Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How Ieva Kazakeviciute Is Helping To Change Our World
An Interview With Martita Mestey
You don’t always have to perform. I have certainly had days along this journey where there is so much to cope with I don’t know where to start. I have learnt that it’s sometimes best to take a step back, look at a bigger picture, prioritise and move forward at my own comfortable pace.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ieva Kazakeviciute.
Ieva Kazakeviciute, a co-founder of Sustain Academy. The first sustainability and green skills developing platform created for businesses to train and upskill their employees. Ieva is also a sustainability and B-Corp consultant at Sustain Advisory.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town in the suburbs of Lithuania. A lot of my surroundings back then were sustainable by default — growing up with my grandparents with a backyard full of farm animals and a garden always full of fresh fruit and veg, that used to be a norm for most of the kids my age. Additionally I had a mother that had a strong interest and was working within the sustainable beauty sector. My very first face creams or nail polishes had no other option but to be organic and ethically made. 🙂 Because of that, sustainability has always been a topic close to my heart.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
I have spent the last 5 years working within the sustainable businesses sector. The first 3 were spent over in London, where I was working for a boutique consultancy firm helping sustainable FMCG brands enter the market and build sustainable growth strategies. For the last two years together with my business partner Auste we have been building and running Sustain Academy — a holistic sustainability training and mentorship program designed for businesses. We run engaging live online lectures with world’s leading sustainability experts on the key sustainability topics helping organisations develop the knowledge and green skills needed. They have the opportunity to learn from industry peers, engage in conversations with one another as well as speakers and have an opportunity to be mentored by one of the leading experts in sustainability when building a custom sustainability strategy.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Back in 2017 I was volunteering in Madagascar at a marine conservation site together with Blue Ventures. I call that break in Madagascar between changing jobs my turning point where I realised that I certainly want to be working within the field of sustainability. I experienced first hand the damage that was being created due to overconsumption of resources by people and businesses and saw the potential where we could improve the old ways of doing things whether it will be the environmental, social or governance part of sustainability.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
I don’t think there was an “aha moment” as such, however meeting my business partner and now a close friend Auste was certainly a deal breaker. We shared the same passion for this topic and had a matching set of skills. We were both also at the same stages of our careers where we were thinking “what’s next?” and had a burning desire to create solutions for sustainability professionals that we felt were so much needed. I call myself lucky that all those things fell into place and the rest has been just pure focus and work towards the set goals.
Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
Many don’t and we didn’t either. We knew we had an idea that we felt strongly passionate about and we knew the somewhat end point where we wanted to be within the next 6 months, and the rest followed. We researched, we arranged calls with pretty much every single person working within sustainability in Lithuania to truly understand what’s happening within the market, we asked for help, contacts and leads where needed and managed to successfully launch the project in time as planned.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
There isn’t one story that I would be able to exclude, however I’m happy to say that meeting our speakers/lecturers/mentors is certainly one of the most interesting parts of the job. We work with the world’s leading sustainability experts, innovators, leaders that run the world’s largest and most forward thinking organisations. Meeting those people and having the opportunity to work alongside them is a very thrilling part of our job.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
We didn’t have mentors as such, however having built a network of 25+ sustainability experts from the start, we always felt the support needed. Even when things were getting tough and we couldn’t find answers there are always those people we can turn to, that are always happy to help and support us with their expertise. For example, a lot of the high profile connections we made abroad were led by our very first mentors and speakers over here in Lithuania, we’re very grateful for that.
Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
The two main “helpers” in the problem we are trying to solve are politicians and society. Society raises awareness on the current issues and puts active pressure on the businesses. Due to that we see a lot of them actively seeking solutions and ways to implement changes. In the meantime politicians are responsible for introducing regulations that certainly speed up the process of business applications and implementations.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Although a lot of the times when we look at short term sustainable practise implementations, changes in internal processes, innovations and so on, initial investment is often required. However, when we start looking at a bigger picture and long term strategies, organisations see that huge savings can be made. Our main job is to give organistions tools with which they can analyse/audit their current processes, analyse their effectiveness and be able to put a strategic plan into place that would allow them to act with a clear direction and a step by step plan. From the feedback we receive 67% of the organisations that have completed the course have managed to implement cost cutting measures across organisations.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be patient, great things take time. Quickly after starting I realised that we want to create a quality product and we want to do it fast. It took us some time to realise, that some things take time and thorough thought processes to actually be put together.
- Focus. It’s easy to pulled into many different directions and get excited about a number of ideas especially when you’re just getting started. I remember at the beginning we had started a live event series on very niche topics within corporate sustainability. Although we got traction, we quickly realised it is taking us a lot of time to produce quality content, the returns are tiny considering the time we invest and we quickly diverted our efforts to more efficient ways to gain publicity.
- If it doesn’t work, let it go. We have had ideas along the way that we would get so attached to, we would forget our true main purpose. Having a strong business partner and team alongside has certainly helped us to stay on the right track.
- You don’t always have to perform. I have certainly had days along this journey where there is so much to cope with I don’t know where to start. I have learnt that it’s sometimes best to take a step back, look at a bigger picture, prioritise and move forward at my own comfortable pace.
- Have fun along the way. Things can get tough, but it’s crucial to be able to see the fun side of things, laugh at your own mistakes and sometimes remember that a team is a group of people with their own hobbies, interests, pet peeves etc. Embrace that, take things easy and most importantly appreciate one another.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If anyone should feel the pressure to make a difference I believe it should be the young generation, who have the longest left here to stay. 🙂 If there ever is a moment in time where you feel too small to make a difference, remember that no one is too small to make a difference. Big things start with one tiny act of kindness that creates a knock-on effect across your closest circle and then a wider society and that’s how a real impact is made. Don’t be afraid to start!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my all time favourite quotes is “No individual or organisation can do everything, but we all can do something.”. I remember starting to do what we do now and feeling so small, so powerless, the problems seemed too big for us to tackle, yet slowly, step by step we have found the ways that work for us and we’re able to contribute towards a positive change across every organization that comes to learn with us. I’m happy we didn’t hesitate.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
That would certainly be Sylvia Earle, I have been fascinated by her passion for environmentalism and ocean health for years now and would love to get the opportunity to ask questions and discuss what in her opinion the future is holding for us.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How Ieva Kazakeviciute Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.