Welcome to our interview series where we speak with purpose-driven and sustainability-focused professionals from around the globe. Every few weeks, we’ll dive into their journeys, learn about their wins and challenges, and the resources they couldn’t do without.
Prepare to be inspired and learn something new!
Today’s guest is Abdul Wahab Akram, CSR Executive from Pakistan.
Please tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and your current job. What inspired you to start a career in sustainability and what was your journey to where you are
I am Abdul Wahab Akram from Pakistan. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering from NUST and I am NEBOSH IGC certified. I currently work in the Banking Sector as a Corporate Social Responsibility Executive. I consider myself fortunate to have worked in three different industrial sectors during my three-year career: Consultancy, Refinery Industry, and the banking sector. This experience has given me a broad perspective on each industry.
During my time in the consultancy sector, I provided services related to wastewater treatment design to various industries in Pakistan. This experience made me realize the significant work that needs to be done in this field. Wastewater treatment industry requires innovative solutions that are reliable, durable, and cost-effective.
I then transitioned to the industry, where I worked in the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment plant. I also played a role in reviewing the Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) practices in the Refinery Industry.
Currently, I am serving as a CSR Executive at a microfinance bank. In this role, I focus on implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and report our CSR activities to the United Nations Global Compact. Additionally, I am in the process of developing a system to measure the scope 1 and scope 2 emissions produced by our bank. This is a challenging and time-consuming task. Undertaking this lengthy journey will demand a substantial amount of both time and effort.
My journey has equipped me with valuable insights into wastewater treatment plant industry and environmental sustainability.
What’s your day-to-day like?
Currently, I am working with the banking sector in the domain of sustainability, if I summarized my activities on a daily basis in a single line that would be “building a positive brand image of my bank in terms of sustainability and Environmental Sterwdship”. So basically we had activities being design for whole year with designated budget from the start of year under the UN-SDGs Goals. So each day is being planned and each activity is being promoted with our PR and digital firms under the domain of Sustainability, Environmental Friendly and being responsible business. The communication and template of communication are designed by CSR executive to avoid negative criticism or green washing from industry stake holder customer or competitors . If I put this in an example let’s suppose we have decided at start of year that we will spend x amount of budget on renewable and clean energy. CSR executive will start to make plan with in budget which include finding vendor, making deals , obtaining permissions from government and execute the project onsite and at last report the efforts regarding work being done on the solar power plant for the village to get them access with solar tube well along with electricity once the activity is being executed then there come the PR and digital firm who will market our brand in the market.
What do you like the most about the work you do?
The most satisfactory and gratifying thing about my work is seeing the direct impact of my actions on the community and surrounding.
How does your work address societal and/or environmental issues?
My efforts are aligned with the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which are rooted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs). My primary focus lies in addressing critical societal and environmental issues. Specifically, I am dedicated to advancing several key UN-SDGs, notably those related to climate change mitigation, preserving life on land, ensuring access to clean water and sanitation, and fostering innovation and infrastructure development within the industry. By prioritizing these objectives, I aim to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society and the environment while adhering to responsible and sustainable business practices.
In your experience, what are the main challenges of working with mission-driven and sustainability-focused businesses?
Based on what I’ve seen businesses face several challenges which are sustainability driven. These include limitations in resources, competition in the market, handling green supply chains, effectively managing carbon emissions, and the processes of reporting and trading.
Is there anything that you do outside of your job that is driven by similar (sustainability) objectives?
Sustainability is deeply rooted in the culture here in Pakistan, leading to various examples of eco-friendly practices. The informal circular economy is prevalent, emphasizing reuse, recycling, and reduction. This cultural inclination can be attributed to a belief that waste is not commendable, the cost-effectiveness of such practices, and a commitment to making the most of products. This mindset is applied across various aspects of life, from managing kitchen waste to handling electronic products.
In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be successful at a “green job”?
In the realm of green jobs, a realistic approach emphasizes the need for a diverse skill set tailored to your chosen field, rather than simply engaging in eco-protests (which, in my view, often yield very limited impact on our planet). Let’s take, for example, a career in wastewater treatment. To excel here, one must be adept at design calculations and the analysis of influent wastewater data, while also being proficient in software such as EPANET and AutoCAD to effectively present their work. Likewise, for those interested in roles related to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), or similar domains, a strong grasp of carbon emissions reporting, trading, and the skill of communicating ESG practices for a business is essential.
In summary, for success in green jobs, individuals should possess a deep understanding of the industry they work in, complemented by technical knowledge. This knowledge empowers them to enhance their business’s sustainability and environmental responsibility, all while optimizing resource usage and maximizing profitability.
What green careers/sectors do you see growing the fastest right now and/or will become mainstream within the next 10 years?
The field of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), Sustainability, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), and related domains is witnessing a significant demand for work. Companies across various industries are increasingly embracing these areas, and this trend is expected to continue in the future. The growth of this field is evident from the fact that new standards for measuring a company’s sustainability efforts are being introduced regularly. As a result, it’s clear that there will be ample opportunities for professionals in these domains as they play a vital role in shaping a more sustainable and responsible business landscape.
What are the most common mistakes or misperceptions you have seen when it comes to green careers?
When it comes to common mistakes and misconceptions regarding green jobs, a few key points stand out. First, many people tend to overlook the crucial role of technology in these roles. Embracing and adapting to technology is vital for success in environmentally focused careers. Lastly, there’s a misconception that green careers are solely limited to nonprofit organizations. In reality, the scope of these careers is far broader, encompassing various industries and sectors. It’s essential to recognize and address these misconceptions to foster a more accurate understanding of the opportunities and requirements in the world of green jobs.
Could you highlight some of the key differences and potential green career paths within industries/sectors you’ve worked with?
In my experience working across three different industries, I’ve realized that while each job required a unique skill set and knowledge base, all these potential green careers ultimately align with international sustainability standards such as UN SDGs, GRI, SBTi, NZBA, and UNGC. These standards are continually evolving, so it’s crucial for professionals in green careers to stay informed and adaptable. This awareness is essential for making environmentally responsible decisions on behalf of the company.
Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with others looking to succeed in their purpose-driven career?
To succeed in a purpose-driven career, clarify your values, seek aligned roles, keep learning, network, develop soft skills, adapt, measure impact, leverage technology, find balance, and stay committed to your purpose despite setbacks.
What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?
I am big admirer of Nikola tesla, as said by Nikola “I could only achieve success in my life through self-discipline, and I applied it until my wish and my will became one”. The only thing that motivates and keeps me going is to make myself and this world better than yesterday.
Abdul Wahab Akram, CSR Executive
Abdul is an Environmental Engineer and Nebosh IGC certified professional. He currently works as a CSR Executive at Khushhali Microfinance Bank Limited, where he focuses on sustainability. Previously, he was an Environment & Wastewater Engineer at Punjab Oil Mills, responsible for emissions control and wastewater treatment. He also served as a Proposal Engineer at Water Engineering and Management Services, specializing in wastewater and water treatment plant design and costing estimation.
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