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(Full transcript of interview with Brian Matuszewski)
ZACH: Now the idea is out in the public so you basically have to do it.
BRIAN: You know I mean that's exactly what I need. I need to you know hold myself accountable for these these crazy ideas.
ZACH: Blu Skye is a strategy consulting firm that operates on the assumption that environmental and social responsibility are the only business opportunities that are truly sustainable. Here at Blu Skye we get many more applications than we have job openings. In order to spotlight some of the amazing humans that reach out to us, I thought I would ask them some questions on the record and share their stories with you. This week I talked to one job seeker about the power of the private sector, why he feels personally responsible to help care for the planet, and the importance of investing in our educators.
BRIAN: My name is Brian Matuszewski. I am 28 years old. I am a sustainability professional dedicated to helping businesses integrate sustainability thinking into their DNA.
ZACH: So should we dive in?
BRIAN: Sure. Let's do it.
ZACH: So the first question is you know that there isn't a job opening a blue sky. What what made you agree to do this interview, regardless of that?
BRIAN: Yeah well that's that's a great question to kick this off with Zach. To be frank with you, I'm very passionate about the work that I do, and I am very, any time I have people who want to talk about these issues you know for me it's an absolute honor, a pleasure to do so since it's such a big part of what makes me tick every day. So you know, despite the fact that you know an opening doesn't exist for me. Like I said it's a it's a pleasure to talk about these matters with people. I view a large part of what I do is bringing awareness to to, you know what this convoluted word of sustainability means, and what the possibilities are with this that for me it's it's fun to talk about so that's that's that's the that's the reason..
ZACH: You know say that actually raised an interesting question for me is what what does sustainability mean to you? It definitely is convoluted and I agree with you but I'm curious what your perspective is on that?
BRIAN: To me, sustainability, it's really an approach to life that's in my opinion is based on the understanding that you know all things are connected in some fashion and that you know everything is part of this interconnected system in which each component of this system fundamentally relies on one another. Hence it's an approach that in many ways is built upon this idea of mutual respect which you know is of course derived from nature and what we know about ecology. And you know for for me, sustainability you know looking at it from that lens it's you know using that model it's a model that you know is fundamental to everything that we do not only with understanding how life operates with how human civilizations operate with the underlying planetary system that that we reside in. So, a lot of my focus professionally has been focused on implementing this idea of sustainability with corporations, with private enterprise, and you know for me being a student of both environmental policy and business I've really come to discover that the power that that enterprises, private enterprises, have in terms of not only influence and power but their capability to innovate. And you know I see there there's tremendous opportunity for these forces in civilization to drive sustainable progress forward you know there are these tremendous engines of innovation and power that a lot of what makes me tick and what my professional experience is really bounded to is is helping these businesses understand you know, leveraging what they're uniquely good at in the market how can they use that skill set that their capabilities that they have to drive good in a way that is not always sustainable in the way that most people perceive the word as in terms of you know environmental stewardship and social equity but you know doing it obviously know financially sound manner. So I don't know if I fully answered your question there...but to me sustainability you know at this juncture in my life with you know my recent professional endeavors is more focused on the the private sector, and really how can we unleash the power of the private sector to drive these positive impacts using the model of ecology and an understanding of our natural systems, and the interconnectedness of these systems and using that model for human enterprise.
ZACH: Yeah, what got you there? You know, what drives your passion behind those issues?
BRIAN: Yeah. That's an excellent question. To be honest you know... when I take a step back and you know I realize that there are there's seven billion people on the planet growing, I'm not exactly sure what that number is but, there's a statistic out there that I think you know 1 percent of the... 1 percent of the human population makes over 50,000 U.S. dollars per year and then you know when I look at what percentage of that chunk of people are educated and are aware of systems thinking and in some of the challenges and opportunities that can arise from having this North Star, sustainable development vision in mind, and you know, I view myself in that category people view it as, this might sound strange but I was viewed as a responsibility, for me understanding how lucky and fortunate I am to be part of that segment of society that, you know, has been lucky enough to receive an education, has been lucky enough to be aware of a lot of these environmental social challenges that we face as a civilization, to be in a lucky position to be aware of the possibilities that technology can bring in moving us in in a more sustainable direction, that when I make myself aware of this situation, I again, I feel this is this immense level of responsibility and excitement to be part of this movement. And I think that's really what makes me tick and really makes me driven, working in this space.
ZACH: I love that answer. You know I have also been thinking a lot about the privilege that we have that allows us to work on you know values based change. We're way beyond you know we're pretty high up the value chain or the Maslow's hierarchy right, of things that allow us to work on that. And I I really appreciate your answer there. And related what's what do you see as the single greatest barrier to you know, reaching true sustainability.
BRIAN: The biggest barrier the way I see it is, is simple lack of awareness and education on what sustainability is, and really the problems is that you know we are faced with. I inherently believe that all people are good. I don't believe in evil, per se. I believe when people do things quote unquote evil actions or bad deeds, it's usually derived from either ignorance or just a lack of awareness or education so I believe education, awareness around systems thinking and this this idea of what you know what sustainability stands for. I believe this if we could make more people just fundamentally understand this concept. That will solve a lot of you know, challenges that this movement faces today.
ZACH: Right. And so how do we get there?
BRIAN: That's the billion dollar question. That's that's a very good question and I honestly you know I don't think anyone really knows how we can get there. But I think you know, I have a lot of friends that are teachers and, and you know, oftentimes you know we often talk about this as this dynamic that exists in society where, you know I feel like historically teachers were once in a more elevated position in society that earned just a higher level of respect from the masses and somehow along the way in the last few decades this status of teacher has for some reason I'm not exactly sure what that reason is has gone down. So, I think one way you know we can help address this question is elevating the status of educators in our society and the fundamental role they play in educating our youth and really educating people with you know the things that are important that you know are important to not only this generation, but to the future generations and to you know what it means to live a full, prosperous life. You know, with every meaning of that word prosperous. So yeah I think if we could somehow figure out a way to do that, I think you know whether that's through elevating you know teacher salaries. If we as a society you know choose to invest greater resources in this that will, you know, that could be one mechanism to help drive that change.
ZACH: I am married to a teacher so though that answer hit extra close to home for me.
ZACH: So Brian, what what is your dream job. Like what would you really want to be doing in the world?
BRIAN: I would say. You know it's funny you asked that question, at this stage in my life I've been doing just a lot of reading and talking to people and really taking the time to really you know, figure out you know what... If I can do anything what would I really want to do. And you know, understanding that I'm in this position where you know I feel extremely fortunate and lucky like we've talked about with having received an education you know being a financial stable position. You know, I have the liberty to really do anything and when I asked that question to myself why I thought you know you would be you, how tremendous would it be if I could somehow create a sustainability, clean technology incubator, in a place like Latin America. I was specifically looking at a place like Medellín, Columbia, where you know my, a lot of my experience younger in life as a student is spent in Latin America. I can have a special relationship with Latin America in general, and I see just tremendous opportunity for, you know, this place in the world that is so ecologically and culturally rich, to to really aggressively move in the direction of sustainable development by, by leveraging you know best practices from you know, policy in the technology realms. To really you know advancing and accelerating sustainable development in Latin American cities in general. You know this this vision I have is you know to one day you know being in a position maybe to create this sustainability innovation center for lack of a better word, that you know combines almost elements of a sustainability consulting company with elements of a of a co-working space dedicated to professionals and the general broad umbrella of the sustainability movement to operate, and to kind of facilitate collaboration between people in that community. And the third element of this center would be a public facing side of the center that could be something like a cafe, or something of that that would draw visitors from from the outside into the center making them familiar with what the center's mission and goals are. And really to to further enhance collaboration from that perspective, so I'm a huge believer in the role architecture and beautiful architectural spaces can have on you know the human experience. So there's a TED talk that I watched you know, a couple of years ago I was I forget the name of a Japanese architect but it was this Japanese architect built this amazing elementary school, somewhere in Japan that was circular in nature. And and in the middle there was this this massive courtyard. And you know this was just an awe inspiring space for you know these children and these teachers to be operating in that you know I tought man, how cool would be to deploy this inspiring, beautiful, architectural you know building that could how is this this incubator that I was just telling you about. So if I could define a dream job I would say it would be constructing something like that and really building a network of these sustainable development incubators for for lack of a better word across Latin America.
ZACH: I love the vision.
BRIAN: It's easier said than done of course but I've been having fun you know jotting some notes and casually sharing this vision with friends of mine so, we’ll we'll see where it goes.
ZACH: That's awesome. I'll be watching. Now, the idea is out in the public's eye you basically have to go.
BRIAN: You know what. Maybe that's that's exactly what I need. I need to hold myself accountable for these these these crazy ideas.
ZACH: That doesn't sound crazy. Sounds doable to me. So last question. Do you have any other projects other than your sustainable co-working, consultancy, slash incubator that you want to plug, or anything else that you want to say or talk about, or tell me.
BRIAN: Don't really have any of the defined projects that I'm working on at the moment. But you know I think, one thing that I that I've really learned a lot in the last few years my job working for one of the world's largest fleet management companies was you know when we when we talk about sustainable enterprise, and sustainability especially, in corporate environments that are relatively conservative in nature. You know a lot of this has to do with perspective and really you know highlighting all of these intangible benefits that embedding sustainability into organizations business strategies DNA can can have so for instance with the fleet management company that was working for you know by the nature of what that company did, they were in the business of helping the fleets all over the world operate more efficiently and and reduce their total cost of ownership. Yet another way of saying that exactly same phenomenon is you know for 1.3 million vehicles across the globe, the companies and the business of driving fleets to be smarter, safer, and cleaner. And you know, I think when you start taking that step back and you realize you are so ONE-THIRD greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation, then you kind of dig in and see that you are in this instance 35 percent of these emissions comes from fleet. You know and you compound this with the fact that the organization and all these millions of vehicles across the globe all of a sudden you have an amazing story to tell employees, customers about you know the role that that organization has in the world and in driving a positive impact. And for me one of the most aha moments in this job was by revealing this perspective of you know helping the organization look at itself in the lens of sustainability. That perspective alone and can have significant impacts on the way the organization pursues strategy moving forward and in terms of engaging employees with what the company does in this exciting way, and really highlighting the fact that, you know, employees should be proud of of working for an organization that does this and that and really what I found interesting was not only highlighting what this is speaking about the business in this way but helping the business sharpen its focus on on on further driving sustainable impact by helping our customers adopt cleaner technology in a more effective way. And you know for me, it was amazing to see you know, eyes light up. As soon as you tell employees of you know what these organization is is a part of and and what the possibilities are for the future. I really think again back to what I noted earlier you know education bringing you know people where of seeing things from a sustainability perspective can can really go a long way in not only ensuring that the world moves in a sustainable direction but I think private enterprises can see concretely the impacts.Of adopting this this that this approach to their business in intangible ways that can be seen from not only a human resources perspective in terms of you know capturing top talent, and maintaining top talent in the organization, but you're seeing as a risk management tool. Seeing it as as as a way to drive new business, so that's just one nugget of insight that I captured in this role as being a sustainability leader in an organization and I think that there's a lot of exciting possibilities for the future for businesses in all industries too to really capture.
ZACH: I love your passion about it, and I especially love the clarity with which... how you explain it and the words you use, I think are perfect. And I'm really glad that you're out there in the world working on these subjects. Makes me feel better. If this podcast accomplishes nothing else it's going to definitely give me faith in the people that are out there working for change. So I appreciate it.
BRIAN: Then Zach It was an honor to speak with you, and I appreciate the invitation.
ZACH: If you want to get in contact with Brian. Head to the blu skye web site that's b-l-u-s-k-y-e dot com. There you'll find a full transcript of this interview as well as a link to his resume. Thanks for listening to the Blu Skye podcast. See you next week.