Maarten Jan Sluimers. Sustainability Manager. ING DIRECT Canada

Maarten’s story shows us how a leap of faith can change the course of your career. With a passion for the planet from a very young age, it’s no surprise that Maarten ended up in sustainability, what may surprise you is how he got there.  He is the quintessential intrapraneur, a visionary who affected change within his own organization, spearheading ING DIRECT’s sustainability program in Canada. Maarten’s story not only inspires, but also reminds us that one person CAN make a difference. 

Can you describe your job in a nutshell?
I’m the sustainability manager at ING DIRECT Canada. My job is to ensure the principles of sustainability are understood and embraced in business. In practice: how to ensure the good things we do support our business strategy.

How did you get your current job?
It’s a funny story as I essentially pitched my own job. I am from the Netherlands where I was working as a sustainability consultant advising governments. In 2009, I decided I wanted to live and work abroad and quit my job and moved to Vancouver. I took a job at one of ING DIRECT’s Cafés, just to get my foot in the door. This job turned into a fantastic opportunity as I got to work on developing a local sustainability strategy. At the time, sustainability was not being strategized on at ING.

To move the plan forward I made sure to talk with every executive that came to visit Vancouver (from Toronto HQ) about sustainability ideas. One time the CEO was visiting from Toronto and as I was making coffee one morning so was he, and he said “Hey, I’m Peter, I heard I need to talk to you, why is that?”. So I told him what I was working on and how sustainability should be leveraged more at ING and he said I agree, “what do you propose we do?” Three months later I flew to Toronto to present my plan and in April 2011 I moved to Toronto to start focusing on sustainability for the entire business.

How did your past life and work experiences help get to where you are today?
I have a Bachelors in Communication Management and Public Affairs and a postgraduate in European Public Affairs. I worked as a climate and energy consultant in the Netherlands, specifically focusing on local climate mitigation strategies. Working with multiple stakeholders, we also helped execute policies. Prior to that, I worked for a marketing firm focused on sustainable product innovations and smaller think tanks about sustainability. Really, I wanted to do good things for the planet since I was 5, even before I knew the word ‘sustainability’ existed, and I’ve kept that passion through all those years.

What advice would you give someone looking to get a career in CSR?
Have lots of coffee. I’ve never gotten a job by sending in application cold, always through networking as well.

Don’t just send an application letter to a job posting. Call up someone who’s been on the team, explain that you are passionate about the field and ask them if they have time for some questions about their job from an aspiring young professional. If that conversation goes well, and you ask good questions than you just may have a leg up.

What skills do you think are important to have a job in CSR?
1. Be social. CSR is not always a really established division in every company so you may need to rely on personal relationships to get things done.

2. Be a visible leader. CSR is sometimes about rallying the troops. It’s not a mainstream topic yet at a lot of companies, so they will be looking to you to lead.

3. Be a generalist (in terms of CSR/Sustainability). It’s an issue across the organization affecting IT, HR, Marketing, Legal and more.

What trend are you seeing that will impact your sector in the next 5 years?
1. The rise of energy costs will change the way people source energy, directly affecting sustainability efforts.
2. By 2050 there will be 9 billion people on this planet and an unprecedented amount of wealth. How on earth will we be able to manage with our current resources? Sustainability is not going away.

If you could have one super hero power that would help you do your job better what would it be and why?
Mind Control. It’s so frustrating to see misalignment between business and government. It would be awesome to be able to use mind control and help set a proper framework for dealing with sustainability issues, without any knee jerk responses.



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