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Finding Your Sustainability Personal Legend

Finding Your Sustainability Personal Legend

Seeing the horrific bush fires in Australia in late 2019 was the moment when I said, this is enough. It felt personal. I’ve called Australia home in the mid 2000s, I had explored this beautiful country from the Great Barrier Reef to Tasmania, from Kangaroo Island to Perth, I had enjoyed the amazing landscapes and unique fauna and flora of this extraordinary place. Australia’s 2019-2020 wildfires destroyed more than a fifth of the country’s forests after years of drought linked to climate change.

I believe many of us, who are transitioning or starting a career in sustainability and climate, have had a similar moment.

From then, I knew I had to do more. Recycling at home was not going to be enough, nor having stopped buying single use plastics, or even composting. This was not an extra-curricular activity anymore. I needed to use all my time, my skills, my experience, and my energy to help prevent this climate disaster. We were now in the future climate scientists have been warning us for decades.

[Related: Four Ways Companies Are Elevating Their Sustainability Initiatives]

Climate anxiety and taking the first steps.

To be honest, it was not easy. Despair and climate anxiety did creep in. I had some sleepless nights, but I've been lucky, so I haven't been directly affected by these crises. Meditation helped. Many people and entire communities have already been affected, especially in the global south, in places that haven’t historically been the largest polluters.

I couldn't give into despair, but I couldn’t remain optimistic either that somewhere somebody will create a magic solution to fix this. I knew the best way to get yourself out of despair is to take action. So I did.

I started looking for “green” jobs. Very soon I realized that I was a Bachelors and a Masters away from where I needed to be, I didn’t have time for ten, five, or even two years of more education. I will never catch up to those who have been in an environmental career for ten, fifteen, or twenty years. It felt unattainable. Where do I go from here? Maybe I was just not enough, or at best I was too late.

Or maybe not.

Okay, I did take some classes. I got a certificate in Clean Energy from NYU and through the Energy Analytics class I remembered how much I enjoyed working with data. I also studied the GRI standards with ASU, and continued to teach Sustainable Business Models at Parsons in New York.

But the best thing I did was have conversations with people who were already working in this area - water, environment, and business sustainability. That’s when I realized I was not behind, I was exactly where I needed to be.

[Related: How to Strategically Build Your Influence Within Your Company]

How I found my sustainability personal legend.

I realized I had to bring together what I do with who I am. What I believe in and what I’m passionate about, with what I’m good at and what I want to get good at. My background in business and economics, my passion for diversity and inclusion, my experience driving transformation of businesses and teams, my data-led approach to decision making, the years facilitating innovation workshops at corporations, startups, and NGOs, and the knowledge I had acquired teaching sustainability.

No other person was better qualified to do the work I do. I’m uniquely qualified to be a business sustainability consultant, leveraging the tools of innovation to help organizations transform their business to reach their climate goals with the needed speed and scale. Using data to establish sustainability impact baselines and setting science-based targets for corporations. Being an immigrant and a Latina who has lived around the world has made me highly aware of my own biases, so I can help companies see their blind spots too, and drive purposeful transformation.

As Paulo Coelho shared in the Alchemist, to find our purpose we need to do more of what we love, and less of what doesn’t bring us joy.

Just like businesses that are driving sustainable impact have purpose at their core, if each of us wants to drive the most impact, we need to find our purpose. We need to find our sustainability personal legend. Sharpen your skills and expertise, embrace what makes you unique (even if it seems a disadvantage at first), discover what you are passionate about.

We are part of nested systems, part of families, organizations, communities, cities, countries, and the world. I know we all can drive more impact personally and professionally, if we are open to discover and embrace our purpose, our sustainability personal legend.

[Related: How to Create a Startup Ecosystem that Thrives]

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Susana Vidal is a business sustainability consultant helping business leaders create sustainable business models. She uses agile tools and methodologies to achieve sustainability goals with the needed speed and scale to meet the organizations’ climate targets.


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