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 Maanik Bagai, an environmental and sustainability specialist and management consultant.
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 now?
I am a management consultant with experience spanning sustainability, climate change, circular economy, Extended Producer Responsibility, and waste management domains helping some of the big corporates in CPG, electronics, waste management companies craft their sustainability strategy and implementation. I live in Toronto, Canada. I have always believed in the power of market aligned social change and have worked in related domains in the past. My career in sustainability started from my startup as a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) helping organizations manage their electronic waste. Gaining on-the-ground experience, I provided full-time consulting to CPG brands in plastic waste, and this further propelled my career in the sustainability. I now run a full-time independent consulting firm focused on sustainability, climate change and Extended Producer Responsibility.
What’s your day-to-day like?
Exploring newer avenues to grow my consulting business through meeting new people, learning what is latest in terms of trends in the sustainability sector, exploring further innovations and always optimizing how can I better do a task at hand while crafting top-of-the-line solutions for the existing and new clients.
What do you like the most about the work you do?
Being from a knowledge economy-based sector, I am amazed at the possibilities each day gives in terms of radical societal transformation led by a sustainability focused growth.
In your experience, what are the main challenges of working with mission driven and sustainability focused businesses?
The sector is constantly evolving and as a consultant my energies are also directed towards educating my clients and network about sustainability imperatives in businesses. Sustainability strategy or discussion is mainstream only in early double digits percent of the boardrooms of publicly listed companies. In addition, human behavior challenges, economic and financial barriers and political establishment led resistance are some of the biggest constraints which need to be overcome to achieve the path of sustainability.
Is there anything that you do outside of your work that is driven by similar (sustainability) objectives?
I have implemented sustainability initiatives in my day-to-day lifestyle by cutting down on new purchases in electronics including my personal cellphone which I prefer to purchase used and using as long as I can. Other initiatives which come naturally to me include using less paper, saving energy and installing energy efficient and only rated equipment, segregating my waste diligently and even washing the single-used plastics to save energy downstream at the waste management site. I believe there are no small steps but only steps towards long-term habit changes.
In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be successful at a “green job”?
This is a sector which thrives on innovativeness, approaches which create balance between being market aligned & socially responsible and entrepreneurialism. Overall, a strong passion for the sector with niche skills combining CSR, data analysis, fundraising, negotiation and an understanding of environmental, social and governance aspects concerning any corporate, non-profit setting or government sector are key ingredients for a successful career in the green sector.
What are the most common mistakes or misperceptions you have seen when it comes to green careers?
Students aspiring to build a career in green sector might tend to think that green career means working outdoors all the time and it might be a physically demanding career, whether there are really good opportunities out there in the sector to sustain for long term, the green sector is not financially rewarding and that one needs to be a core environmental engineer to be eligible to work in the domain. Nothing among above holds true and there are various domains and equally different and financially, professionally rewarding career streams in the environment sector.
You have a diverse background and a lot of experience implementing sustainability strategy and business planning for a wide range of companies and organizations. Could you highlight some of the key differences and potential green career paths within industries/sectors you’ve worked with?
I have worked across implementing waste management initiatives in both corporate and NGO sector, have implemented sustainability strategies for Fortune 500 companies, done advocacy work for the corporates and even drafted long-term policies in consultation with environment ministry. The key difference being the need of the sector one is in; for corporates it is striking a balance between corporate mission and environmental well-being while being in sync and compliance with the government policies and for NGO, efficient implementation of the environmental initiatives is the key, so they seek passionate employees with excellent education background not just in environmental domain but business focused pedigree as well. In the end, there are rewarding careers in each sector.
Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with others looking to succeed in their purpose-driven career?
Being focused is important and look for long term in the sector. There is a lot of potential still unfolding in the sector and the better you deep dive into a niche skill such as climate change, circular economy, sustainability, it would be even more rewarding.
What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?
I have seen the positive changes in the narrative across sustainability sector with discussion taking the form of strategy and strategy leading into execution. This is what keeps me motivated and wake up with a promise to keep and nurture it further.
Maanik Bagai, President, RSF Environmental Inc.
Maanik is an experienced and skilled environmental and sustainability specialist with proven experience in strategizing and on-the-ground implementation for fortune 500 companies across their sustainability, CSR, climate change, waste diversion and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Maanik holds a Master in Environment from University of Waterloo, the largest environment faculty school in Canada.
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