Photo credit: Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media
Nelson Switzer (@NelsonSwitzer), Chief Sustainability Officer at Nestlé Waters North America, discusses a beta project with environmental and social economists and what keeps the field of sustainability exciting for him. Read on to learn about Nelson’s time as a Karate instructor for inner-city youth, what he wishes people would stop saying about the nature of sustainability and more.
What project are you most excited about right now?
NS: There are three areas that are most exciting at the moment, and within each a suite of initiatives that are poised to enhance our ability to embed sustainability further within our company and influence other organizations to follow.
These areas include water stewardship, responsible packaging and community development. As an example, we are currently developing a methodology to help us measure the total impact of our activities at the local level. Think of an economic impact assessment, and then bring in an environmental and social economist to round out the content. This is a beta pilot at the moment, but looks promising as a new methodology that can inform decision-making and enhance communications.
What inspires and drives you to work on sustainability?
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NS: There are two items that inspire me: my passion for people and the dynamic state of sustainability, its ever-present change.
There is no shortage of great ideas out there, in addition to criticism, challenges and opportunity. These are identified by people from all walks of life. The ideas, energy, passion and knowledge that people share daily inspires me to keep seeking solutions that address the environmental, social and economic aspects that continue to evolve.
In addition, the ever-present change that is introduced keeps the field of sustainability exciting and interesting. While one must be disciplined so that we do not focus on too many things, and therefore get nothing done, this change-state allows opportunities to interact with so many different people inside and outside the organization.
Can you share something about yourself that would surprise us? Any hidden talents?
NS: I studied Karate beginning at the age of 10. I paid my way through university as a bouncer at the campus bar and teaching self-defense and Karate to inner-city youth.
If you had unlimited time and resources, on what type of work would you want to collaborate with fellow SB Members?
NS: Solving the packaging challenge. Full stop. Packaging is a miracle in its ability to preserve and allow the ready transport of perishable and non-perishable items, but the environmental and social impacts are significant. We need to collaborate to find a way to reinvent the packaging ecosystem to reverse this trend.
Why is your participation in the SB Member Network important?
NS: It provides a hub to stay connected to people and current issues – and identify opportunities for collaboration.
What do you work on in your free time?
NS: I like to spend my free time with my wife and two sons… doing whatever they tell me to do!
Anything else you'd like to share with fellow SB Members?
NS: Stop advocating that sustainability is a journey and not a destination. There is a destination we must all strive to reach – a today and tomorrow that is environmentally responsible, socially equitable and economically prosperous.