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Women in Innovation: Caterina Sullivan

Woman in Innovation: Caterina Sullivan
"You can't create a Fortune 500 company on an uninhabitable planet!"

Each Wednesday we interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries everyday!

What are you working on?
I run a consultancy which assists businesses in understanding what economic, social and environmental sustainability means for their organisation. We do this by using the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development as a guiding framework. The key aspects we work with businesses on are identifying core organisational values, working with team members, marketing sustainability to stakeholders, taking a sustainability snapshot, creating measurable and achievable goals, implementing these goals and reporting back on progress. We work with established businesses, start-ups, government departments and local government. My personal passion is in small business.

Why is innovation important to you?
I first started working in sustainability through working with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. In order to secure the sustainability of our economy, our society and our environment, we need a business as ‘un-usual’ approach. It is through innovation that we will solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. Already, there are apps making communities safer, businesses more environmentally-friendly and schools more accessible. It’s exciting to think of what possibilities innovation can bring in the future to achieve the 17 goals and their associated 169 targets in order to end poverty, fight inequality and fix climate change.

What drives you to make a difference?
I have wanted to be involved in my line of work ever since I can remember. It has been a passion of mine since a very young age. What continues to drive me are my nephews and wanting to be a mother one day – I want to leave this world more peaceful, more prosperous and more sustainable for my children and future generations to come. It also just makes really good business sense. You can’t create a Fortune 500 company on an uninhabitable planet!

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?
I really think it all stems from the way our education system is set-up. When I was at school, Technology & Enterprise (or T&E as we called it) was not taught in the exciting manner in which it deserves to be taught! I think the school system is already addressing this from what I see and hear from friends and family. The second issue is still ongoing in many schools – and that is the fact we are teaching in boxes. We are not letting children’s passions come to the forefront of their schooling. We are not challenging children enough to solve some of the issues facing us. As well as running Strategic Sustainability Consultants, I run a business called GNX Leaders which provides workshops and training to young people around creating change. In visiting schools, I have noticed that it is always the girls who have the most well thought-out, best articulated and most logical ideas. It is the girls who are coming up with the solutions! We just need to encourage this style of learning more. Women are problem-solvers, and the rote-learning system, which many schools still use from the time of the Industrial Revolution, doesn’t foster creativity and accomodate solution-driven outcomes.

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