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Coolset’s Future 15: Celebrating fifteen rising stars in sustainability

Written by
Konstantinos Kouzelis
March 26, 2024
min read

As the EU sets the bar high with its climate targets – most recently striving for a 90% reduction in net greenhouse gases (GHG) from 1990 levels by 2040 – companies across the board are feeling the heat to curb their environmental impact. 

Amid this ambitious push toward decarbonization, countless sustainability professionals are doing incredible work for the planet. Yet their stories often go untold. 

At Coolset, we want to change that narrative by shining a light on the emerging sustainability managers working hard behind the scenes. Our goal? To celebrate these pioneers while inspiring the next generation of sustainability talent to tackle the urgent environmental challenges facing us all.

Introducing Coolset’s Future 15

That’s where Coolset’s Future 15 comes in: Our yearly showcase of the brightest minds in sustainability, selected based on their impactful contributions and potential. 

This is the first time we’ve curated this list, and it’s all about giving some well-deserved attention to those putting sustainability on the corporate agendas of their respective companies.

Here’s what we asked

We asked applicants a wide range of questions to evaluate their company’s sustainability progress and the magnitude of their impact.

  • Describe a sustainability project you led or significantly contributed to in the last 12 months.
  • What measurable impact did this project have on environmental, social, or governance (ESG) factors?
  • How do you integrate sustainability into business strategy and operations at your company?
  • What innovative approaches or technologies have you employed in your sustainability efforts?
  • What are the key sustainability challenges your industry faces in the next 5 years?
  • How do you plan to address these challenges?
  • What advice would you give to someone starting their career in sustainability?

How we selected the Future 15

A four-person judging panel carefully evaluated a wide range of factors for each of the shortlisted candidates. These included impact, leadership abilities, and potential for future achievements, among others.

This was crucial to identify the exceptional talent who truly stood out, reflecting the initiative's commitment to celebrating and nurturing the pioneers of the sustainability transition.

Now, without further ado, and in no particular order, let’s introduce you to this year’s rising stars in sustainability, Coolset’s Future 15.

1. Emilie Baliozian

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Emilie Baliozian
  • Role: Sustainability Manager
  • Company: BlaBlaCar
  • Experience: 4 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Paris, France
  • Industry: Software technology
  • Company size: 201-1,000

Creating BlaBlaCar’s first ESG report

Emilie Baliozian is the Sustainability Manager at BlaBlaCar – a world-leading long-distance carpooling platform founded in 2006.

Emilie was instrumental in creating the company’s first-ever Impact Report. “This involved highlighting BlaBlaCar’s ESG impact, collecting and analyzing data across all departments, and setting mission-aligned goals," she explained that this is "a new step for the company towards transparency and accountability."

Boosting sustainability through tech and mentorship

BlaBlaCar’s core mission is to optimize the use of vehicles on the road. To make this more efficient, Emilie shared that the company "uses machine learning to better match drivers and passengers and fill empty seats on the road.”

Beyond focusing on tech, Emilie also founded RISE, an internal mentorship program to accelerate and support women’s growth in the company.

Emilie’s advice: Embrace experience

For those starting their careers in sustainability, Emilie stressed the importance of hands-on learning: "Gain practical experience. Look for internships, volunteer opportunities, or entry-level positions in organizations that are active in sustainability. It's the best way to learn."

2. Apollonia Karampatsou

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Apollonia Karampatsou
  • Role: Sustainability & CSR Manager
  • Company: Mitsis Group
  • Experience: 3 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Athens, Greece
  • Industry: Hospitality & tourism
  • Company size: 2,000-10,000

Empowering local communities

Founded over 45 years ago, Mitsis Group is Greece’s largest privately owned hotel chain with 21 hotels and beach resorts, and 13 spas.

As the Sustainability and CSR manager, Apollonia has had the opportunity to spearhead many high-impact sustainability projects. 

“Last year we launched a project to donate defibrillators to every public school on the islands of Kos and Tilos,” she explained. The results of this initiative have been profound with a defibrillator already saving a student’s life at a school in Kos.

Tech-driven sustainability and efficiency

Under Appollonia’s guidance, Mitsis Group uses a wide range of strategies to meet and exceed its sustainability goals. Efforts include adopting renewable energy, implementing smart building technologies, promoting water conservation and waste reduction, sourcing sustainably, digitizing operations, and providing eco-friendly guest experiences.

Apollonia’s advice: Focus on continuous growth

Apollonia urges those entering the sustainability field to prioritize their personal development. "Focus on continuous learning about sustainability practices and trends. Network within the industry, understand local and global challenges and apply innovative solutions. Embrace collaboration, adaptability, and a commitment to making a positive impact. Align your values with your work and seek opportunities that drive meaningful change."

3. Pavan Jha

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Pavan Jha
  • Role: Sustainability Manager (Environment)
  • Company: Hettich Group
  • Experience: 9+ years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Kirchlengern, Germany
  • Industry: Manufacturing & production
  • Company size: 2,000-10,000

On a mission to Net Zero

Founded in 1888, Hettich Group is a family-owned business and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of furniture fittings.

Hettich Group has a rich heritage passed on from generations and Sustainability is a core part of their strategy. Hettich would like to innovate for a better tomorrow - meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations. As Hettich Group’s Sustainability Manager (Environment), Pavan and his colleagues in the sustainability network at Hettich, with support from the leadership, have set ambitious climate neutral targets in operations – and the team has already started seeing results. As Pavan explained: “Continuous efforts from the team have resulted in a significant reduction in operational emissions (reduced by over 40%) compared with our baseline year. More information can be found in the Hettich Sustainability Report.”

Navigating decarbonization

When it comes to using technology to enhance sustainability, Pavan shared that Hettich Group relies on various renewable energy, electrification and energy efficiency technologies to achieve company targets.

While Pavan sees decarbonizing with increasing costs and regulatory landscapes as a challenge, he plans to tackle this by “identifying low-cost and sustainable solutions, and streamlining reporting.”

Pavan’s advice: Focus on the metrics

For those new to sustainability, Pavan believes understanding sustainability metrics is key to driving change. “Understand the sustainability metrics and where the biggest levers for change are.”

4. Allende Irazola

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Allende Irazola
  • Role: Head of ESG & Sustainability
  • Company: Paack
  • Experience: 3 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Barcelona, Spain
  • Industry: Transportation & logistics
  • Company size: 201-1,000

Customized parcel tracking to cut emissions

Paack is a leading business courier and parcel delivery service with an impressive 98.5% delivery precision. As Head of ESG and Sustainability, Allende is responsible for figuring out Paack’s carbon footprint – a tough feat for a company with over 3,000 professional drivers across more than 60 cities.

To tackle this, Allende led “...the development of a customized emissions data model tailored to Paack’s needs and externally verified by a Big4 firm. This model provides detailed reporting granularity on a daily basis, enabling Paack to communicate the footprint per parcel as soon as the delivery is complete and enables monthly carbon footprint tracking, resulting in a 26% decrease in one year."

Smarter routes and sustainable packaging

When it comes to strategies and technologies used to boost sustainability, Allende said "We included the emissions criteria in our routing algorithms, reducing the emissions per delivery round by 8%. We also replaced single-use carton boxes in our operations with innovative roller cages that fit in trucks, decreasing the use of carton by 98%."

Allende’s advice: Understand, stay informed, and collaborate

For those new to the world of sustainability, Allende recommends: "Gain a deep understanding of the sustainability challenges and opportunities in the industry and location where the job is based. Also, stay informed of the trends and best practices to accelerate the transition into a model with a lower environmental footprint. 

Lastly, it’s important to be part of a diverse network of professionals as collaboration is essential."

5. Therese Wesström

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Therese Wesström
  • Role: Sustainability Manager
  • Company: Oriflame Cosmetics
  • Experience: 9 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Schaffhausen, Switzerland
  • Industry: Manufacturing & production
  • Company size: 2,000-10,000

Driving climate targets forward

From a climate consultant at South Pole to working with FIFA to estimate the climate impact of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Therese has always focused her career on reducing environmental impact.

More recently as Sustainability Manager at Oriflame Cosmetics – a beauty product company founded in 1947 – Therese’s focus has remained the same: driving the company’s climate targets forward. 

As she explained: “I developed our current science-based targets and got them approved by SBTi. In 2023, I also worked on updating our renewable energy portfolio to achieve 100% renewable electricity worldwide.”

Powering peace

When revising Oriflame Cosmetics’ renewable energy portfolio, Therese explained: “We decided to invest in a new kind of renewable energy credit which not only reduces fossil fuel dependency but also has a social impact and contributes to peacebuilding in vulnerable communities."

Therese’s advice: Prioritize impact

For those just starting out their careers in sustainability, Therese suggests: "Focus your time on projects that can make the largest impacts. But remember to cater for your inner sustainability too."

6. Sybren Idzerda

Profile at a glance:

  • Full name: Sybren Idzerda
  • Role: Technical Manager Product Sustainability
  • Company: Swisspearl Group AG
  • Experience: 2 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Niederurnen, Switzerland
  • Industry: Construction & real estate
  • Company size: 1,001-2,000

Identifying emission hotspots

Founded in 1894, Swisspearl is a family-owned fiber-cement company based in Switzerland.

As Technical Manager of Product Sustainability, Sybren has been responsible for the tough job of calculating the environmental footprint of fiber-cement products. He decided to undertake life cycle assessments (LCA) to work towards more sustainable processes.

“This enables us to identify 'hotspots' in our products and can therefore help in considering where we have the most potential to improve our footprint. It also allows us to create Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in-house," he explained.

‘Design for Disassembly’

To support their goal of improving 'Design for Disassembly' of their products, Sybren recently implemented an innovative piece of technology:

“This is a fiber-cement board that uses a tongue and groove system to attach boards. It reduces the energy and time needed for assembly/disassembly and facilitates the recycling of the boards."

Sybren’s advice: Stay in the know

Since starting his sustainability career two years ago, Sybren’s key takeaway is that the field is rapidly evolving. “It's crucial to stay informed about current happenings and consider how new initiatives could be applicable in your own organization as many could become mainstream in the near future."

7. Gabriele Pilger

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Gabriele Pilger
  • Role: Senior Manager Sustainability Direction
  • Company: adidas
  • Experience: 7 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Herzogenaurach, Germany
  • Industry: Sports and recreation
  • Company size: 10,000+

Deforestation-free supply chains

Producing 756 million pieces of apparel, footwear, accessories, and gear in 2023 alone, adidas is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe.

As Senior Manager of Sustainability Direction, Gabriele developed and led the Biodiversity strategy for adidas across different value chains, tackling possible deforestation as the first step.

“Under my leadership, adidas signed commitments towards deforestation-free supply chains for bovine leather and timber-related materials. In addition, the inclusion of biodiversity criteria to steer materials' strategy and the mapping of supply chains beyond Tier 3 for some of the commodities associated with deforestation risks."

Cross-industry collaboration

Gabriele is a big believer in the power of cross-industrial collaboration with the food industry to boost transparency in supply chains such as bovine leather. “This strengthens and creates new partnerships among different stakeholders,” Gabriele explained.

Gabriele’s advice: Get creative

For those looking to build a career in sustainability, Gabriele recommends: "Be creative and curious to find innovative solutions to overcome the diversity of challenges in sustainability. Learn how to communicate with different audiences because sustainability requires collaboration."

8. Ana Paz

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Ana Paz
  • Role: Sustainability Reporting Manager
  • Company: Telia Company
  • Experience: 3 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Stockholm, Sweden
  • Industry: Information technology and software
  • Company size: 10,000+

Preparing for a new era of sustainability reporting

Serving 25 million customers across the Nordic and Baltic regions, Telia Company is a leading telecommunications company with over 170 years of experience.

As Sustainability Reporting Manager, Ana led the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) implementation program for the company – a new European regulation requiring companies to report on their non-financial sustainability information. As Ana explained:

“This project is made up of smaller projects which include the development of the company's double materiality assessment, a gap assessment in comparison to CSRD, as well as supporting in the closure of gaps. My role has been to define and coordinate an approach to integrate CSRD in collaboration with various stakeholders across the company."

Ana’s advice: Stay attentive and speak up

How to build a career in sustainability? Ana’s advice is to "Keep your ears open to hear and understand your stakeholders, use your voice to educate and integrate and keep your head high so you can see the goals you are to meet. It’s an empowering and sometimes challenging journey to take, but it is also the right time."

9. Iacopo Russo

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Iacopo Russo
  • Role: Global Sustainability Senior Manager
  • Company: Emerson
  • Experience: 2 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: St Louis, Missouri, USA
  • Industry: Manufacturing & production
  • Company size: 10,000+

Turning global targets into local action

With more than 130 years of history, Emerson has grown from a manufacturer of electric motors and fans to a global technology solutions powerhouse.

As Global Sustainability Senior Manager, last year Iacopo launched Emerson's Global Green Teams Network – 120 “green teams” around the world working to turn Emerson’s global sustainability targets into local action. As Iacopo explained:

“I established and now lead a Green Teams Council to share best practices and engage employees on projects that impact our Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions as well as waste management. 

For Earth Day, I led a campaign that engaged over 4,200 Emerson employees in 59 countries to participate in a month-long online competition called Ecochallenge to implement more sustainable behaviors.”

Driving sustainable investments

Iacopo shared many innovative approaches he introduced to enhance sustainability. For instance, implementing an internal carbon pricing policy and improving the design of Emerson’s products and packaging.

“We regularly collaborate with academic partners such as the University of Cambridge to design and implement decarbonization roadmaps, including better measurement and estimation of emissions, and modeling of future emissions. We have also improved the sustainable design of our products and packaging,” Iacopo explained. 

Iacopo’s advice: Simplify challenges

For those new to sustainability, Iacopo believes learning the science behind climate change, emissions, and nature change is a crucial first step. “Focus on winning hearts and minds, and learn how to simplify complex problems into actionable tasks. Be pragmatic but don't forget your ideals.”

10. Taline Dekermenjian

Profile at a glance:

  • Full name: Taline Dekermenjian
  • Role: Global Sustainability Program Manager
  • Company: Bekaert
  • Experience: 5 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Zwevegem, Belgium
  • Industry: Manufacturing & production
  • Company size: 10,000+

Prioritizing energy efficiency

Founded in Belgium in 1880, Bekaert is a technology leader in steel wire transformation and coating operating in 45 countries. As Global Sustainability Program Manager, Taline has been leading Bekaert’s global energy efficiency program – one of the key levers set to reduce the company’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions worldwide. 

As Taline explained: “Since 2021, we've implemented transformation waves in 16 of our plants; through which we've identified, so far, energy savings potential of approximately 11% by 2030 (vs. Bekaert's 2019 baseline)."

By the end of 2022, Bekaert had achieved a -7.8% decrease in Scope 1 & 2 GHG emissions, compared to 2019. For more in-depth information, refer to Bekaert's Integrated Annual Report 2022. The company has also trained over 10,000 employees worldwide on the importance of sustainability.

Tech-driven innovation

Alongside Taline's spearheading of Bekaert's global energy efficiency program, the company also has an in-house team focused on implementing renewables on-site, such as solar PV systems and wind turbines. Additionally, the company is also working to upgrade its production equipment to improve energy efficiency.

“Our in-house engineers and experts are always exploring ways towards more innovative operations such as electrification wherever viable, digitalization and automation, modification of certain processes to eliminate process steps that would ultimately reduce energy consumption or that would eliminate hazardous materials."

Taline’s advice: Sustainability is a way of living

Taline believes sustainability is not just a career choice but rather a way of living. “It's best to keep focused on the end goal and keep in mind that every action, regardless of how small, makes an impact, and together, all these actions would ultimately foster positive change."

11. Jenny Lagergren

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Jenny Lagergren
  • Role: Sustainability Manager
  • Company: Estrella AB
  • Experience: 5 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Industry: Food & beverage services
  • Company size: 201-1,000

Local purpose-driven partnerships

Owned by the Intersnack Group, Estrella AB has been making beloved popcorn, chips, and salted snacks since 1957. As Estrella's Sustainability Manager, building partner collaborations is an important part of Jenny’s role and the company’s social responsibility. 

“In 2024, Estrella was the official partner to the Gothia Cup: the world's largest football cup for young people with participants from all corners of the world,” shared Jenny. Together, they selected Equaity as the sustainability goal and focus of the collaboration. 

Jenny shared insights from a survey among participants: “73% of players shared they have at some point thought about quitting football, but 100% of respondents answered they will continue to play in the coming years. Many have also developed as players with 89% sharing that the Gothia Cup influenced their view of sport.”

The power of collaboration

Jenny believes in the power of collaboration to spark social innovation, technological advancements, and industrial symbiosis to lower the company’s climate impact. 

“As a company and as a business, we are in the middle of a long chain of impacts, and we are never stronger than the weakest link! We are part of the food production of the future, where I see a mix of food-tech and back-to-basics. We need to dare to test new innovative ingredients and flavors,” she explained.

Jenny’s advice: Sustainability work is teamwork, not a solo job

For those new to sustainability, Jenny said: “You’re the one holding the baton, and like an orchestra, you cannot do everything yourself.

"You don't need to know everything, but you need to have a genuine desire to do it better. But you also need to be an optimist and believe that things can get better. Be creative and enlist the help of others, build an internal and external network to expand your mandate, and build trust by believing in others' ability and willingness to change.” 

12. Pierre Jacquet

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Pierre Jacquet
  • Role: Group Sustainability Manager
  • Company: Avril
  • Experience: 9+ years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Paris, France
  • Industry: Food & beverage services
  • Company size: 2,000-10,000

Driving responsible investments

Established in 1983, Avril is an agri-food company operating in 19 countries. As the Group’s Sustainability Manager, Pierre has witnessed first-hand how internal carbon pricing has helped the company’s sustainability focus. 

“By including carbon costs in our spending decisions, we've been able to make smarter investments with less environmental impact. We've also doubled the carbon price to €100/tCO2e, demonstrating our strong dedication to fighting climate change,” he explained.

Green upskilling

Innovation in sustainability at Avril goes beyond just financial decisions, it also extends into employee development. Pierre highlighted the importance of their WeSustain courses in empowering their team.

“We invest in training to cultivate a cadre of sustainability champions within our company. By equipping employees with the necessary skills and knowledge, we foster a culture of ownership and engagement, ensuring sustainability is integrated into every facet of our operations," Pierre explained.

Pierre’s advice: Never lose sight of the bigger picture

For those in the early stages of their sustainability careers, Pierre urges you to "Remember, our work serves a larger purpose for society and humanity. Stay passionate, curious, and committed to driving positive change."

13. Caroline Calmels

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Caroline Calmels
  • Role: Sustainability Market Manager
  • Company: Saint-Gobain
  • Experience: 8 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Paris, France
  • Industry: Manufacturing & production
  • Company size: 10,000+

On the road to sustainability

With a legacy dating back to 1665, Saint-Gobain is at the forefront of designing, manufacturing, and distributing materials and solutions for the construction and industrial sectors.

As the Sustainability Market Manager, Caroline is working hard to develop the company's sustainability strategy. "I structured the sustainability roadmap for the business, and I'm coordinating its different pillars and actions. This includes fostering a culture of sustainability, minimizing the environmental impact of our plants, and eco-innovation. 

The project is aligned with our commitment to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions, as validated by SBTi, and focuses on water stewardship, resource management, and life cycle assessment,” she explained. 

Driving action on environmental challenges 

When it comes to embedding sustainability throughout the company, Caroline believes driving awareness through training is key. She also reminds companies not to underestimate how keen the workforce is to get involved in sustainability initiatives.

For organizations looking to develop their own sustainability roadmap, Caroline recommends performing a “Sustainability SWOT in order to position your business according to market maturity and your maturity on sustainability.”

Caroline’s advice: Start

For those starting their career in sustainability, Caroline’s advice is simple yet profound: "Start small but start!"

14. Hisako Nakajima

Profile at a glance

  • Full name: Hisako Nakajima
  • Role: Sustainability Manager
  • Company: Telefónica, S.A.
  • Experience: 2 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Madrid, Spain
  • Industry: Information technology & software
  • Company size: 10,000+

Boosting ESG ratings

Founded in 1924, Telefónica is one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, with over 100,000 employees.

As Sustainability Manager, one of the key projects Hisako has been involved in is improving Telefónica’s ESG ratings to attract more investment. 

“In the last year, we’ve improved our score across all the most relevant ESG ratings and rankings. This has involved improving our sustainability practices across the operating businesses (countries), as well as how we construct our equity story and the narrative behind our ever-improving sustainability performance," explained Hisako.

Leveraging AI to identify reporting gaps

When it comes to using tech to drive sustainability, Hisako shared:

"We work with third parties who employ technologies like artificial intelligence to identify key gaps in our reporting or narrative as per ESG analysts’ requirements. We also prioritize which analysts to focus on, according to their perceived relevance for our target audience (i.e., investors)."

Hisako’s advice: Sustainability is a tool for better business

Besides the urgent environmental imperative, Hisako reminds those new to sustainability that "Sustainability is always evolving, but at its core, it’s a tool to help run businesses better."

15. Oscar Jonsson

Profile at a glance:

  • Full name: Oscar Jonsson
  • Role: Sustainability Manager
  • Company: Novier Real Estate AB
  • Experience: 5 years in sustainability
  • HQ location: Stockholm, Sweden
  • Industry: Construction & real estate
  • Company size: 51-200+

Energy-efficient Real Estate

With a team of over 360 Real Estate Advisors, Novier is a leading Swedish real estate firm with expertise in transactions, valuations, leasing, development, and management. 

As the company’s Sustainability Manager, Oscar is dedicated to steering Novier Real Estate toward greater environmental stewardship.

“I led a project to enhance Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) in our real estate. Through energy audits, we upgraded lighting and HVAC systems, implementing smart technologies for real-time energy optimization.” The outcome? “Improved EPC ratings, reduced operational costs, and a lowered carbon footprint," he explained.

The integration of AI-driven monitoring

Oscar is a big believer in AI-driven monitoring solutions to make data-informed decisions – and he shared some inspiring initiatives.

“IoT-enabled smart building systems heighten our resource efficiency. Energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems and insulation significantly reduce our carbon footprint. 

Incorporating renewable energy sources like solar power, guided by AI insights, minimizes our reliance on traditional grids. Data analytics and machine learning inform targeted improvements and waste reduction programs adhere to circular economy principles.”

Oscar’s advice: Stay curious

When starting out in sustainability, Oscar recommends staying curious, learning continuously, and gaining hands-on experience. 

“Embrace different perspectives, build a strong network, and speak up for positive change. Be adaptable, aim for real impact, value diverse global views, and let curiosity be a key strength for a sustainable future."

Help us spotlight the next rising stars in sustainability

Know a sustainability manager making a meaningful impact who didn’t make the list? We want to hear from you! Make sure to reach out so we can consider them for next year’s list of nominees.

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