Let’s Talk: Sustainability Creating A Community Of Change Leaders

In North America, employees at NTT DATA have been keen to join a sustainability action group led by Fernanda Gallardo. What started out as a small group of friends has now become the fastest growing employee resource group within the organization and it’s a topic about which people are passionate. For Fernanda the desire to bring about change started from when she was just eight years old.

Why do you feel so passionately about sustainability and when did it all begin?

When I was a little girl aged eight years old, I watched a documentary about global warming. I remember thinking, well, I won’t have to worry about that. I won’t be alive when those problems hit us. It made me start to think more about our planet though. Over the years, I started to see things change. Living in Mexico, I felt the change in seasons, and the ones we experienced when I was an adult were very different to the seasons I lived through as a child.

How did that lead to you becoming a sustainability champion?

I joined Dell Services in 2014 and a colleague invited a family member to come and talk about the food industry. She spoke about her daughter who had developed a rare allergy to all processed foods. In despair, she had been forced to quit her job and make every item of food from scratch from bread to yoghurt for every meal, every day. When she started researching what the grocery store foods contained she uncovered how many chemicals are put into our food and how these impact our health.

“Sustainability is a broad topic, and the area that many businesses are prioritizing is energy usage. In order to begin the sustainability journey, companies need to be able to track and manage their energy data so they can measure progress against corporate goals and commitments. Here are some simple steps businesses of all sizes can take to start their own journey.

Knowing this changed my attitudes and behaviors so I stopped eating processed meat like ham and sausages. Over time I slowly stopped eating red meat and then I stopped eating meat altogether. Gradually I started to think about how I could bring this knowledge and passion in sustainability to my work.

“We wanted to be sure that what we did would really make a difference”

You have now set up NEST – can you tell us more?

NEST stands for NTT DATA / Environment / Sustainability / Technology. It is an employee group that is one of our official employee resource groups (ERGs). To begin with it was just a group of friends but now there are more than 1,000 members and it is one of the fastest growing employee resource groups in the company. We have many members from around the world with the majority from the U.S. We wanted to be sure that what we did would really make a difference so we have given the group an identity with a logo, governance processes and funding. We launched it with a very impressive speaker who explained more about how simple changes to our everyday lives really do make a difference.

How did you bring that to the wider employee base?

We wanted to do something that was fun but that would also drive change so it needed to be something over a period of time. We have regular communications and meetings where we bring in speakers, share information and progress and share ideas for eco-friendly actions we can all take in our daily lives. The meetings are always inspiring! Recently, we decided to create a Bingo board game called ‘Greener Me’. The idea was that participants completed at least one row of challenges from the options provided within five categories. Each row had five challenges. The challenges ranged from eating white meat instead of red meat for one meal to taking the stairs instead of the lift to buying loose fruit and vegetables rather than the ones pre-packaged in plastic. People got the chance to win a better prize if they completed more actions, but also to plant a tree for every action they engaged in.

“Now I want to help people understand more about the challenges we face but also highlight the solutions”

Wow, that sounded amazing, how could you follow that??!

You are right, it was tricky! We wanted to think of an exciting way to follow up from this and continue to help people understand the challenges we face and how their actions can really make a difference. NTT DATA is sponsoring Robert Swan’s Undaunted expedition to walk across Antarctica to raise awareness of climate change so we decided to launch a new game called the Undaunted Countdown Challenge. In this we asked each participant to complete one of our suggested daily activities and comment about it on our internal channel. You get points for each activity completed and the winner gets a prize. In return, we have promised to plant a tree for every action completed and across more locations. This time we have provided more information to explain why this activity benefits the planet, and also included some fun facts to help people learn about the environment we’re trying to protect. We are trying to combine education and information sharing together with positive actions.

What does sustainability mean to you / why does it matter?

Sustainability for me is in everything I do. It even affects my political opinions because this planet is all we have so I want someone who will take care of protecting what we have. It’s become my North. Now I want to help people understand more about the challenges we face but also highlight the solutions. One of our guiding principles to NEST is that we always provide a solution and steps to change. All of us at NEST do all this as an extra responsibility, it’s not part of our job, but for me it’s a cause that’s worth the investment of time and I’m excited to see it grow.

As support for NEST grows, other passionate and talented sustainability advocates have joined to help, including Corie Pierce who leads sustainability for NTT DATA Services, Catalina Villarreal who creates all the magic in NEST visuals, Hannah Noah who inserts creativity and solutions to our strategy, Marisa Zdroik who leads our regional leads to expand our reach, and James Perry who influences what we can do internally as a more sustainable organization.

“All of us at NEST do all this as an extra responsibility, it’s not part of our job, but for me it’s a cause that’s worth the investment of time and I’m excited to see it grow”.

Fernanda Gallardo

Fernanda lives in Toronto, Canada having relocated from her home town in Mexico a year ago. She began her working career as an HR generalist before becoming a business partner and then moving to benefits and compensation. Fernanda’s current role stands within the Leadership Development and Culture Center of Excellence.

Fernanda joined Dell Services in 2014 before it was acquired by NTT DATA in 2016. Her role in building the sustainability action group is completely voluntary and she has dedicated hours of her own personal time to build the group and promote it.

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