By Quentin Frécon, CEO, Schoolab Asia –
Innovation studio Schoolab Asia is sharing the voices of its stakeholders on sustainability, partnerships and impact in Vietnam on the Sustainable Vietnam platform. First up is CEO Quentin Frécon who tells his personal stories on how he got working on these topics and his vision on leveraging innovation in tackling the big sustainability issues of today and tomorrow.
Sustainability is a vast world that I continually learn to embrace from my youngest age to my professional experiences today.
My name is Quentin Frécon, I am the CEO of Schoolab Asia, an innovation studio where we support organizations in launching new products and services while promoting sustainability through innovation and design thinking.
When I arrived in Vietnam about 2 years ago, my first impressions were mixed…
How can such beautiful landscapes be so polluted by plastics, cans and trash?
6-Year Old Waste-Management Coordinator
But before I continue about my journey today. Let me bring to you different impacts that have contributed to my working on innovation and sustainability.
To begin, I grew up in France and come from a big family with 3 amazing sisters and parents that taught us the importance of waste management, avoiding food waste and sourcing local food.
To support with household chores, I was assigned a job and a title as a 6-year old – the task of ‘waste-management coordinator’ to ensure a clear separation of various waste products in a 3-colour sorting approach established by the local (regional or municipal) public actors.
Titles have since changed… but as you understand working on recycling and waste management grew from establishing my own recycling ‘system’ in my parents’ house to now implementing a simple system out of my house in Vietnam with ‘cans and plastic’ bins for the informal waste pickers.
Turning Waste to ‘Bounty’
During my student years, I worked in a local convenience store in the Toulouse suburb to finance my studies. On a very small scale, this professional experience put me at the front end of a massive global issue: food waste.
During the last shift of the day, we had to remove from the shelves the ‘out of date’ products and throw them away. Kilograms of food was thrown away.
Thankfully, with data and facts, we managed to convince our manager to let us turn this waste into a ‘bounty’ and bring it home and share with some of the homeless people in front of the shop.
These were the starting points in my life where small actions made a difference and I felt a strong willingness to do more.
Vietnam, My Home
It did take a few more years to get to a platform where I could impact and work on a bigger scale and it is happening now, my new home, Vietnam.
Arriving in Vietnam late 2018, I was amazed by the visible exponential growth of this beautiful developing economy but also shocked by the lack of awareness around environmental challenges and even more so by the lack of infrastructure to decrease this impact.
That’s why, (after 6 months of activities in Vietnam) when Schoolab was asked to design and organise an international standard innovation and tech event in Hanoi, we decided to focus the main topic on ‘Innovate for Sustainability & Inclusion in Emerging Economies’.
The event was a successful experience but I see that our biggest success is the engagement we received from the varying participants: public actors, large and small organizations, students and startups – all were fully onboard to act for the planet.
This milestone in our Asian development combined with Schoolab’s global mission to support organizations re-think their business to become more planet-centric (while developing new markets through sustainable products and services) pushed us to re-focus our local strategy and offers to support local organisations.
Regenerate & De-Plastify the Planet
Today, I’m very proud to represent Schoolab in Asia and to launch an adapted version of our open innovation program co-designed with Califonia based SCET Berkeley – ‘Regenerate & De-Plastify the Planet’.
This unique and entrepreneurial program places public and private actors’ concerned with environmental problems in the hands of the new generation of local and forward thinking one: Vietnamese university students.
We are on a journey as this model and ‘green’ investment is still quire nascent in this region. However, we have found early adopters of our program already acting in the region and interested in fresh ideas from our citizens of tomorrow. We look forward to presenting the outcomes of this program in March 2021..
Collectively for Sustainability
On a final note, I believe in a long-term vision where all stakeholders embrace common values of sustainability whatever the titles, roles or background you have. That we use today to impact tomorrow, and that we collectively continue to work on education, awareness, lifting experiences to ensure action.
We are all individuals but we belong to a family, to a household, to a community, to a country, to a company where together we can make a difference.
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