Vibhati Bhatia – who has just joined our Advisory Board – shares the story of her sustainability career journey.
Were you always interested in sustainability issues?
I studied Psychology BSc at the University of Southampton, graduating with First Class Honours in 2018. I always knew I didn’t want to specialise in the subject but, was fascinated by behavioural change theories and what drives and motivates us as humans. During my course, I had the opportunity to take on an optional module in Global Challenges, led by the respected and extremely knowledgeable Dr James Dyke. In one of his lectures, I had a cliché, penny drop moment but also a sudden fire within, to work in this space and do whatever I can to make a difference.
Being a part of the Sant Nirankari Charitable Foundation, I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to various voluntary conservation projects throughout my childhood. The values and appreciation I built through this service or ‘sewa’ for our planet and community during my teenage years, has most definitely fed into the passion for what I do today.
Tell us about your sustainability career path
Being a Psychology graduate, the journey hasn’t been the most straightforward to get my foot through the door, but I was motivated to do whatever needed to be done.
After leaving university, I spent much of my time supporting NGOs and campaigns in my local area in the Midlands. Simultaneously, I completed an online diploma offered by Cornell University on Climate Change Action and Communication. I also spent some time volunteering with local communities in Indonesia, after which I started to apply for relevant corporate jobs.
After four months of many rejections, I joined Curry’s head office in a corporate social responsibility role. At the time, the rumbles for ESG and sustainability progress were on a slow but upward trajectory in the industry. In my time there, I worked on a range of community development, charity partnership, supply chain, ESG risk and reporting projects, alongside sustainability communications and WEEE recycling (circular economy) work. This provided me with a great foundation to build my knowledge and skills in the industry, but also start to discover what my ‘calling’ in the space was.
How did South Asians for Sustainability come about?
During COVID-19, I had much more time to reflect on my career and journey. I started to realise at that point the lack of diversity in the industry and dug a little deeper to find mentorship. It occurred to me that there were no community spaces or organisations for South Asians, so I reached out and connected with as many professionals as I could find, on Facebook groups, LinkedIn and by word of mouth. South Asians for Sustainability was launched online in 2021, after spending most of 2020 networking, far and wide, to understand what our community needs were in the diaspora; and what was needed for further engagement.
I have met some incredibly inspiring individuals from the global south and diaspora regions, working across all industries on some amazing solutions and creating huge impact. The campaign’s aim is to bring all those people together and highlight their work. More importantly however, through this campaign, I have learnt how imperative voices of colour are to have in the sustainability movement, for climate justice and beyond.
We actively promote and enhance representation of South Asian professionals in the space and share culturally relevant content and resources to South Asian communities, to bring about greater change.
Whilst doing this, I was also offered the opportunity to move into consulting with EY’s climate change and sustainability services and continued my day-to-day work in the industry. Soon, I will be moving on to focus more specifically on social sustainability consulting at Energise.
I’m extremely grateful to the team at Catalyse Change, for providing me the opportunity to support as an Advisory board member. I’m looking forward to enhancing outreach to young women of colour and helping empower them, to be inspiring role models and future leaders in the sustainability industry!
What are your top tips for achieving the career you want?
- Genuinely take the time to evaluate and think about what you’re truly passionate about. It could be something that makes you joyful and happy, giving you a sense of peace or pleasure. It could equally be something that gets you feeling angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed into wanting to bring change.
- The key is learning how to channel those emotions, passion, and drive into action. At school, often we’re told our career journeys are limited to the subjects we learn, the grades we attain or the further study we go on to do. I didn’t study geography or any sort of environmental science beyond year 9.
- Don’t let the academic systems limit what you feel you can do, if you know you want to do something but realise it later in your studies or early in your career. It’s never too late to pivot your skillset and go into an industry or job that you are passionate about.
- Everything you learn on your journey, every person you meet or network with, and every conversation you have, is worthwhile and never wasted. You gain technical and soft skills from all aspects of your life – take time to analyse your personality, map out your strengths, and the areas you may want to improve or build on. Absorb all you can from your surroundings and mentors.
- Once you realise and understand what your personal purpose and passion is, continue to build your brand within that area. Become a knowledge expert, and eventually, you’ll be a valued asset for your unique perspective and contribution.
If you would also like to work with us – either as a catalyst, mentor or sponsor – contact Traci Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org