The individuals we’ve interviewed come from a variety of backgrounds and their areas of expertise and responsibility are equally diverse. We’ve learned a lot from them in these conversations and are excited to follow their progress.
Q: Hello! Tell us a little about what you do at Nestlé.
A: I’m the Global Carbon Offsetting Manager. I started in October 2021. I am the only one currently working on carbon offsets at the corporate level, but I’m part of a much larger ESG team at Nestlé. There are two main things that I work on:
- I work with our brands that have a carbon neutrality claim. Certain brands of ours go beyond supporting our corporate-level Carbon Net Zero strategy and seek to be carbon neutral by reducing their emissions and offsetting emissions with high-quality carbon credits. They tell me the projects they're interested in – for example, a water brand may be interested in different projects than a cocoa brand – and I help them identify high-quality projects that follow our guidelines and make sense from an impact perspective.
- I similarly support our corporate-level objectives. For example, we offset our business travel and residual emissions from our car fleet. So I look for projects that are high quality to achieve this.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about your background and why you chose to work in this space?
A: I lived in Shanghai for 7 years and there were times where visibility was no further than 5 meters due to the thick smog. Eventually, air quality became so bad that schools stopped giving PE classes and my family decided to move back to Switzerland.
I continued with my studies and then eventually moved to Peru for 2 years. It was here that I experienced the effects of the especially strong El Niño in 2016/2017, which caused floods and landslides all across the country, which was aggravated by high levels of deforestation and soil erosion. Although Lima was much less impacted, we sometimes didn’t have access to water for more than one hour a day. It made me realize that all these things always impact the most, the people who have the least. So I wanted to do my masters in environmental studies and policy, because I wanted to work on sustainable development.
I had a class on agroforestry, and I thought it was interesting. So I Googled agroforestry companies and started working at PUR Projet, which is a project implementer. I worked on tree planting, mangrove, cookstove projects, from an insetting point of view. I eventually got contacted by Nestlé, and I thought it was a great opportunity to work across more diverse brands.
Q: What other teams do you work closely with / rely on to be successful in your organization?
I work with people in legal, finance and all the different brand teams. I work closely with our insetting team. At Nestlé insetting is very important, because there is an overlap in the type of projects that are developed. People tend to think they are quite different, but essentially one sits within your supply chain and one outside.
I also do a lot of internal training on carbon credits and certification, in general. For example, I work with the legal team on developing templates and the finance team on how to account for carbon credits.
Q: What skills do you think are particularly vital for your role and team?
A: You need to have knowledge of the carbon market, certifications, how different projects are certified and an understanding of the reality of projects on the ground. It’s also important to be able to work with people from different backgrounds with different levels of knowledge. You will have to be able to explain things that are quite technical in an easy-to-understand way.
Q: Who are your role models?
A: I think the project developers and implementers who have been around for awhile (ie 30 years) are very impressive. [Sustainability] is the “new thing right now” that many people are interested in, and it’s no longer that niche. But 30 years ago or more, it was definitely very different. These people have so much valuable knowledge and experience.
Q: What are some trends you’re seeing in the sustainability space?
A: There’s been a massive increase in the price of carbon credits. It’s positive when the increased prices can be used for projects on ground to implement more community-based activities. Also, if farmers can receive more money per tree that they plant, that’s great. But in some cases, it has led to companies batch buying credits with the aim to resell later to make a profit. I think this behavior will lead to an increase in price, but the additional cost won’t get passed on to the community implementing the project on the ground, and it should go to them. It shouldn’t be a margin that an international corporation makes or used for speculation.
Another trend is the use of AI and technology for carbon projects – for example, to make it easier to verify growth of trees or verify if projects have achieved what they claim, like what Sylvera is doing. This is very interesting and helps to increase transparency.
Q: What are some challenges and opportunities sustainability teams may face?
A: At the moment there is a big focus on carbon, which is great and much needed, but it’ll be important to make sure that this focus becomes a little more holistic. It would be great to see biodiversity and water become as important as carbon and that they are considered in a nexus.
Opportunity: I believe one big opportunity for people working in sustainability is that they’ll have more and more career options. Everyone is looking for qualified technical people at the moment. Only a few years ago, I remember seeing mainly reporting or environmental communication related jobs at corporate companies, now there are various open positions everywhere that go far beyond those aspects.
Q: What can organizations do to hire, retain, promote and empower more women+ in the sustainability space?
A: Promote flexibility to allow women to have a family whilst being able to work. You can only do that if you have flexible hours.
Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of women starting their careers in this space?
A: Do what you are interested in and don’t worry too much about what others think. Don’t be scared to work for a big company, just because it may be seen as negative because of its history. It’s quite important to have people who have strong ideas about sustainability to join those companies so they can change them from the inside.
Personal relationships are really important. When you have your first interview, what is your first impression? Do you believe they want to make an impact or are they just greenwashing? It’s quite important to have a firm grasp on that if you choose to work in sustainability within a company.