C-suite sustainability

Bridging business with environmental sustainability

As a kid growing up around the oil industry, Okeoghene witnessed first-hand the intrinsic relationship between business and the environment. Creating a sustainable future, she quickly discovered, is as much about protecting our natural resources as it is fostering a competitive business landscape.

“As environmental and social challenges become more complex, sustainability should be the forefront in tackling these issues,” says Okeoghene. The problem, she says, is a lack of expertise on both sides.

“Change begins, and ends, with people. You need to understand both sides.”

Oke stands in front of the two-story tall living wall in Environment 3

As undergrad in Waterloo’s Environment and Business program, Okeoghene put her passion for sustainability to work through her classwork and co-op terms, including a term as a sustainability analyst for HP Canada. There she created marketing materials to increase awareness of HP’s sustainability programs, ran employee engagement activities and training programs, and, ultimately, helped drive value from investments in sustainability. Her efforts were integral to HP earning their spot on Canada’s Greenest Employers list for the eleventh year in a row.

“Co-op gave me real-world, hands-on experience while giving me the opportunity to try different jobs across industries, and Waterloo gave me the insights and opportunities to shape my own future.”

With a firm footing in both business and the environment, Okeoghene is hoping to earn a master’s degree from the University of Leeds, before setting forth on her career as a sustainability consultant. Indeed, it was in her third year, as an exchange student at Leeds, that she began to hone her skills. “One of our projects involved helping a local business grow income through sustainability,” she says. Her recommendations helped the company become more efficient and, ultimately, reduce costs.

Oke working on her laptop in student study space available in the Environment 3 building.

The exchange did more than allow Okeoghene to explore new things inside and outside the classroom. “It gave me the opportunity to rediscover myself and my purpose, and to experience different perspectives,” she says. More importantly, she adds, “it was so much fun!”

Today, smart businesses know that sustainability must be a core part of their plan. The challenge for Okeoghene is finding a way to influence organizations in a way that prompts people to act. This means speaking both the language of the eco-warrior and the business mogul.

“Bridging the gap between environmental concerns and business is a delicate balance. To affect change, you need to understand both. This is how we create a sustainable future.”