"Being a sustainability leader is not for the faint-hearted"

6th November, 2012 by Katie Shaw

Rowena Ganguli graduated from Forum for the Future's Masters Course, set up the London Orchard Project and now buys fruit for Innocent. Here’s what she learned along the way.

Class of: 2005 – 2006 
Currently: Fruit buyer at Innocent and Trustee of The London Orchard Project

Why I chose the MProf
I’ve always made my choices in life based on what feels right. The moment I saw the Forum Masters, I knew it was what I wanted to do – both because of the subject matter, and the way it’s approached: the vocational training, mixed with understanding the philosophy behind sustainable development.

What I learnt
Sustainable development doesn’t start in one particular place. Through the work placements, I saw how each sector can be dependent on another to start something, or to react to work they’d done – everything is so interlinked. So, although wherever you are you can make a difference, you’re always going to rely on others, also, to make change happen.

Career to date
As soon as I finished the Masters, I went to work for the organic food retailer Abel & Cole. I was originally recruited as a trainee Project Manager, but the role was very fluid as it was such a fast-growing organisation at the time. One of my main responsibilities was sustainability so I created, designed and implemented a new system of ethical auditing, looking at its whole supply chain. I also devised their sustainability policies, and made specific recommendations based on research I carried out for them.

After Abel and Cole I set up my own charity, The London Orchard Project, with a fellow scholar. After a tough first year, we secured funding to plant 10 orchards around London and train around 100 people from different community groups in how to manage orchards. Since then, we’ve been backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, and now have over 1,000 beneficiaries a year. We have funding to run the project for a further three years, and our intention is that the project will continue into the future. We’ve got a great brand, and had lots of media coverage with minimal PR, so the world is definitely interested in what we’re doing.

Once The London Orchard Project had taken off, I moved back into the commercial world and became a fruit buyer at Innocent Drinks, where I’ve been for the last year and a half. 

What I plan to do next
I have a lot planned for the next year at Innocent. The great thing about this company is that sustainability forms the basis of doing business: at its heart there is a strongly stated purpose to leave the world in a better state than we found it. Culturally, it’s also a very entrepreneurial organisation. So, when I come up with ideas, people really want to listen.

Advice for future leaders
Being a sustainability leader is not for the faint-hearted. You need to love what you’re doing in order to keep up the energy and passion it needs, especially if you encounter setbacks.

Rowena Ganguli was in conversation with Katie Shaw.

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