BFP: What do you do?
FV: I work for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a CEO-led organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, bringing together some 200 of the world’s leading corporations spanning a wide range of sectors and geographies. The Council’s mission is to galvanize the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment. Together with our members, we apply a mix of thought leadership and advocacy to generate constructive solutions and take shared action to tackle sustainability challenges. The WBCSD also benefits from a network of 60 national and regional business councils and partner organizations, a majority of which are based in developing countries.
I am the Director of the WBCSD’s Social Capital Focus Area, which contributes business perspectives and solutions toward inclusive growth. Our work program embraces a wide range of issues: inclusive business at the base of the pyramid; access to energy; human rights; skills & employment; rural livelihoods; and measurement & valuation.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
FV: I very much appreciate the strong professional and personal bonds that we have established across the years with those engaged in our work program. It’s definitely a privilege to be exposed, on a daily basis, to a great diversity of ideas, opinions and information (including through “on the ground” visits) emanating from a wide variety of sources – from senior representatives of our member companies to staff of business organizations, multilateral institutions, NGOs and academic entities. All of them come from different cultures, work-wise, but also in terms of geographies, which keeps things interesting.
BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?
FV: We are a small team tackling several topics, each one of which involves many interactions with our members and partners, so sometimes it’s not easy to “keep all balls in the air”. There is also risk of getting bogged down in process and discussions, losing sight at times of the bigger picture behind our daily efforts. Another challenge is that information & knowledge does not circulate as quickly as one assumes, which requires perseverance and reinforcement (across years sometimes) for the results of our efforts to really kick in. Then again, these challenges apply to many jobs!
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? / What advice, would you give to others?
FV: I have good language skills so this helps break down barriers, including by listening closely to what are people saying (and not saying!). Our team at the Council also always keeps in mind that it is essential for us to maintain the (big) business perspective in everything we do, as we are a business council, and not an aid organization. For instance, in the area of inclusive business, we did some pioneering work in Latin America in an alliance with our national partner organizations and SNV, through which we catalyzed investments and partnerships on the ground, in addition to conducting research and advocacy efforts. It was an exciting period, in which we had to reiterate time and again that our overall aim was to build sustainable business models, not handing out donations.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?
FV: Tough question! I don’t have a clear answer to this, as my career path is not “traditional” – before my university studies I played professional tennis for 6 years, so I had an entirely different career up to my mid-twenties. I was always passionate about Development issues, though, and upon completing my Master’s degree in 2005 I joined the WBCSD, initially in the communications team (which was a great way to delve into the overall work program) and a bit more than a year after that I integrated the team focused on the role & impacts of business in the developing world. Ever since joining, I have been lucky to have great managers who believed in me and pushed me, so 9 years later I am still here!
Overall, I would say that passion, knowledge and hard work are essential – the rest will follow, including being lucky by being at the right time in the right spot. For instance, if you are passionate about your studies and/or your work you will more easily put in the hours, build relationships, seek out mentors, and generally be drawn to a community of like-minded people where you can further improve your knowledge & skills, and strive toward achieving goals – including in terms of finding interesting employment opportunities.
BFP: Finally; what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
FV: I am a fan of BFP, and appreciate the dedication of the team running the show. It is an excellent platform to see “who is who” and “who is doing what” in our community, what the current trends are, keep track of recent events & publications, etc. (though I am sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of information that is posted!). I also value BFP’s work in the social media domain, and refer as many people to the site as I can. While I contribute regularly through blog postings, I admit that I rarely use the site to connect with my peers.
Thank you to Filippo Veglio for taking the time to do this interview.
Read previous Member of the Week interviews here.