3 Keys to Developing a Sustainability Career | Raymond Fang

In this episode of Sustainability Ambassadors, we speak with Raymond Fang, Sustainability Director at Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) about his career in sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

A self proclaimed pioneer in the industry, Raymond offers a lot of great insights for the aspiring young professional about the importance of understanding the business case for sustainability, the importance of engaging executives, and the need to constantly remain on one’s toes, curious, and learning.

We hope that you will enjoy this episode, and if you do, please remember to like, comment, and share!

To learn how to foster similar leaders in your own company, check out our Building a Sustainability Ambassador Network Report.

About Raymond

Raymond has over 12 years Sustainability/CSR experience both in public and private sectors; currently working for Asia Pulp & Paper as Sustainability Director; prior to that he also worked for Stora Enso, Danone, and ERM.

About the Sustainability Ambassador Series

Sustainability Ambassadors is a video series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organization into action: to identify those with the potential to rise and think outside the box, and build a collaborate community of such people that can help your organization forge new paths of longevity and evolve into something powerful.

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About Collective Responsibility

Based in Shanghai, Collective Responsibility is a strategic advisory firm founded by Richard Brubaker, one of Asia’s most recognized authorities on sustainability, innovation and responsible leadership.

Founded with the fundamental belief that that a sustainable world can only be achieved through awareness of issues, finding tangibility in business cases, and development of cross-sector collaboration, Collective Responsibility acts as a knowledge base, catalyst and facilitator between stakeholders.

Our mission is to:
– Create a knowledge base and catalyze discussion of issues related to the development of civil society, business sustainability and social development in Asia.
– Develop tangible interests, engagement and action on issues of sustainability (economic, environmental and societal).
– Build bridges between local and foreign resources to ensure knowledge transfer, program scalability and growth.
– Develop organizational capacity with the aim to help create stable and profitable enterprises.

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RICH: Good afternoon everyone. I’m here with Raymond Fang, who is the Sustainability Director for APP. Asia Paper and Pulp

RAYMOND: Pulp and Paper

RICH: Asia Pulp and Paper. Alright and we’ve been here talking about his ten years of sustainability. He’s one of the early pioneers. He’s worked at an number of multinational organizations as well as industry association. He has a lot of knowledge and on the ground experience and we really hope that you will take the time to listen to him and learn from his ideas. Hopefully he’ll inspire you to maybe take up a future career path in sustainability. So keep watching. Raymond, thank you very much for your time.


RICH: Do me a favor and tell me a little about yourself. Introduce yourself and your background.

RAYMOND: Ok. My name is Raymond. That’s my English name. In Chinese, my surname is Fang and my Chinese name is Sheling. As sustainability practitioner , I’ve been working in this are for over 10 years. I consider myself as one of the pioneers in this area of China. But, talking about this is very interesting that my original plan, career plan was very traditional. I was thinking about to work in the career like international business or investment, something very traditional. But it was very accidental opportunity came up over 10 years ago that I was from CITAC. It stands for China International Textile and Apparel Counsel.

You know Chinese’s textile and apparel is one of the major export goods in China. CINTAC was developing a system to improve the CSR performance in China. They were looking for someone with oversea background, has a good communication skill to help CINTAC to promote this system to oversea buyers, brands, government sovereigns and NGOs. So because I spend quite a few years overseas and maybe good interpersonal skills, so I was chosen. That was my opportunity to started to working in CSR.


RICH: Being a pioneer usually means you’re the one who gets hit in the head more than those who are following you. So what were some of the earlier challenges that you were either trying to address or that you faced when you were trying to promote corporate responsibility or sustainability in the textile industry.
RAYMOND: First challenge is no one understands you. Even my wife who normally supports me for personal decisions. Although when I was working this area like 10 years ago, she didn’t understand what this is. She didn’t support me and she ask me why you are doing this? Do you really think this is potential? I can guarantee you in China no one’s gong to do this. Okay? People chasing for profit. People were not do anything like socially responsible or environmentally friendly. They could give a shit. Just looking for benefits or profit. So my biggest challenge is here.

No matter my friends, my relatives or my business partners they don’t understand. You have to do your best to explain what sustainability or CSR is and trying to use their languages in the ways they can understand to tell them. Things is improving, maybe 5-8 years later. There are more companies practicing CSR and we see Chinese’s translations of sustainability or CSR more and more frequently in the media. People started to get familiar with this terms and then they will be interested to know more what this is and what is it about and what a company can do in this area.


RICH: Can you tell me a little bit about how challenging is it to be in your position in a company that involves resources and is the focus of a lot of attention when it comes to those who say that that industry those companies could not possibly be sustainable. Like how challenging is that for you as an individual on a day to day basis?

RAYMOND: When you practice sustainability as a in-house practitioner. The commitment from the top management is the most critical factor. If the top management agree that sustainability is very important, then you will have bigger support.

RICH: You’re executives will give you more support because they are under constant pressure. But, are you someone who is an environmentalist at heart. Like do you worry about the forest or are you really motivated by the job.

RAYMOND: Personally, I would say both because the reason why I choose sustainability and a CSR as my career path is I consider this is a very potentially career and this is a career that you can combine your personal career development and your contribution to this planet together. This is the highlight for this area. This is the major reason why I decided to keep working this area.

I do worry about the environment. I mean, on this perfect location at a_____(6:35) to look through the window. You can hardly see the area clearly because the air quality is very poor and this has been recognized as a major challenge for the key cities in China.

Even for the residents in the cities, even they don’t know nothing about the environment protection. They do know the air quality causing impact to their health. So people started to know the impact from the environment. I do caution about this. If, when I was working for company, what we are doing can help the company to make profit, meanwhile we can improve the environment conditions. That is perfect job.


RICH: Now how often do you come up with a program idea, come up with a strategy that is beyond the executives interests or capacity. Like you walk into their office like I have this great idea. How often are you pushing them to go further and how often do they tell you no, that’s too much, slow down, baby steps.

RAYMOND: Well, as in-house professional I would ay everything we do we have to find the business case. So, no matter what sustainability or CSR programs that we are working on, I always have to find the business case for these activities. So, all the proposal comes from me. It’s always win-win case I would say. So, I will guarantee that the business of the company will be benefited and also it will cause positive impact to our external stakeholders. So the win-win situation I think is one of the precondition for successful sustainability programs.


RICH: How often do you work with the business to develop a product that is sustainable? You walk in and like you have this new product. You go no, I think there is one that is better that one of our competitors is using or that the chemist told me about. Is it your job to drive innovation? Or are you just trying to help them communicate it better?

RAYMOND: I would say that is my everyday job. That’s what I do everyday. No matter which company I am working for. I am always trying to find out in what process or in what link we are consuming the most of natural resources. Which compose the biggest environment or social impact. After I idendified that process, I will try to find out a solution. Either to minimize the usage of the natural resources or find alternative. So I think this is my everyday job. This makes my sustainability program more robust and create a perfect business case for the company.


RICH: Now in your mind, what is the potential career path for a sustainability person now?

RAYMOND: In the future I would say the chief officer for leading organizations is my goal. Personally, I would say in the future there will be CEOs with a background in sustainability because I believe that the people who have sustainability background with several years experiencing finance or sales or sourcing, then this can, this is possible to be the CEO.


RICH: So then would you recommend someone who just graduated from college go and get a sustainability job or would you recommend the go get supply chain, marketing, finance job?

RAYMOND: I think this depends on your personal mindset. Because someone they are good at their major, their studying but also they have a passion to make their contribution for a better world to make the people more happier, healthier, make the environment better. I think these candidates are strongly recommended to have a carrerr in sustainability and after several years in this area, I think you are open to have another career path in the future.

RICH: I guess my final question is, why don’t you work with an NGO or with the United Nations or why do you choose business to work through?

RAYMOND: I think this is a more direct path for me to make sustainability more effective I would say. Multinational corporations they are because of the globalization, they are operating globally. They are utilizing natural resources globally and they are marketing their products globally. They are composing impact to the people, to the environment globally. So if I am working as an in-house professional, I can make something inside the corporation and make the direct impact to the business operation. That is the most effective way to make my contribution to the business.

RICH: Thank you very much Raymond. That was great.

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