I have always been passionate about sustainability and eager to explore new ways to take action; in my penultimate year at the University of Bath, I did just that. With a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance I became part of the March 2010 International Antarctica Expedition, a global team consisting of corporate leaders, environmentalists, teachers and fellow students embarking on an incredible journey.
About the expedition
The expedition is run by an organization called 2041 and is led by polar explorer and sustainability leader Robert Swan OBE, the first man to walk to both the North and South Poles.
Antarctica is currently protected by a Treaty prohibiting drilling or mining until the year 2041. Led by Robert, 2041 is devoted to the preservation of Antarctica. How? By educating tomorrow’s leaders on sustainability issues and inspiring them to take action.
Each year Robert selects a group of 80 individuals, consisting of emerging talent from companies that represent markets spanning the globe, to join him on this voyage. Together, the team sails to the most fragile continent on earth to learn not only about the challenges Antarctica faces for survival but also how to shape themselves as responsible leaders of the future.
My personal experience
After months of fundraising my journey started in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. From Ushuaia we sailed across the formidable Drake’s Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula, visiting breath taking locations and witnessing extraordinary wildlife drama whilst sharing an array of personal insights and experiences along the way.
Words cannot do justice to the awe-inspiring spectacle of Antarctica. This desert of ice is so unique and so uncommon to man’s experience, that even the most dramatic of photographs pale into insignificance when one is confronted by the sheer magnitude, beauty and enchantment of the Antarctic Landscape.
Throughout the voyage a key focal point was to develop and enhance the group’s individual leadership skills, whilst debating key issues facing Antarctica and the planet at large. Led by Robert Swan, the “Leadership on the Edge” programme set out to promote understanding of how to deliver an action plan to allow each individual to go back home, act sustainably and share the story with a range of audiences.
Hearing from Robert about his successes and failures was both a tremendous opportunity and a great privilege. And to wake up each day with the backdrop of Antarctica, whilst witnessing first-hand the effects of climate change, was an experience out of this world.
Bringing it to Bain
After eventually ceasing to ‘rock’ from this legendary expedition, I slowly started to try to turn words into actions. My mission following the expedition was to create awareness regarding conservation in Antarctica and to promote sustainable and responsible living.
With help from a team of students, we built Bath University’s first wind turbine to facilitate research, after which I went to Peru with an organisation called WindAid to help build a similar turbine for a rural community.
On joining the London office of Bain & Company in 2011, I knew I wanted to connect the efforts of Robert Swan and the 2041 team with Bain’s deep commitment to sustainability. I worked at introducing Robert to some key members in the London office. Robert’s unbelievable passion and mantra for ‘actions not words’ struck a cord with Bain, and one of our senior leaders agreed to support the venture of getting a Bainie on the boat. After promoting the initiative to our office and soliciting applications, Robert selected two ‘youth’ members to join him on his journey and we kicked off our fundraising campaign. Several Bainies on the management team also approached me about joining the expedition on the leadership side, and we started to turn this into more than just “getting a Bainie on the boat.”
The upcoming International Antarctica Expedition
Thanks to a lot of hard work by the team, five Bainies will be leaving for Antarctica later this month. We have received tremendous support and enthusiasm from Bainies around the globe – and in particular, the incredible support we got from the employees of the London office helped fund the two ‘youth’ members, Subash and Harriet, to go on the expedition. They will join the ‘leadership team’ comprised of Sam and Neysa from the London office and Prateek from the Delhi office.
This year, the Bain team will play a significant role in helping 2041 leader, Robert Swan, achieve his mission to protect ‘the last great wilderness on earth’. Our team will be delivering workshops on one of Bain’s key toolkits for realizing results: Results Delivery®, and will also serve as the golden thread between the three other content topics: Climate Change, Sustainability, and Leadership, to help turn participants’ pledges and passion into action and results.
The team will officially set sail for Antarctica on February 28th. Keep following the blog for videos, pictures and updates leading up to and during the expedition. I know I’ll be watching with a keen eye…and wishing I was back on the boat!
– Ben, Associate Consultant in London