Environmental Entrepreneur: Sustainability Coach helps Caribbean Businesses
Have you ever considered a career helping businesses manage natural resources, conserve biodiversity, adapt to climate change or become more sustainable?
Tracey Edwards is a Sustainability Coach and Entrepreneur from Jamaica and founder of Plakortis, an environmental sustainability coaching service for businesses across Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
With over 15 years experience in the conservation and disaster risk reduction sector, Tracey has contributed to the growth and development of The Nature Conservancy, Government of Grenada-Carriacou, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and other organisations across the Caribbean.
She holds a BSc Hons Marine Biology & Geography from UWI, Mona and is an MPhil Student of Sustainable Development, University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica – and even has a coral, Plakortis edwardsi, named after her!
Read on to find out about sustainability coaching, conservation in Jamaica and Tracey’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in this Celebrating Diversity in Conservation interview.
Why do you work in conservation?
I work in conservation because I feel a great loss whenever my activities do not include conservation initiatives. The work I do is my passion and I cannot seem to stay away from it. There is also a great need to educate and protect our resources in my country and region.
What do you think are the biggest conservation challenges and opportunities in your country?
The biggest conservation challenge in my country is a lack of knowledge among large a percentage of the population. There is a disconnect between people and the environment which consequently leads to our greatest maladaptive behaviours being pollution and destruction of natural habitat.
The opportunities exist for practical conservation efforts at the community level and among businesses.
What are the main activities in your current role?
The main activities in my role at this time are proposal writing and fundraising for clients who are operating at the community level or micro business scale. This engagement allows me to educate and plan projects with sustainability in mind.
What’s the best part of your job?
I love the site visits and meeting new people. I also love when my clients absorb the information and apply it. The action they take is felt deep down. It is also satisfying when I help them win grants and/or get to another level in their business.
What’s the worst part of your job?
The worse part of my job is that I have transitioned into a niche that cannot often pay, so I may engage for little or no monies. It is also very difficult to find clients, which often means long periods without financial security.
What are your career highlights so far?
My career highlights include a project I did several years ago on the eastern side of Jamaica that looked at conservation of mangroves and a family of crocodiles. The work carries over and the engagement eventually led to the ultimate goal of bringing attention to marine life in the parish.
Other highlights are similar – working in other countries where I left a legacy, work that continues and was built on, such as in Carriacou, Grenada.
What key steps have you taken in your conservation career?
Big decisions really. Some include going where I felt I was needed. I worked in other Caribbean countries and that meant just finding opportunities, pack and go. Other key decisions include going between Coastal conservation and disaster mitigation.
The major step or decision is really becoming an entrepreneur, building on the strength of my professional experience and my writing skills.
What careers advice would you give someone wishing to follow in your footsteps?
My advice to anyone entering this field is don’t step in for the monies; many of us aren’t fortunate to land very good paying jobs, nor access benefits and bonuses. Step in with your passion and your skills, follow your heart, but have a vision, education and skills that will allow you to straddle two or more areas.
Follow the trends and keep busy. Do what you love, but, know where you want to go. Keep relevant even if you are not employed; participate in webinars, become a member of relevant organisations, and do your own PR education on social media. Always learn new skills, waste no experience.