Let’s go. Seminar Abroad begins and we start with our Northern American online days covering various speakers from different companies, non-profits and universities all challenging the status quo aiming for a better tomorrow.
– DAY ONE –
WE DISCOVER CANADA AND HOW OUR SPEAKERS FOSTER, EMBRACE AND PUSH CHANGE.
First stop: Sheridan College Toronto. Stan Kamzol and his colleague Wayland Chau from Sheridan College gave us a rundown on the programs, opportunities and services they provide as a college. Besides the school’s profile, they introduced us to Canada, its culture, economy and how it has developed over the past 150 years and what similarities and differences Canada shares with the US. Wayland also touched on how new teaching methods like COIL are set up and are becoming more common. They also shed light on all the initiatives they undertake to foster change for a better future and sustainability in general on all of their campuses in Greater Toronto. To give us the 360 views, Stan and Wayland invited Gabi, one of their bachelor student that serves on the student council, to the call. She gave us examples and shared her experience on campus and also what she achieved during her studies and how the school handled the pandemic. All in all, we were impressed with what the school does and we are sure, many of our delegates would choose this college on their list for an exchange semester.
After an insightful session with Stan, Wayland and Gabi from the Sheridan College, we had the pleasure to host a networking event on sustainability with representatives from the Swiss Consulate in Vancouver. Andreas Rufer, consul general, took time from his busy schedule and opened the event.
Following short introduction of all speakers, we had the opportunity to get to know them better and ask our burning questions in online break-out rooms. From Shivam, Lead Advisor Digital Transformation, we gained a deeper understanding of how his recent work with the Vancouver Economic Commission in which he successfully aligned key economic sectors to progress sustainability through the leverage of digital innovation and technologies. A key take-away was his input on how a deep understanding of self-awareness supports better decision-making and allows to understand topics from multiple perspectives.
Arthur, co-founder of “Tentree”, a startup in the sustainable fashion industry, helps to turn the world into a better place. He is an advocate for making things that matter and inspired us to have the courage to start your own business in the sustainability sector to change today for a better tomorrow.
As a woman in the pharmaceutical private industry and public health care sector, Kathy encountered glass ceiling several times during her career. Therefore, she is dedicated to staying true to your values and acting responsibility. We had the possibility to get tips and tricks on finding your career path, the purpose in it, and on how to align self with purpose.
Representing University of British Columbia, Michelle took us on a deep dive into the world of storytelling and its importance. Creating awareness through messaging your story helps Michelle as well as an entrepreneur and her business “The Wine Factory”, which she leads together with her life partner. From Andrea, who also works for the University of British Columbia and is , we learned on how to get aware and how to understand our own entrepreneurial capacity and find opportunities within start-ups.
A huge thanks to Nina Bader for organizing this event and of course to all the speakers for their time and effort!
The last session on this day was held by Marion Town from Vancouver International Airport, short YVR, in British Columbia, Canada. Marion shared YVR’s clear vision for a future with net-zero emissions by 2030 as the main target, what they do to achieve it and how it is to work towards them. We felt that everything they do is connected to their purpose to become, be and stay a world-class sustainable airport hub on all levels while linking British Columbia with the world. For the next few years, they defined several themes the airport wants and needs to change. To see where they can improve, analyzed their business along with the 3 scopes, we learned about in Climatepartner’s talk at our Seminar in Switzerland. Some major goals YVR has set for themselves are fully electrifying their ground operations vehicles, reducing and controlling the building’s emissions in terms of heating and cooling as well as monitoring buildings and passenger flow, in general, to be able to constantly improve with and for their passengers or providing the possibility to tank sustainable aviation fuel for airlines. What we can say is that we think this already pays off as YVR has been rated consecutively as North Americas Best Airport, Salmon-Safe and the best as well as the most diverse employer to work at in British Columbia. It was truly inspiring to see what can be done if you dare to do it and collaborate with your fellows. YVR – keep up the amazing work, push the movement further in changing for tomorrow.
– DAY TWO –
DEEP DIVING INTO SUSTAINABILITY IN THE SILICON VALLEY
Day 2 started with a session by Nurit Katz, Chief Sustainability Officer of University of California (UCLA), on the future of sustainability and the program of UCLA. Nurit is working to bring together a community of students, faculty and staff to foster commitment to advancing sustainability through education, research and operations at UCLA. The team around Nurit is confronted with major challenges such as the growth of the university, as UCLA is the most applied-to university in the nation or other challenges such as drought and climate change. To tackle these hurdles, UCLA is working on landscape transformation and has long-term plans to help climate and biodiversity crisis. UCLA has a long history of sustainability and has developed many plans and initiatives to develop a sustainable, healthy and resilient campus. For instance, initiatives of getting students, faculty and staff using bicycles and reducing private vehicles to transform the campus’ fleet. Recently, the university has launched a zero-waste campaign, called “Think Outside the Landfill (TOTL) Challenge”, to help increase sustainability efforts on campus. The goal of the campaign is to divert 90% of the university’s waste from landfills.
Thanks to Nurit for the inspiring session and also for sharing links with opportunities for students – happy to provide them here:
After UCLA, our focus shifted from education to business, trends and innovation. Jeffrey Ganter led the session about the Silicon Valley and Switzerland’s Telecom, Swisscom. Jeffrey gave us a broad overview of the Californian tech cluster how it formed almost 100 years ago and why. He also answered why the valley is so competitive and why firms like Swisscom have an office there. Swisscom Outpost is the eyes and ears of Swisscom in Switzerland. It’s there to keep Swisscom innovative by discovering trends, leveraging knowledge and synergies from the valley and building long-lasting partnerships in the region. A crucial task they perform is to develop and test new applications and improvements with their onsite lab and close collaboration with key players in the field. In terms of sustainability, Jeffery shared Swisscom’s activities and measures they take to become carbon neutral and drive change. The Outpost’s existence is also contributing to Swisscom’s sustainable future. This by challenging norms and beliefs through their valley lens and keeping the headquarters in pace with the industry by providing their heads-up information on new tech, disrupters and movements. Swisscom, we see you – let’s accelerate change even more.
In the evening we concluded the day with Alexander Fries from Ecosystem Ventures LLC on how businesses and projects can be connected to sustainability. Alex is dedicated to building sustainable companies around significant technologies and innovative business ideas. We learned how to establish a sustainable start-up and that starting your own business can be thrilling and exciting, but also daunting. Therefore, it is critical to team up with somebody or to hire somebody, as for example Facebook or Uber did. Alex also provided us with insights into how venture capital works and we got a snapshot of key factors to be successful in the Silicon Valley – passion, risk, speed and flexibility. By investing in sustainable businesses, Alex and the whole Ecosystem Ventures truly embodies connectUS’ slogan “Change today for a better tomorrow”. Looking forward to following your journey in the Silicon Valley!
– DAY THREE –
INCLUSION, EQUITY AND DIVERSITY IN THE US
Just before we got ready for our travel, we sat down with Keena McDonald from American Express.
With the interactive talk Keena held, we got a crash cours on diversity, inclusion and equity and how to cultivate change. Keena shared a video “Talk about Bias the Look” with no introduction so we would not be biased. After a introduction session about bias, prejudice, racism and micro-aggressions we talked about several situations in the video and how we perceived it to help us understand and differentiate between the terms. Keena also shed light on – for us almost unbelievable – topics like “the talk” that is given to Afro-American teenagers in the US to literally survive basic situations. She also explained what code-switching means and shared her own experiences when she switched codes to fit in or stay unnoticed. As an example, Keena shared her story with her natural hair (i.e straightening her natural hair to be taken more seriously in certain situations). We think our delegation profited heavily from the discussion to become aware of issues right in front of us, act upon them and grow into greater allies.