Catherine Chen, a Consultant in ERM’s Liability Portfolio Management and Remediation team, has been involved with her local office’s sustainability promotional events since she joined ERM three years ago. Here she discusses her involvement in this year’s Plastic Free July event where she’s based in the Japan office.  

I have been a member of our home sustainability network since day one, when I started my role as the sole data coordinator for the biannual greenhouse gas emission reporting in my local office. The sustainability network has representatives across ERM’s locations at all levels of the business and helps to embed sustainability across the organization through initiatives like Earth Day, Coastal Clean-up and Global Goals Week. As our office has grown, more colleagues have joined the local network, supporting data collection tasks and bringing in new ideas for sustainability promotional events in the local area – it’s fascinating to expand our capabilities in different aspects of our network. 

Colleagues at ERM across the globe were encouraged to partake in Plastic Free July, but in our local office we wanted to run our own activities. There has always been a challenge for Japan to go plastic free, so for Plastic Free July we wanted to make something that could both intrigue and be achievable for people to try to live with fewer plastics. One of our colleagues in the sustainability network suggested a bingo game where people taking part could choose freely how they wanted to challenge themselves. So, we came up with some different ideas that could easily managed as part of day-to-day life such as using your own shopping bags and coffee cups, and some more challenging ones such as using soap and shampoo bars. 

It was not easy to get people involved in an online, one-month-long event, however, nearly a quarter of staff participated, and we received plenty of positive feedback from our people. Many of our colleagues reflected that the bingo activity acted as an invitation to try something they had never considered previously, such as buying soap bars, using portable bottles, etc. This was really rewarding for me to see our people taking their own first step towards reducing their plastic use.  

I have been involved with several sustainable events before, volunteering as an auditor of the Green Impact Programme at my university and joining local beach cleaning events in Japan, but ERM elevates these actions to a global scale. I believe that we have taken enough from this materialized world, and there should be a limit to our own desire. Through activities like these, I feel that I am responsible of what I consume and can influence those around me. Being a global corporation allows us to take initiatives that start as local events and, by doing this collectively, make more of a difference at a larger scale.  

Joining the sustainability network is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues from other teams and offices, even if overseas and specialized in different ERM services. For new joiners especially, it’s a great way to connect with new people. I can always find like-minded people, regardless of the office location, that share the same passion. We are all connected by a mutual value, so whether it’s an in-person conversation or a virtual interaction, I’ve always felt welcomed and supported to use my voice, which makes me feel even more connected to the wider sustainability network and the business.  

ERM has created an environment which makes me feel supported in developing and being involved in activities like this. Paul Blagbrough, our Sustainability Chief Advisor, especially has been keen for us to organize events and activities such as those we took part in for Plastic Free July. Seeing the potential and promise based off the engagement with these activities further drives me to keep this momentum going. We are planning more activities in our office as the post-pandemic situation eases further, and I am looking forward to doing something meaningful in person with my colleagues again.

Catherine Chen is a Consultant in the Liability Portfolio Management and Remediation team, based in Japan. As part of her role, she specializes in GIS analysis, environmental data analysis and site investigation, environmental auditing, circular economy strategy, and environmental monitoring.