Sustainability must be a vocation within every professional ocuppation

My connection with sustainability started out as many others, trying to save the trees, the pandas and the polar bears, which in my case, being Peruvian, was more about saving the spectacled bears, yellow-tailed woolly monkeys, the jaguars and yes, our lovely jungle which I fell in love with in a school field trip to Tambopata.

So my logical decision was to study a career that would lead my professional life towards conservation and I decided to be a Forestry Engineer.

After a couple of years and many trips around my country (and others) getting to know what I was trying to conserve, I started realising the challenges that were putting in risk these ecosystems and following the chain that created this challenges, always got to the same conclusion. The irresponsible (and many times illegal) gold mining, the unrestrained logging, the deforestation, water shortage, the glacier retreats, the uncontrolled waste production and other problems were strongly connected to the chain of production of the products and services we consume.

So I decided that I wanted to approach the problem from the production side, trying to improve the sustainability standards of the products we consume. Luckily for me, there was a new career being created at this point which is called Corporate Environmental Management and so I transferred and then went on to work in Fundacion Chile with a very inspiring team of people who really showed me the importance of improving the standards of production with a life cycle approach but also the challenges of achieving this.

After having the opportunity of working in many projects with a variety of stakeholders promoting sustainable production, from implementing LCAs to assessing the development of the National Sustainable Consumption and Production Program to participating in entrepreneurship platform calls for sustainability solutions, I started to prioritise some important challenges I feel have the power of accelerating the transition to more sustainable patterns of development.

  1. Traceability: Companies are now starting to understand they have to take responsibility for the life cycle of the product but without information of their complete value chain, they cannot have influence on it and therefore cannot manage their impacts. With value chains becoming more and more global there is a huge challenge of maintaining a relationship with upstream and downstream stakeholders which needs to be approached.
  2. Consumers: Companies need to change their standards, but most of them will only do this if they feel the pressure. They are mobilised either by regulation or by the market and therefore consumers have a huge power of changing production patterns. We, as consumers, mostly blame companies of the impacts of the products we consume, but we are giving them the signals of what and how to produce. If we start to prefer and demand more sustainable products, the industry will have to adapt. It’s not about being radical in changing our lifestyles and stop consuming; it’s about fulfilling our needs with more sustainable choices and realising that the main environmental problems are linked to everyday decisions we make. The problem is that it is easy for consumers to turn a blind eye because of the lack of information they have on this, but this needs to be changed.
  3. Entrepreneurship/ intrapreneurship: It is not only important for us to adopt more sustainable lifestyles, the main way in which we can influence consumption and production patterns is searching for solutions and ideas that help to change this patterns. I believe it is our responsibility as citizens to create a positive impact and it is not only achieved through consumption choices but through our ideas. Work should not be thought as something we do to earn money and live, but to create an impact towards the society we want to have. It is people within companies that make the changes and it is people who create innovative and sustainable solutions, people like any of us, who have decided that they will work towards creating a more sustainable development. Sustainability should not be a professional occupation, it should be a vocation within every other professional occupation.

In less than a week I will be joining 999 other young people who have the conviction to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable development globally. More than 10,000 people applied to UNLEASH this year and I am sure many more are working for this same purpose, which is very encouraging.

I have high expectations of this program, of learning in more detail about international trends and from the experiences of others, of discussing the common challenges we have identified and sharing ideas to collaboratively create solutions for them. Although I have some personal ideas, I go with an open mind to change directions, elaborating on my ideas or on others’ ideas, because this is a trial and error process and we all are constructing towards the same objective and the only way to do so is to collaborate and learn from each other.

Teams may change, but you learn from each one and many times it doesn’t mean you lose the previous one, you just add on to it!