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Reflections on being inspired and learning at the heart of sustainability action

3 October 2019 – Katerina Fragos, Manager of Sustainability and Climate Change at P&G Canada on the personal values and professional insights gained through studying CISL’s Master of Studies (MSt) in Sustainability Leadership.

Before completing the MSt in Sustainability Leadership, I was working in marketing and sales at Procter & Gamble (‘P&G’) Canada. As my career progressed, I became increasingly involved in my organisation’s sustainability initiatives.

As this part of my role grew, I did my best to stay informed about topics related to sustainability. I read textbooks and watched documentaries. Despite my frequent attempts to engage with this fascinating field, I often struggled to digest the content effectively. I could not always discern between good and bad articles, independent and lobbied research, timely and outdated perspectives. I felt like an outsider looking in and felt I needed to find a way to get closer to the action.

I was looking to learn from thought leaders in the field and gain a deeper understanding of the most important discourses and themes in sustainability. I was looking for an internal compass to help me navigate through the abundance of information available on the topic.

One of my P&G colleagues had just completed the MSt in Sustainability Leadership Programme and, hearing such positive feedback on the course, I decided to apply.

I was fortunate that P&G supported my decision. As the course was part-time, I could continue with my work, travelling to Cambridge four times, for one-week workshops, as part of the two-year course. Each workshop covered a wide range of sustainability topics and brought in experts from around the world to guide course instruction.

Shared goals, unique perspectives

My classmates came from a variety of organisations that ranged from public service and consulting to multi-national corporations. We were a diverse mix of students of all ages, from all over the world but we all shared the same desire to leave the world in a better state than we had received it in. We still keep in touch and it is a wonderful feeling to know that we are all scattered across the globe, trying to do our share.

The speakers we came into contact with were truly inspirational and insightful; Unilever’s Climate Change and Advocacy Director gave us some insight into the company’s Sustainability Living Plan; the European General Manager of Patagonia shared details of the company’s campaign strategies.

Nearly every class session would induce some sort of micro-epiphany in me. I would take notes vigorously, eager to ask the instructor questions, to discuss our newly acquired knowledge with my classmates, and to execute all these new and exciting ideas upon my return home. After each workshop, I always felt the urgent need to act, to move, to make a difference. Such was the power of CISL.

And the course experiences were so varied. Our class visited a landfill facility, engaged in a debate at the Master Debate Hall and even watched a climate change drama.

Many of my classmates fundamentally changed their personal lives as the programme progressed. At each workshop, we would be surprised to discover that someone had recently become a vegetarian, installed solar panels, sold their car, adjusted their investment behaviours or transitioned to a minimalist lifestyle.

As our understanding of sustainability deepened and widened, we couldn’t help but change both personally as well as professionally. Individual behaviours we thought were harmless, when examined more closely, revealed themselves to be quite damaging.

Our new knowledge helped us to better grasp the many complexities, nuances, and interconnections within the field of sustainability. As a result, while the programme was designed to improve our professional competencies as sustainability practitioners, it inadvertently improved our personal actions and everyday choices as well. Because of CISL, many of my classmates and I now lead lives that are better aligned with our sustainability values.

A time of positive change

The knowledge I gained from CISL is already helping in my new role as Manager of Sustainability and Climate Change at PwC Canada, which I started in December 2018. I continue to refer back to the rich course material and already have my eye on enrolling in an upcoming CISL leadership course. I see the relationship with Cambridge as something I will continue to maintain as I seek to deepen my knowledge on certain topics.

Looking more broadly at the sector, there is a lot of momentum. Students from around the world are rallying in powerful numbers to press politicians to act on climate change, major institutional investors are urging businesses to focus on long-term value creation, companies of all sizes are embedding sustainability within their businesses, and world leaders are acknowledging climate change as a critical risk and discussing its possible solutions at key global conferences. We are making progress and this is a great source of optimism for me.

In summary, I highly recommend the MSt programme to any sustainability practitioners looking to be inspired, learn at the heart of where the action is and benefit personally as well as professionally from the experience - at a time when the sector is gaining increasing momentum.


Learn more about the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership and apply now for 2020.

About the author

Katerina Fragos photo

Katerina Fragos is Manager of Sustainability and Climate Change at PwC Canada. She received a distinction for her MSt in Sustainability Leadership with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

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Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.