“I Am Here to Challenge the Status Quo!”

Adriana has put years of research into analysing environmental discourses and how to turn them into policy and action, particularity in the context of her native Bolivia. As part of the CSCP, integrating social and environmental innovation in value chains and strengthening the resilience of local communities are her key focus.

How did sustainability enter your professional life?

My interest in sustainability arose when I was working at the United Nations Development Programme in Bolivia. One of the reports I worked on focused on local endeavours for a type of economy that looked at alternatives to the traditional extraction of primary natural resources in the Bolivian Amazon and lowlands. For the report, I travelled the country and interviewed different stakeholders. Seeing first-hand the impact of sustainable value chains on local and rural development in terms of preserving rural livelihoods and local cultures as well as promoting improved social and environmental conditions made a great impression on me. It inspired me to pursue my master studies in the field of Environment and Sustainable Development and align my professional aspirations tightly to the topic of sustainability. The interconnection between sustainability and local and rural development has been of primary interest for me ever since.

Is this what lead you to the CSCP?

Yes. Working at the CSCP gives me the opportunity to scale up sustainability, take action and develop ideas that challenge taken-for-granted beliefs and understandings. By looking at things holistically and by working collaboratively we create new understandings of the issues at hand. How social and environmental issues are defined and framed determines to a great extent how they will be addressed. What I cherish the most about the CSCP is the intersection between research and implementation. This offers us the chance to develop comprehensive concepts and ideas and then translate them into real action.

What is the most exciting project that you are working on currently?

I am very excited to be working on a circular tourism project in Vietnam. Traveling is enriching, yet the tourism industry takes a significant toll on landscapes, nature and cultural heritage sites. At the same time, it promotes trade, economic development, and creates jobs across different industries. Integrating circularity in the tourism sector has the capacity to generate significant change, even more so in the context of COVID-19. Despite the pandemic having posed enormous risks and challenges to tourism, it also presents with an excellent opportunity to transform and re-define tourism and take steps toward social and environmental innovation. We are trying to capitalise on this momentum and support Vietnam’s tourism sectors to use circular solutions to not just recover from the pandemic but also thrive and become more resilient

How do you think that the work you do contributes toward achieving international sustainability goals?

The TUI Vietnam project promotes the uptake of sustainability and circularity principles throughout all the different industries that are active in the tourism sector. As such, it targets challenges from plastic and marine litter through to food waste and greenhouse gas emission. In another project, the SteamBioAfrica, we are working on the development of sustainable value chains for the commercialisation of a new solid biofuel in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The biofuel is gained from an invasive plant’s biomass using an innovative superheated steam process technology which creates high value, affordable, and secure solid biofuel. In doing so, we are aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create inclusive models that integrate women and youth in the value chains while promoting renewable energy and energy security. Such examples are clearly aligned to and in function of achieving goals set in framework such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the EU Green Deal. 

What are the biggest opportunities you have identified regarding sustainability today?

While sustainability has indeed gained a lot of traction since the debut of the term in the 1980s, I have the feeling that sometimes our notion of sustainability is stuck in time. We should not understand sustainability as a static and one-dimensional concept, but rather as a constantly-evolving and dynamic one. Thus, we should keep challenging the principles of sustainability and question its indicators and frameworks in order to ensure progress.

To close it, what is your favourite sustainable lifestyle habit or hack?

I love giving things a second (or third) life. It makes me happy when I can give new purpose to things that I no longer use or things that other people no longer use or need. Buying second-hand clothes and helping organise flea markets is something I like a lot.

For further question, please contact Dr. Adriana Ballón Ossio directly.