Putting the Planet First Its' a Challenge Keeping Many Balls in the Air

Article excerpt

What does your job entail? I'm responsible for the retailer's good business programme, which looks at social and environmental impact and opportunities across the company. I deal with food, clothing, real estate, and the supply chain - everything to do with the retail business.

The overall objective of any sustainability programme is to create a society that lives in a way that sustains rather than destroys the ecosystem. I believe what is measured gets done, so setting clear goals is vital to any strategy. Support is key - you need buy-in from staff, service providers and suppliers to achieve the goals. It's also important to work with experts, so we have close relationships with organisations like the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Marine Stewardship Council.

There are more than 200 targets set for the business units and I work with all of the units to make sure we deliver those. The targets range from the way the stores are constructed, to new products and processes, and working with suppliers to make sure their production and techniques are more responsible and sustainable.

Describe your average work day: Every day is different. Yesterday I was in Zululand filming for some of the work we do for the MyPlanet programme, and today I'm involved in a big presentation to the properties department, at which we'll discuss new strategies. This afternoon we've got a partnership meeting with the WWF, which we often work with on strategies.

Best part of the job: It allows me to work on sustainable development for a brand that is taking it seriously, and there are so many interesting and varied tasks every day. It also gives me an opportunity to influence suppliers and customers to live and work sustainably.

Worst part of the job: There's a fair amount of administration. This is a corporate job in a listed company so it entails annual reports and board meetings. There's a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure we do the right things, but it's all part of the process.

Why did you choose this career? I've always been enthusiastic about environment issues and this line of work made sense. The field has moved into the mainstream and universities offer courses for environmental careers. Stellenbosch University has a sustainability institute. The Cape Peninsula University of Technology runs an environmental health course. …