In the latest in our Life as I know it series from the Eco-Age team, our account manager Alessandra Gargiulo shares her journey in sustainability so far and the impact it has on her career and daily life.
I normally describe myself as a “sustainability consultant by day and a social entrepreneur by night.” Just like Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman would spend day and night to fight crime, I dedicate my days and free time to trying to make a difference for humanity. One small difference? I have no superpower, just the power we all have when we really put our hearts and minds towards our passion. Also, my job entails fewer exciting things than fighting crime on a rooftop in New York and more (admittedly) boring-ish tasks based on excel files and due diligence analyses.
Driven by a strong sense of justice, I always wanted to become a lawyer when I grew up. As a kid, I remember watching the telly and wanting to become a public prosecutor so that I could contribute to fighting the mafia and everyone that would do bad to society (although I would often change my mind and wanted to be a princess, too).
It is only as I grew older and pursued my bachelors degree in International Affairs at John Cabot University that I realised that life is not always black or white, and that justice is not always synonymous of peace. In particular, it is thanks to the extensive research I conducted for my senior thesis on the ethical dilemma between Peace and Justice in conflict areas, with a focus on the reconciliation mechanisms attempted following the civil war in North Uganda, that I realized my purpose in life would be to seek not criminal justice, but social justice.
Images: My first day of school with my dad (L) vs. my graduation day (R)
My commitment to social justice was strongly renewed as I pursued my Masters degree in International Development in SciencesPo, where I focused my studies on the economics of development and social and environmental sustainability. As part of my Masters degree, I chose to do my internship in South Africa, where I supported local non-profit organizations improve their managerial performance and build stronger partnerships with local enterprises committed to corporate social responsibility. In South Africa, for the first time I truly witnessed the socio-economic imbalances that touch us today, in particular in a country that is still deeply affected by apartheid, 20 years after its legal eradication.
Image: Me in Cape Town, South Africa
But there is no need to go on the other side of the world to realise that deep social injustice affects us all. Even in Europe, if we care to see, we will find high rates of poverty, income inequality, and discrimination. Something that, being in an interracial relationship, I am unfortunately fully aware of.
It is for this reason that my job does not feel like a job at all: every day is an opportunity to help companies reach their ambition of achieving a leadership position in the way they treat their workers – and of course the environment.
The task is not an easy one. Working with large companies, side by side, I understand well the many challenges that they face when trying to improve their environmental or human rights performance, including incredibly complex supply chains, pressure prices, and the need to create stronger demand for sustainable products. Not to mention technical difficulties and the large amount of investment required to find innovative solutions. Companies cannot be expected to completely change, one day to the next. However, every day we are moving one step closer, thanks to the ground-breaking work of a few committed companies and to the contribution of all those people that, globally, are demanding for change.
At Eco-Age, I have found the opportunity to channel my innate sense of justice by working on projects that are not only ambitious and game-changing but also tangible, and beautiful both ethically and aesthetically. But what I love most about my job is being surrounded by people who share my same values and who are not afraid to walk the talk, starting from Livia and her fight to ensure fair work and uphold a living wage for the most vulnerable.
Image: Eco-Age Italy team during the launch event in January
In my free time, I work hard on my startup project, Uyolo, a social enterprise dedicated to inspire and empower young people to take action by becoming more involved in philanthropy and volunteering thanks to the opportunities offered by digital technologies; and I volunteer with Milano in Azione, an association that supports the homeless in Milan.
I admit that I haven’t yet tackled the whole sustainable lifestyle challenge yet. There is still much more I could do, and I should do, to ensure that my daily choices not only do no harm to people and environment, but actually add value to them. For example, while I have already stopped buying clothes from fast fashion brands, I know I can do more to reduce my carbon footprint by switching to a vegetable-based diet (risking to cause deep pain to my Italian family!)
Thanks to Eco-Age tips, it is my personal mission to continue moving towards this direction, one step at the time.