Annabelle Fernandez, BSC Associate

Current degree program: Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, 2017
Hometown: Greenville, NC
Previous degree(s) & institutions: BS Business Administration and Economics (double major), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Previous work experience: Sales and marketing management roles at IBM/Lenovo and LANDesk, Admissions at Duke University
Areas of Interest in Sustainability: Demographic Sustainability, Life-long Learning

Why is sustainability important to you? Why do you think it should be important to other students?

I think “sustainability” can mean something different for each of us.  With that said, sustainability matters to me because each one of us shares a place, a part in this world. I believe it is vital to figure out ways to live with and amongst each other on a local and global level without exhausting the world’s natural resources (environmental, energy), to find the best approaches to care for the human community and the animal population (global population, sustainable business, climate change), and to be kind to one another. As students, as people, we can begin to be impactful now, and continue doing so after graduation, by deciding what is important to us and by making our voices heard in a way that is appropriate for each of us. Whether it is to join a sustainability organization, write our congressman about our support for the environment, or just to recycle, we can all make a difference and improve our lives and others.

What first sparked your interest in sustainability? What made you realize that you wanted to incorporate sustainability into your education and future career?

I recycle. I drive a car that gets 30+ MPG. I buy locally-made goods and locally-grown food as much as possible. A few years ago, I participated in a ecological footprint test and I realized that I could do more – more for the environment and our community. Some of the steps to improve seem so simple: take shorter showers, buy local, unplug electronics when not in use, dry clothes by hanging when possible, replace appliances with more efficient ones as needed, plant a garden, etc. Then, after taking the Global Sustainability Human Development class, my eyes opened up to what is happening in the rest of world. Consider that close to 90% of the world lives in emerging or under-developed markets, and over half the world’s population is below the age of 30. Yet, in developed countries, we have an aging population. I think of the implications to the population of the workforce, healthcare, labor-force trends (skills, training), technology, the environment, and even migrations of people.

What sustainability challenge would you most like to solve?

Demographic sustainability. While many countries are experiencing exponential population growth, there are other countries with alarmingly low birth rates, below what is required to sustain the population or replacement level. I would like to understand the causes and help to support practices and policies that will improve one or both ends of this spectrum. 

What is your dream career, and how would you like to make sustainability a part of your day-to-day work?

I’m interested in studying the adult population, understanding their process of life-long learning and the intersections with sustainability. My dream job is to be a resource for working professionals, to help them progress in their career and educate them in sustainability. 

What leader(s) do you admire for their commitment to improving sustainability or championing positive change?

One leading company comes to mind.  I would like to recognize Patagonia, a leading benefit corporation (B Corp), as a company that practices social and environmental responsibility. Patagonia believes in corporate responsibility and commits to fair, safe labor practices and human rights standards. They got their start as a small apparel company focused on climbers. With the company’s connection to nature, Patagonia participates in efforts to protect the environment by volunteering time and services, as well as 1% of their sales, to environmental groups. The business major in me likes that their mission statement states, “….use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”  I am excited that the CEO & president of Patagonia, Rose Marcario, is scheduled to speak at Duke’s annual Sustainable Business & Social Impact (SBSI) conference at Duke University on February 24th

What’s your advice for fellow students who might be interested in sustainability, but don’t know where to start?

I would advise students to invest their time and effort by taking one sustainability class. It is worth it!  There are classes that focus on sustainability in the Poole College of Management, the School of Engineering, and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  However, if you can’t fit one more class into your already busy schedule, then I would recommend getting involved on campus or with a local organization.  You can participate in a student organization – for example, Net Impact. 

There is also the NC State Sustainability Council, which is charged with the mission to advance sustainability at the university. The council is looking for interested students to join. Additionally, you can read several books on sustainability.  One book I am currently reading, The B Corp Handbook by Ryan Honeyman, shows how using business as a force for good can be better for consumers, employees, local communities and the environment. It’s a great read so far.

Finally, you can sign up and attend one of the many events hosted by either one of the universities or sustainable-minded organizations.  Check out the events on websites such as the Business Sustainability Collaborative (BSC) and NC State Office of Sustainability.  Open your mind, learn more and engage with your fellow students, faculty, staff, and your local community. To quote a slogan from the BSC, “B the Change”.

Business Sustainability Collaborative Library: