Five Questions on Sustainable Leadership
Feedback from Patricio Walburg, participant of the BNP Paribas Wealth Management ‘Sustainability Leadership Programme’ at the University of Cambridge.
I am officially an entrepreneur, having recently decided to start my own venture. Prior to that, I worked for an international cosmetics company for more than 27 years, which involved living all over the world, including in France, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Chile. The common thread in my career has been a passion for detecting new opportunities and driving change through a long-term vision and business strategy.
What positive impact do you aspire to have through your business activities?
We have only just set up our business, so it’s still early days and of course it takes time to build up a venture, but we are capitalising on this interest in the sharing economy driven in part by a new generation that wants to use resources more efficiently to the benefit of the environment. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to attend the BNP Paribas Wealth Management programme at the University of Cambridge – my personal and business interests today have shifted towards the theme of sustainability.
Why did you want to participate in the BNP Paribas Sustainable Leadership programme at Cambridge University?
I received this invitation at the perfect time, when I happened to be reflecting a lot on the topic of sustainability. It hadn’t really been on my radar before to the same extent.
I think the programme is fantastic. I am very aware now of the underlying issues and how corporate leadership needs to step up to its responsibilities. It was a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals.
I came away from the BNP Paribas Wealth Management ‘Sustainability Leadership Programme’ feeling that business is a solution for the problems we face, but the way we do business today needs to change. There are several things we should already be doing to make that difference.
Were there any “eureka” moments during the course?
What I found eye-opening was learning about entrepreneurs and some of the innovations they are working on. There are entrepreneurs who are working to reduce the consumption of certain raw materials and to create more sustainable products.
We also learned about the results of the British Antarctic Survey, which clarified the extent to which the planet is suffering. If we don’t change the way we operate, we face a catastrophe in a few years’ time. Seeing the global picture in that way was enlightening.
Has the course inspired any change?
For me, the course underlined the importance of integrating sustainability into our business purpose – by which I mean our vision and our goals – to help us to go further than tactical steps. At the same time, we need to consider sustainability in terms of how we do things, i.e. our strategy – reducing our carbon emissions, eliminating wasteful packaging, re-thinking our office space and even the service and delivery channels to our customers.
This strategic approach to sustainability means working closely with the Board and the broader workforce to create consciousness and ownership of this problem. Making sustainability a business priority is critical – five years from now, frankly, it will already too late. We need to be asking ourselves the tough questions and planning for where we want the company to be in ten years’ time.
We have plenty of examples of inspiring new businesses, where entrepreneurs are combining commerciality with a positive impact on the environment. This should be the mind-set of more traditional companies as well. Sustainability is not a challenge for someone else to solve – we have only one planet, so this must be our joint responsibility and concern.
“I came away from the BNP Paribas programme feeling that business is a solution for the problems we face, but the way we do business today needs to change.”
Tell us about your background.