SP Emerging Professional Spotlight: Sho Ishimaru

Suppliers Partnership for the Environment’s Emerging Professionals Work Group (SP EP) members are working to cultivate their current work environments into sustainable and inclusive communities, adopting the mindset of ‘No action is too small’, while promoting sustainability in all business operations.

Our new Suppliers Partnership for the Environment (SP) Emerging Professional spotlight series is intended to highlight the voices of individual emerging professionals within the SP community that are driving initiatives to promote sustainability within their companies, and beyond. In our second edition of this new series, we are pleased to welcome SP member Sho Ishimaru with FIC America in South Elgin, Illinois, who will be moving to a new role with Kester Inc. later this month.

What inspired you to work on sustainability? What is your favorite part of your current role?

For me, the topic “sustainability” wasn’t so much a highlighted topic throughout most of my life. It was just not something to think about but a common societal act. It was more surprising as a child to see that it wasn’t part of everyone’s lives. I thought to myself “What do you mean you don’t separate your waste in 7 different ways? How bizarre!”  This so-called “common sense” stuck with me even into my professional career. I’ve already understood that staying sustainable as an individual and as an organization is essential. I recently had this conversation with my brother about childhood imprinting and how it is so real. This is why it is so important to create a culture where sustainability isn’t a focus topic but a passive daily activity. On a more recent note, when I was in Japan last year, I was scolded by an elderly because of my western habits…How ironic.

With that said, my favorite part of the current role is how relevant I/We are to world events and how diverse environmental can be. I mean we can talk to any individual about the environment and most of the time you can have a conversation about it! I especially love how every generation has a different take on the environment from kids to experts.

What is one sustainability project you have been involved in that you are most proud of or learned the most from?

One of the projects that I learned the most from was the creation and the restructuring of ISO14001 at my company. This was a continual effort for about 2 years and a pet project for the final 6 months up until the external audit.  ISO14001 is a management system that, if used effectively, can act as a backbone for your environmental activities at a facility and is an integral part of the forward movement towards a sustainable future

As a part of the system, ISO14001 requires you to assess a company’s aspects and impacts which challenges the full knowledge of an environmental individual at a workplace. Completion of this task took several meetings with every leadership to understand what their job process was and to relate it to how the process was going to positively or negatively impact the environment. After you have a rough list, it was my responsibility to check each and every one to see the impacts the aspect had on the environment. Without a doubt, this process was the most painfully educational part of my career. This was the moment I can truly say that I contributed to the grinding start of FIC America’s efforts towards sustainability.

What have your favorite campaigns been on Drive (SP EP’s digital sustainability engagement platform) and what actions are you taking to support those campaigns?

Unfortunately, I can’t say there has been much progress yet on Drive for my sections. Although many of our current projects could potentially be a part of Drive, these projects take at least a year to show any sort of real sustainable results.  Some of the projects here that could be a part of Drive in the future are energy shutdown events, streamlining the waste and finding a sustainable home for them, and looking into potential reuse of non-virgin chemicals. So there are a lot of exciting projects ahead of us, but it’s just not quite yet ready.

What sustainability trends / innovations are you most excited about right now? What industry environmental sustainability initiatives are you most interested in exploring next?

It’s going to be an interesting decade for sustainability! From the roaring fires of Australia to the pandemic caused by the Novel Coronavirus, the world was forced to adapt to the sudden changes for the safety and the sustainability of a business.

One thing that drew my attention is how quickly environmental events (natural or provoked) can take over the day to day lives of people. It’s amazing how one speech, one sentence, one word from world leaders can dramatically impact the direction the nation takes.

We really should take advantage of the potential that was brought on by the current circumstances which shook the foundation of businesses. Now the question is, what can I, as an individual, do to contribute and be a part of current history.

It is truly an interesting time to be alive.

What advice would you have for other emerging professionals seeking to promote sustainability initiatives within their company?

Be persistent and patient. When your project gets rejected (trust me, it will), don’t feel personally attacked but really try to grasp both sides of the story. For me, I am lucky if 1 out of 10 project proposals turns into real projects.

Remember that any environmental project has three pillars.

  1. Economical – Any projects have to make business sense! Just because it will be better for the environment will not cut it! Find a way to motivate them. Make sure when you are presenting, you are honest about how this project will benefit the company. Hard numbers go far!
  2. Environmental – This is YOU! Bring the passion and environmental knowledge on why you want to do this project. Remember the future of humanity depends on how well we protect our ecosystem, and live a sustainable life. 
  3. Social – People’s commitment will make or break the project! If you don’t involve people, that will be the limit of your projects. Without relevant motivators, people inherently will not get involved. Effective communication is key to your success!

Finally, don’t give up! Keep a record of your proposals, if you are thinking ahead, your project will come back onto the table.

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