On Earth Day 2021, Meet The B-School Sustainability Graduates

Name: Jessica Iida

Hometown: Vancouver, Canada

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love to travel, and one of my favourite memories is the study abroad term I did in Casablanca, Morocco during my undergrad. Post-COVID I’m excited to get back to exploring some more beautiful spots around the world!

Business School Degree Program: MBA, UBC Sauder School of Business

1. What do you do? And how do you impact sustainability through this? 

As a Sustainability Program Manager for an apparel retailer, I develop and implement strategies that help the company reach its impact commitments. My work centers on circular economy strategy for products and packaging, so my goal is always to keep materials in their highest and best use as long as possible. Circularity is about shifting from a linear take-make-waste system to closed loop systems that not only minimize waste, but also reduce dependence on virgin materials with high associated environmental impacts. 

2. What does Earth Day mean to you? 

To me Earth Day is an opportunity to reflect on our society’s interconnectedness with our planet, ecosystems, and each other; and the urgency with which we need to address challenges such as climate change. Growing up in Vancouver where we’re lucky to have the outdoors at our fingertips, so our connection to our natural environment is easy to see. I make a special effort on Earth Day to get outside and appreciate the beauty, power & harmony of our natural environment. 

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

For me it’s about being intentional. To me that means having the clarity you need to make informed decisions (e.g. knowing what I value and brings me joy, but also taking responsibility to educate myself on the social and environmental impact of my decisions), and then making conscious choices in line with your values. This is easier said than done, so it’s also important to view this as a journey rather than a destination, and to be persistent and patient as we make changes in our lives.

4. Has climate change affected your life? How?

Living in Vancouver I’ve been relatively sheltered from the direct impacts of climate change to date, though it’s certainly changed my life in that I’ve spent the last several years of my career working with companies across a variety of industries to help measure and manage their climate impacts. 

5. How has your business school experience contributed to your career in this area?

My business education has enabled me to meet my clients and cross-functional partners where they’re at by speaking the language of the business. It’s so critical that sustainability becomes an integrated business priority, so knowing how to align the objectives of each functional unit and frame sustainability as a business opportunity rather than simply ‘the right thing to do’ is key to creating organizational change. 

6. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

My biggest takeaway from my studies and experience to date is that creating impact requires strong and resilient leaders. There is no one formula to driving organizational change, so navigating fast-moving and often ambiguous business environments to shift away from status quo takes an immense amount of vision, persistence, and the ability to lead and influence people at all levels of an organization. My studies have continued to give me the tools and skills needed to effectively lead change.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I will be continuing to inspire and embed change across organizations, and will be reflecting on the incredible progress that’s been made in industry, policy, and the consumer landscape to move towards a more sustainable future. 

8. Finally, what are your hopes for the future?

I have high hopes that sustainability will continue to become a priority for both businesses and individuals. There’s been so much momentum in recent years as consumers become more educated and vocal about sustainability issues, and many leading companies are shifting their view of sustainability from one of compliance and risk management to instead seeing it as an opportunity to innovate and build competitive advantage in the marketplace. I hope that in future that sustainability can be baked into more companies’ DNA as it becomes a table stakes precursor for success in the 21st century.

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