Crosby emphasized the importance of legacy and providing opportunities for future generations. “Legacy is so important,” he stated, sharing how his parents’ dedication laid the foundation for his and his son’s success in the legal field.


His career trajectory, marked by roles at Hanes and Johnson Controls, eventually led him to Northwestern Mutual. At each step, Crosby’s inquisitiveness and commitment to understanding the intersection of people and the environment fueled his professional growth. “Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready,” he advised, encapsulating his proactive approach to career development.

Leading sustainability and impact at Northwestern Mutual

Since joining Northwestern Mutual in April 2022, Grady Crosby has been responsible for developing and driving the company’s sustainability initiatives. Collaborating with the enterprise sustainability and impact (ESI) leadership council, Crosby addresses a broad spectrum of sustainability and impact matters. “We mix industry best practices with creative solutions to continually shape our sustainability methodologies,” he explained.


Before joining Northwestern Mutual, Crosby spent over a decade at Johnson Controls, where he held several key positions, including Vice President and General Counsel of the Power Solutions business. He later led the Public Affairs group as Vice President of Public Affairs, Chief Diversity Officer, and President of Johnson Controls Foundation.

Crosby’s passion for community involvement is evident through his service on the boards of the Marcus Performing Arts Center, Visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin Policy Forum, and the Wisconsin Center District. His extensive background in law and public affairs, combined with his commitment to sustainability, positions him as a transformative leader at Northwestern Mutual.

The HBCU hometown connection: Bridging education and community

The Northwestern Mutual Hometown HBCU Connection is an impactful initiative that Crosby champions. This program aims to provide Milwaukee students with scholarships and robust support to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). “We want to make sure that we provide some examples of excellence,” Crosby explained, highlighting the program’s goal to inspire and prepare the next generation of leaders.

The HBCU Hometown Connection goes beyond financial aid. It fosters a community of support, offering mentorship and continuous engagement with students throughout their academic journey. Crosby emphasized the importance of this “heavy touch,” which helps students navigate challenges and build networks that will support their future careers. “It’s not just about the dollars. It’s about the mentorship,” he asserted.

Crosby’s work at Northwestern Mutual exemplifies a holistic approach to sustainability and impact. By bridging education and community, fostering mentorship, and embedding DEI into the company’s mission, Crosby is driving meaningful change. His journey from a small town in North Carolina to a leading role in a major corporation serves as an inspiring testament to the power of perseverance, curiosity, and commitment to equity. As Crosby continues to champion these initiatives, he remains a crucial figure in the ongoing effort to build a more inclusive and sustainable future.

AI assisted in summarizing this episode of Equity in Focus.

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