Class of: 2005 – 2006
Currently: Group CSR & Sustainability Manager, Pacific Andes Group
My lightbulb moment at Forum
My placement at the European Commission in Brussels was an exciting part of the course. I was fortunate to be working with a visionary leader who was establishing links between the Commission and the business community to tackle climate change issues. Almost a decade later, I find myself engaging in a private-public partnership through Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation; we are dealing with food security issues, but the dynamics are very similar.
Key turning points in my career
I grew up in South Africa and did my Environmental Science degree at the University of Cape Town. While there, I established a group called Masifundisane, which means ‘Let us work together’. The aim was to encourage university students to go out into informal settlements and work on environmental and permaculture projects. I had to mobilise lots of volunteers and engage with hugely deprived communities who had none of the comforts I’d had growing up. Understanding what it’s like to live in such communities – with myriad challenges relating to water, food, health services, electricity, education – made me realise that you cannot separate the social from the environmental. It was a wake-up call for me.
My long term ambitions for change
I think business can be a significant force for good and has a huge role to play in bringing about the social change that is needed. Access to finance and the ability to set up enterprises is perhaps the most sustainable way of ensuring people can move into a position where they have more power and choice. This is when whole communities can transcend the social stigmas and boundaries that they’ve grown up with.
How I hope to shape the future
I see endless possibilities. Right now, I’m building a robust sustainability strategy for Pacific Andes, continuing on the excellent foundations already in place. My vision is for the Group to bring significant positive change to the industry and to the communities in which we operate.
The leader I most admire
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been a great inspiration to me. Her work bringing to light the plight of women facing wide-scale injustice in developing countries is phenomenal. We need strong female figureheads like her to wake the world up to the reality of what’s going on.
My thought for tomorrow
The future of sustainability will be led by the emerging markets. Africa has some of the fastest growing economies in the world and they have the beauty of learning from others’ mistakes. Here in Asia, China is booming with clean tech solutions. I don’t think it will be long before these continents start showing the world how to do business.
Photo Credit: Jacqueline Dixon