COLUMBUS, GA — Aflac chief ESG and communications officer Catherine Blades is leaving the insurance giant after seven years in senior leadership roles.

“It’s time to move on to the next chapter,” Blades told PRovoke Media. “I’m proud of the team and all that we’ve accomplished in the last seven years together.  I’m particularly proud of the way we established leadership in commtech, CSR and ESG.

My Special Aflac Duck, a Sabre award winning campaign, will always be a career highlight, and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work on programs with such tremendous, positive social impact,” Blades said. The Aflac Duck is an interactive robotic toy has helped thousands of children battling cancer by providing emotional support and encouraging them to communicate.

Blades has held a number of senior comms roles since joining Aflac in 2014 as corporate communications SVP. She was upped to chief brand and communications officer in October 2017 as part of Aflac’s larger restructuring of its marketing and communications departments.

In March of 2019, Blades added ESG to her remit, putting her in charge of Aflac’s corporate affairs division and ESG oversight, but lost marketing responsibilities. That change also was part of restructuring that saw marketing oversight shift to the company's US business division.

“Under Catherine Blades’ strong leadership and vision, Aflac’s award-winning corporate communications team set industry standards for building and advancing a corporate reputation,” said general counsel and executive VP Audrey Boone Tillman. “While she has decided to seek other challenges, she leaves behind a team of elite professionals that is unified and focused on advancing Aflac’s mission today and into the future. We are supremely confident in the leadership of Ines Gutzmer, VP of strategic communications, who has hit the ground running and will put her stamp on Aflac’s tradition of corporate communications excellence.”