What does being a sustainable strategist mean?
The main job of a sustainability strategist is a deep understanding of sustainability issues and how companies play a part, and thinking strategically about solutions and constantly pushing companies to be bolder and better. You have to be persuasive and show that you understand both the challenges and the opportunities. At Futerra, projects can range from helping a company set a sustainability framework across the full range of ESG, or honing in on an issue like carbon, water, or women’s empowerment.
Which is more urgent for a sustainable future: individual action or lobbying corporations or both?
A better future is not going to come by itself, we're all going to work for it, including dealing with our single-use habits and fast consumption culture. But I do believe there is a bigger responsibility on corporations. It is a systems problem and the onus should not mainly be on consumers. Companies are making profits and they have been part of fueling a system of overproduction and putting profit first, which is then fueled by advertising and media that makes us believe that we aren't good enough if we don't buy new things. Sustainable consumerism is a privilege that not everyone can afford, because the reality is, sustainable options are often more expensive or harder to find. Companies should work hard to make more sustainable options the default and not charge a premium for it. And it is also really important that our governments take responsibility to put in place policies that push companies in uncomfortable places.
There will be some sacrifice necessary, initial investments by companies to pivot–real environmental and social change is not easy–but this will help them build resilience in the long term.
How has your work with global organizations, like the United Nations, shaped your view of climate action?
The UN is a unique organization and really the only platform where all nations of the world can come together. Working at the UN I understood quickly how climate change doesn’t impact countries equally across the world, and that many countries in the Global South are suffering the most from climate change. Representation was key in the day-to-day work at the UN, more than any other place I have worked. However, there is still a lot more work to do when it comes to bringing diverse voices to the climate discussions.
What advice would you give to young people interested in pursuing careers in sustainability?
Careers in sustainability can be a lot of things, so first of all, figure out your angle. Do you want to focus on a specific industry, or work across sectors but with a specific sustainability issue at the forefront? Then try to get education and experience based on that focus. Find people you admire and look at their trajectories for a sense of how they got to where they are. That should give you a sense of the skills required for the job you want.
In the end, it is about figuring out what issues you care about and what you are good at, and then influence positively through your sphere and using your superpowers, whether it’s arts, music, food, or other industries. We need sustainability everywhere.
What are you bingeing right now?
The Investigation. I love slow burn thrillers.
Most embarrassing fashion trend you participated in?
When I was 15 or 16 I had a short stint where I’d weave steel thread in my hair and make little braids that stood straight up from my head like antennas. It was probably more of an experiment than a trend. Incredibly enough I don’t have any photos of that time.
Which of the four languages you know was the most challenging to learn?
Definitely Chinese! It was the easiest and hardest. Because my parents spoke it at home and sent me to Saturday school for it (for which I used to be bitter but now am grateful) it was easy to pick up, but overall it’s a tough one to learn. The way the language is built works very differently from a Germanic or Roman language and there are so many characters to remember! You need to know about 3000 characters to read a newspaper.
Best place to eat in New York?
For All Things Good makes beautiful Mexican fare near my neighborhood in Brooklyn. They make their own masa and everything is colorful and delicious.