Neelima Kadirisani, Sustainability Engineer at DSM, Netherlands…
Q: What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
In my childhood days, my father took me to the small villages where he was working on providing drinking water facilities. I learned about my region’s challenges concerning water, education, and the lack of many essential resources at a young age. After my graduation, I joined Tata Steel Ltd as Manager, Operations. I worked in a manufacturing unit that converted liquid Iron into steel. As operations manager, I got exposure to process improvement, quality improvement, raw material handling, workplace safety, and factory emissions. Working closely on the environment, health, safety, and industrial waste disposal aspects, I became curious about sustainability. I took an introductory online course on this subject. I really got interested in sustainability studies. I wanted to learn more about it, so I pursued all the good online courses. When I realized there is a workstream that focuses on the environment, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management, and social issues (e.g., human rights, child labour), I was confident this is the area where I want to dedicate my professional career.
Q: Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?
Currently, I work as a Sustainability Engineer in an ‘engineering materials’ company based out of the Netherlands. Engineering materials are basically high-temperature plastics that we use in almost every application in our daily lives, like our vehicles, kitchen appliances, phones, etc. With the growing concerns around global warming and climate change, accumulating plastic waste, and depleting natural resources, it is high time companies start taking action towards these challenges. This would require that they first measure their impact and then develop strategies to address these challenges without affecting the company’s growth. This is where my role as a sustainability engineer comes into the picture. I work on developing metrics and KPIs to measure the impact of the company and products on the environment. I then assist in devising strategies to combat these challenges and support the implementation of these strategies.
Q: How does your work benefit society?
Sustainability is an emerging and inspiring field. It is high time companies start developing more circular value chains, circular products, reducing dependency on fossil fuels, creating sustainable supply chains, and addressing all the social issues in the value chain. Chief sustainability officer is a new CXO role that has gained a lot of traction. Unlike other CXO positions, the CSOs around the world have varying backgrounds, from engineering to law. With growing pressure from the legislation and consumers, companies evolve and take a sustainable path. Hence the need for sustainability experts is increasing by the day. And at the end of the day, most importantly, it makes a positive impact and reduces adverse effects on the environment and society.