Passionate about the Planet with Celia Landesberg from EcoVadis

Posted: 05/20/2019 - 07:46

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In this episode of the Sourcing Industry Landscape, Dawn Tiura interviews Celia Landesberg. Caring about the environment is embedded in the fabric of Celia’s personality since she was a young child. She was thinking about supply chains before she knew what one was. 

Dawn Tiura: Welcome back to the podcast series. I'm really excited today. Today I'm going to be talking with Celia Landesberg. Celia is an Enterprise Account Executive at EcoVadis, which doesn't really tell us a whole lot about what she does and certainly doesn't tell us anything about the company. So, I can't wait to dive into some of that with you, Celia. So welcome.
Celia Landesberg: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, Dawn.
Dawn Tiura: You've got a pretty remarkable journey. If I look at you in LinkedIn, you seem to have a passion for giving back for the environment and things like that. Let's go back a little bit in history. You have an undergraduate degree from the University of Richmond. And then University of Sydney, a School of Geosciences study abroad experience. Tell me a little bit about your degree and what it... You studied Environmental Studies major and Geography major, magna cum laude, I'd also like to throw in. Just tell me a little bit about what got you interested in that type of study.
Celia Landesberg: Yeah, absolutely. My educational background and that sort of piece all came together almost even before college. Always had been interested and focused on conservation and understanding our resource limitations as a human species. So, when I got to campus as a freshman, I immediately noticed the need on campus to increase the visibility and education around sustainability. So, I ended up pursuing the Environmental Studies degree and added on a double major of Geography. Which, common misconception about geography majors, is that I studied a world map and that I could tell you where every country is. What a geography major actually is, means that I was studying the spatial analysis of all different type of global trends, really looking at software analysis and map making to understand different trends globally. Right? Whether that's related to logistics and moving packages, or whether that's related to waterflow from storm runoff. Really a broad range there.
Celia Landesberg: The University of Richmond allowed me to really explore that lens through a business context, as well as working within our Office for Sustainability at the university, working with lots of different stakeholders, the board of trustees, our climate action plan. Then I pursued my study abroad, specifically at University of Sydney, because they had the course curriculum and advanced electives that I could take in order to really pursue the sort of advanced lens around the impacts of climate change and building out things like marine protected areas and things like that. So, a lot of different exposure in my educational background on supply chain sustainability, and also global climate change trends.
Dawn Tiura: I love that. Well, I was born in Michigan, but I was in California for 30 some years, and now I'm in Florida. I'm appalled at the amount of plastic, and the bags that we use, and the fact that we still have plastic straws, and we even have styrofoam here in Florida. So, it's, it's horrible for someone who's a huge climate person like me, to always lecture everybody in Florida about it.
Celia Landesberg: Yeah. Well, and then you take that, and I'm sure we'll get into some of this in a bit, but you magnify that out to how much plastic and product goes into things at an enterprise scale. Right, at a sort of global 500 scale, and it really helps you understand. You're not just one person saying no to a straw, or saying no to a bag. Right? We can really redesign the entire system to decrease the amount of input.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah, it was interesting. I was just speaking to the CPO of Best Buy, and this was one that I never expected. But, as part of their sustainability, they are moving to zero plastic wrap. So, they have cards that they sell, like homework cards type things, and they are now at zero plastic wrappers in any of their cards. It's such a small thing, and yet when you magnify it through all the Best Buys throughout the world, that's a huge thing. So, I just love that people are starting to take these baby steps, and then they become big steps when you magnify it. So, I love these stories.
Celia Landesberg: Absolutely.
Dawn Tiura: Let's talk a little bit about you though, because then you went to Grove Collaborative, which I'm a huge fan; I'm a subscriber to Grove. You are in the very early days. So, tell me about what attracted you to them.
Celia Landesberg: Yeah, absolutely. Grove exists to really make the non-toxic and environmentally friendly product the cheapest and the most convenient for consumers. Really filling the gap that exists in the market between making that easy access for consumers, so that when you run out of something in your household, you don't run to the store and pick up Tide, pickup whatever is on the corner store shelf.
Celia Landesberg: So, I was in involved early on in Grove, actually. My brother is the CEO and founder.
Dawn Tiura: Oh my goodness.
Celia Landesberg: Yeah. So, fun fact there. Shameless plug.
Dawn Tiura: Wow, yeah that's great.
Celia Landesberg: Yeah. He came up with the idea, and at the time I was in my senior year of college and on the way to graduation. So, I leveraged my expertise in LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, to help them write out their product description policies to really make it accessible for consumers to understand why this product is healthy for your home, and what difference this makes to you as somebody that's going to be breathing in what you clean your floors with, and what you clean your bathroom with, and things like that.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, that's awesome. Yeah. I can talk to you about Grove forever, but now that your brother's the CEO, I'll give it another shameless plug.
Celia Landesberg: Yeah, maybe for another podcast episode.
Dawn Tiura: I know, I know. Maybe I'll invite him on too. So, then you went to a company, and how do you pronounce it? Goby?
Celia Landesberg: Goby. Yes.
Dawn Tiura: Tell me about that.
Celia Landesberg: Yeah, so, Goby, we were really the leaders in utility data management and sustainability reporting, specifically for some of the largest real estate owners in the world. What the real estate market specifically was struggling with was not just how do we pay our utility bills on time, but also what do these mean in terms of our energy efficiency efforts, in terms of our water efficiency efforts, understanding our waste contracts. Right? There's a lot of opportunity for savings within just those three items.
Celia Landesberg: So, really using the power of data and analytics to unpack that opportunity for the real estate sector to capture savings and drive sustainability results. That was a big piece as well as the sort of reporting and certification framework around accolades to really identify portfolio leaders. So, the Global Real Estate Sustainability benchmark, or GRES, was a big one. LEED and CDP were also big ones, as well as Energy Star, which is a program led by the EPA. A major focus around helping sort of our built environment advance its sustainability efforts.
Dawn Tiura: Wow. That is really neat. You were there for a couple of years, and now you went over to EcoVadis. Could you tell me what prompted the change?
Celia Landesberg: Yeah, so Goby was an absolutely incredible experience. I had the opportunity to join a small and growing startup. I got to wear every different hat, and work with every different client, which was really fantastic, especially early career. And, shout out to Chris and Ryan, who still lead the Goby team, for just doing an incredible job of creating what was probably the best first job out of college experience you can imagine.
Celia Landesberg: Then, I had the opportunity to really intersect with every different industry by working with real estate. I had sort of bigger ambitions for both myself personally in my own professional advancement, as well as really seeing the opportunity to help tackle sector challenges beyond real estate, and also helping real estate with their supply chains. So, supply chains and sourcing have always, I think since I was like 10 years old, been a part of how I thought about the world. I really wanted to make sure that with my career I had the opportunity to really positively impact that.
Dawn Tiura: I think that's awesome. So, EcoVadis, tell me a little bit about the company. What is sort of the mission that you guys have?
Celia Landesberg: Yeah, so our mission is to elevate the performance of global supply chains with respect to sustainability. The way we're realizing that mission today is we're the largest provider of business sustainability ratings through a collaborative network of buyers and suppliers that manage, assess, and improve their performance related to sustainability, or corporate social responsibility; CSR is another term you'll hear referenced frequently. When we talk about sustainability, one misconception there is, "Oh, it's just the environment aspect, right? It's just emissions." We're actually looking at environment, labor and human rights, ethics, and procurement practices of all of the businesses we assess.
Dawn Tiura: Wow. I don't know if you'd know, but SIG is part of the Global Sourcing Council that supports the UN initiatives around the 17 sustainable goals that they have. Are you guys involved at it on an international basis in any way?
Celia Landesberg: We have a partnership and a tight relationship with the UN Global Compact, very closely tied with of course the SDGs and helping our clients to make sure their corporate goals align with the SDGs, and what their opportunity is there. So, we actually just released a report that maybe we can attach a link to, to really tie in some of that story around what is commitment versus practice look like across many different types of organizations.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, I love that idea. And folks, if you don't know an SDG, it's Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17 of them that are part of this council as part of the UN initiative.
Celia Landesberg: Yeah, absolutely. The other piece is they were initially built to drive governmental action. What happened was the response from the business community, you know, we want to incorporate these into our business practices to make a difference. So, that's a big piece of what people are working on today.
Dawn Tiura: I love that. I don't know if you know, but with another group, the GISC, that we belong to, along with some folks out of Uganda, we're doing global impact sourcing events. We're doing an impact sourcing summit down in Uganda this summer. So, if you're interested, I'd love to maybe see if you wanted to go with us down there. It's to, they really want to create about a hundred thousand jobs in Uganda. People don't understand the impact that we can have by sourcing to countries where there's poverty, and we can lift entire generations out of poverty through our sourcing initiatives. So, another thing I'm really passionate about is the climate, as well as the impact that we can have on sourcing on so many different areas in the world.
Celia Landesberg: Absolutely. It's all highly interconnected and creates the human capital problem as much as the climate problems.
Dawn Tiura: So, you must feel good when you go to work every day, because you're actually helping change the world?
Celia Landesberg: Yeah, I do. It sounds really cheesy, right? I only hesitated there because it sounds cheesy. But no, I think I feel particularly fulfilled by the work that I do, and I feel very privileged to be able to work in a place where I am able to empower and enable other companies, other global entities to really understand, "What does this mean for me? And, how can I make a difference?"
Celia Landesberg: When I worked in real estate, I used to think a lot about, "Okay, what's my sort of impact per square foot, right? If I'm working with 500 buildings, or if I'm working with 200 million square feet, what type of change have I impacted?" Here at EcoVadis, looking at companies, I'm working with 50,000 suppliers; 80,000 suppliers; 100,000 suppliers. If you can start to lift up even a percentage of those, the impacts are staggering. Right? So, that's definitely what keeps me going.
Dawn Tiura: That is such a great way to wake up every morning and go to work. I don't think it sounds cheesy at all; I think it sounds fantastic. We've really loved getting to know EcoVadis through SIG, and I know the SIG members have really enjoyed it. Sustainability was not, I would say 15 years ago, pre-recession, people start talking about going green and things like that. As soon as the recession hit, all conversations stopped. Now it's shifted over to being called sustainable. I really think that this is here to stay now. I think it finally has enough roots and enough people believing in it, as well as a younger generation that's all coming into the workforce that believes in it. So, I really hope that we can continue to make these global changes.
Celia Landesberg: Absolutely, absolutely. I think the recession taught everybody a lot about resource limitations, whether that's financial, personnel, whatever it may be. There's a really great Harvard Business Review article that was published like right after the recession in 2009, that talks about why sustainability is the key driver of innovation. It's really, like you said, about changing the definition of it from what it conventionally meant 15 years ago to what it means today with our level of sophistication, our level of transparency and overlap. So, it's certainly a different world than it was 15 years ago with regards to this.
Dawn Tiura: Where do you think we're heading with all of this? Do you think we're going to impact it on a global basis? Is it something… Are you fearful for the future? Are you optimistic?
Celia Landesberg: I definitely think some of the fear is also what keeps me going. You know, everyone has their own irrational fears. Mine is probably the world ending. I think we're headed in the right direction. We're just not headed there fast enough. That's an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to prove out, right? Humans naturally act with things that have some sort of immediate gain or immediate return. And it's really hard to prove, okay, what you did today is going to buy back five days on the earth's life in however many hundreds of years.
Celia Landesberg: So, it's a hard formula I think for people to look at, but generally speaking, I think by these sort of global players, these massive companies and getting down into their mid markets and suppliers, that's really how we're elevating this conversation and how we're changing the game. Right? So, it's connectivity, but it's also the signal from governments and from business leaders.
Dawn Tiura: I love that. I think you're just living the dream, because you're doing something... I do believe that our industry changes lives, but I didn't quite get the impact of how much we're changing things like climate change through companies like yours and people like you with this passion. I am so excited to get to know you, because it's great. I love it.
Celia Landesberg: Thanks, yeah.
Dawn Tiura: Where do you think your passion for all this really began? You've obviously had this in your heart and soul for a long, long time. Were you taught this as a child? Is it something that you just were attracted to? What started your passion for this?
Celia Landesberg: Yeah. I think a lot of it was probably tied to how I was raised and the value system there around, again, conservation, don't waste things.
Celia Landesberg: Then, when I got more into middle school and started, I guess establishing my own personality and my own set of values, learning a lot. I did a lot of work with horses when I was young, and I learned about slaughterhouses, and treatment, and welfare, and things like that. I made the to become a vegetarian at age 10, which-
Dawn Tiura: Wow!
Celia Landesberg: is pretty unique. I don't know how many people can say at 10 years old they were thinking about supply chains, but I guess I was. Then I went into middle school, and I saw that we didn't have recycling within our school. I said, "Why would we not have this? It doesn't make any sense." So, I think it's just become part of my fabric, in terms of that.
Celia Landesberg: Then what I've really learned through, I think what is just genuine curiosity throughout my life is how this really impacts people from all walks of life, right? Every person is impacted differently by the presence or lack of presence of sustainability in their lives. So, trying to understand those many different perspectives, and piece together something that's going to result in progress for everyone.
Dawn Tiura: That's awesome. What are we going to see from your next? Where do you think you're going to go? Or, what are you going to do?
Celia Landesberg: Good question. I think for me next, I'm relatively new to the EcoVadis team, so still have a lot of impacts to drive there. I think generally speaking, I have been both surprised and impressed by the collaboration across and within industries around these topics. I really want to continue to drive that forward in the next couple of years. That's certainly what I hope to do.
Celia Landesberg: Then, in terms of what's next for me, maybe professionally or career wise, I'm really, like you said, I have a kind of diverse set of experiences, and I'm really trying to build out a well-rounded background to make sure that as I advance in my career I can move up into the C-suite someday and really help to engage directly with employees of an organization and also drive that change externally. So, that's sort of a longer term goal there.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, we're going to be keeping an eye on you, and checking in with you often to see how you're doing. Tell me, if you could go back and talk to your younger self... I always love to ask this question. Is there something that you wish you knew way back when that would have made your whole life journey a little bit easier?
Celia Landesberg: I think everyone says hindsight's 20/20 right? I don't necessarily know if there's one piece of advice that I needed, or that would have changed the game. But, I think hearing earlier or understanding earlier the importance of asking a lot more questions, and figuring out what's out there in order to make better informed decisions would be one thing.
Celia Landesberg: Then also, a couple others would be play to your strengths. I probably learned this post-grad maybe a couple of years ago. What this really meant to me was you can spend all this time and all this effort trying to get better at the things that you know aren't inherent to your skillsets or aren't inherent to your characteristics or traits. But, the progress you'll make in those is very marginal compared to how fast you can progress at the things that you excel at.
Celia Landesberg: So, investing in your strengths and really taking the time to practice those and hone those skills are going to get you much farther, much faster than trying to become a professional athlete if you don't know how to tie your shoes. So, that's one.
Celia Landesberg: Then the last one is probably taking the time to really sit with things—I'm definitely a move-fast person—but taking the time to really reflect and sit with different experiences, different emotions, unpacking thoughts and feelings. That's sort of a more personal and professional one, but I think that recently that's been really productive for me, and I wish I had done it more often and sooner.
Dawn Tiura: Oh, that's great. Well, I've really enjoyed my time with you, Celia, and I hope that we'll be in contact for many, many years to come. I'm going to be watching your progress. Thank you for joining me for the podcast today.
Celia Landesberg: Thank you. Yeah, it's been so wonderful being a part of the same community so far. I was new to the group when I joined EcoVadis, and I can't tell you how amazing the community and the network has been. Thank you again so much for including me, and I look forward to staying closely connected moving forward.
Dawn Tiura: Good. I hope you do. So, we're going to wrap up right now. That was Celia Landesberg, Enterprise Account Executive at EcoVadis. I hope you have a great day, Celia, and I look forward to chatting with you again very soon.
Celia Landesberg: Thanks, Dawn.
Dawn Tiura: Thanks. Bye-bye.

About The Author

Celia Landesberg's picture

Celia is an advocate and energetic implementer of sustainable behaviors. A vegetarian since age 10, she always was a driving force behind integrating sustainability into organizations of all types and sizes. In middle school, she implemented the first recycling program. At the University of Richmond, she implemented a sustainable purchasing policy and published climate action results towards 100% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050. A LEED Accredited Professional, Celia executed corporate sustainability strategies and performance analyses for some of the largest real estate companies in the world while working at Goby, a leading energy management and sustainability reporting company for the commercial real estate industry. Celia moved out west to join EcoVadis, the largest collaborative platform that allows companies to assess their suppliers’ environmental and social performance, where she enables world-leading organizations in North America to leverage sustainability as a performance driver for procurement. Celia is a guest lecturer at the University of California on supply chain sustainability and served until recently on non-profit boards to improve food security and food service sustainability in the Chicago area.