I Am a Bridge Builder for Ideas, Businesses, People and the Planet

Dr. Esther Heidbüchel joined our SBE team as senior consultant with a core focus on the Sustainable Chemicals Management project.

What are the highlights of your professional journey so far? 

I have always been walking off the beaten tracks, starting with marketing new business units, developing strategies and volunteering concepts, then taking on the challenge to develop sustainability strategies and implement sustainability management systems. Highlights are always those points in time when I manage to win over people to really understand and foster sustainability.

In your view, what are the main ingredients for a sustainable life?

Well, I think it all starts with getting information and then deciding what is important for you. Don’t try to change everything in one go – perfection is an illusion. Better start with small, but impactful steps  such as avoiding fossil-fuel travel as much as possible, switching to green power, buying organic and fair products, avoiding unnecessary packaging or cosmetics containing microplastics.

Now that you’ve joined the CSCP, what are you looking forward to the most?

Working with a great team to contribute towards making this planet a good and friendly place to live for future generations.

Sometimes, it seems a bit blurry that becoming more sustainable can support companies in achieving many other goals, including increasing profits. How can this strategic link be better communicated?

When I started my professional life, sustainability was something related to the guys climbing chimneys and blocking whalers. Now this has changed – in my opinion, mainly due to increasing awareness of the threats imposed to the environment as well as the numerous studies clearly showing that sustainable companies are performing better than “conventional” ones. This link between performance and sustainability is one of the keys. In some cases, extraordinary sustainability features of products or companies can generate a premium on prices, but in most cases, profit will come from efficiency gains and process optimisation – which are also part of a sound and integrated sustainability strategy.

Strengthening resilience has become the keyword of the moment. What makes a company future-proof in your view?

The foundation is to know the risks along the whole value chain, including an early-warning system. Here is where digitalisation comes in: real-time monitoring, Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain technology – there is a huge potential to increase transparency and timely information. A rather underestimated aspect related to resilience are skilled workforces that are aware of the impact of their work decisions. This goes well beyond Health & Safety policies. Regarding the future, innovation, using swarm intelligence, cooperation with suppliers and also Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and monitoring of trends is paramount for developing sustainable businesses.

Now that remote working is becoming a new normal, what are some of the lessons learnt from your many years of working remotely?

All you have to do is to remember that you are talking to human beings and get used to smaller pictures. The media of your choice must not change the way and style you communicate. It is extremely important to always ask yourself if you would say what you are saying if the meeting was an in-person one . Regarding home office: self-discipline, self-discipline, self-discipline, and then quite importantly: self-care!

For further questions, contact with Dr. Esther Heidbüchel.