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Bursting bubbles to drive human understanding

Meet Marjella Alma, CEO of the inspiring tech startup eRevalue, which offers a tailored process for integrating Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) factors into business strategy.

What is your vision of a sustainable future?MAlma-3

A world without so much emphasis on the material, on beauty and on individuals. I’d like to see society de-materialize, de-beautify and de-individualize – yet make a good living in the process.

We currently live in a world of bubbles. We all like our own little bubble, characterized by similarities: our friends are like us, our jobs are on the same level, our thinking is aligned and – if we admit to them – our limitations are also similar. I think it creates a false sense of comfort and drives discrepancy between different groups of people. You can compare this to a company that has grown very quickly and hires only ‘specialists’, forgetting to hire ‘connectors’ . Over time, the company’s foundations weaken and it will not be successful.

I hope we can let these artificial bubbles burst – to drive understanding between people and get back to the fundamentals. I recently came across a great example of this. The French retailer Intermarché released their Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables campaign. They reduce waste (de-materialize) by promoting ugly fruits (de-beautify) and call upon other supermarkets to do the same (de-individualize). It has been very fruitful  – for their customers and their profits!

What is your model of change towards a more sustainable world?

I believe that people can do great things when they’re enabled to do so. A ‘powerful model for change’ to me is a belief system in which people realize that they themselves can make a difference. It is easy to get intimidated by large corporations, government and ‘the status quo’. I would like to see more people rely on their own abilities, use them ‘for good’ and connect with the ‘like-minded’ to make change happen.

Often people ask me: “Why should I take sustainability seriously – it’s not a law yet, is it?” I think we often forget that laws and accountability mechanisms always start with just a few people who were able to inspire people around them. It takes persistence and dedication to turn ideas into behavior, behavior into rules and then get a larger group to abide by those rules. In the end, that’s something only humans can do – rather than organizations. People connect the micro and the macro levels. These levels have more in common than there are differences. If we can promote this collective consciousness, great things can happen.

An important aspect within this ‘people empowerment’ is the role of women. I still question my own abilities every day as ‘us women’ figure out our new positions in society. I do find women are getting less and less competitive among each other – finally!

What drives you? What kind of role do you see for yourself in this change?

I believe in getting to work and getting things done. I have been fortunate to work in a field with a mission of impacting the world positively. There is a unique opportunity to connect technology and sustainability, both mega trends that will only continue to grow over the next decades. These forces come with unprecedented challenges and outcomes that are impossible to forecast. So, to me there are two options: pretend this is not happening or try to use these forces ‘for good’. I am committed to the second and ‘without having all the answers’ ready, I’m committed to ‘fall and stand up again’ and develop something meaningful. eRevalue Limited was launched in June and with this venture – and most importantly with an amazing team – we are building software that is helping companies build an effective core business strategy embedding sustainability into its DNA.

What kind of leadership is needed for positive change?

bubblesThe abilities to build bridges between people – and to continuously listen and respond to voices around you are key. The world we live in is “dynamic-to-the-maximum” with social media instantaneously updating the public. Companies that embrace this tech revolution will thrive. It also requires partnership between baby-boomers and the internet generation. True leaders find ways to burst artificial bubbles and communicate successfully to each other

What is next for you and eRevalue?

eRevalue is my most exciting project to date. We are currently developing the software with our future customers. Co-creation is key to bridge the natural gap between tech and people, as illustrated by this interesting EY publication. To build the team, we’re currently looking for people who share our mission and vision. And from August onwards, piloting will start, followed by the first commercial release of our software ESGrevolution mid-2015.

For more information, follow Marjella on LinkedIn or Twitter or follow eRevalue on Twitter or request a demo on their website.

Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis)  Picture by © Kaj Gardemeister