For Carmen Chan (MBA, 1998), working towards a sustainable future for the planet means collaborating with stakeholders and competitors for the greater good.
As Senior Sustainability and Fabric Manager for Tesco International Sourcing, Carmen’s role involves working with regulators, NGOs, peer brands and retailers to shape standards and supply chain integrity. Working for one of the world’s largest retailers, means Carmen is able to guide and influence stakeholders around the world from her base in Hong Kong – where 25 years ago she first came across Lancaster University Management School at an educational fair.
“My current role involves developing sustainable strategies and programmes for our clothing business,” says Carmen. “We engage and collaborate with a number of stakeholders both within and outside of the business, and support new sustainability initiatives across the industry globally. It’s not just about the company, but doing something for wider industry goals, and that’s exciting and meaningful, and that is why I am so passionate about the work.
“As sustainability leaders or practitioners, we have to understand the purpose of the business. If we want to go fast, we can go alone; but if we want to go far, we go together. You have to think beyond the business itself and work with a broad group of stakeholders, including competitors, on certain agendas, particularly sustainability, where we have a common goal. We cannot work purely for the sake of our business – yes, every decision does support the wider business, but the business has a greater purpose now, to help the planet, and not just the business, survive.
“Sustainability is an agenda we cannot afford not to have. It has become part of our purpose. Any business with purpose needs to ensure it takes care of all stakeholders, and that our stakeholders care for the planet. It’s an indispensable part of business: sustainability has to be integrated into all steps in decision-making.”
Carmen has worked for Tesco since 2008, starting as a technical manager before taking on her current role in 2014. That followed time working with another British retailer, Marks & Spencer, with her affinity with the firms coming from her time at Lancaster.
“The MBA is one of the building blocks for me,” Carmen adds. “It is a world-class university, and the MBA felt unique, with the wide diversity of students. Having students from diverse backgrounds, all of them already with work experience in different areas, allowed us to learn from each other, to respect different backgrounds and cultures.
“I had a great experience completing a consultancy project with the UK government. It taught us how to work in that culture, and how to deliver a project together. It gave me a lot of confidence for my career in working in UK business, which I think is why I have continued to do that.”
As well as that base for a successful career, Carmen still has fond memories of Lancaster, the campus, her accommodation Graduate College, the Lake District, the people, and the communities she came to know from her time in the North West of England.
“I miss the people, I miss the place,” Carmen smiles. “It was an extremely comfortable, relaxed place. I think if I had studied in the city, it would have been more like Hong Kong, but studying in Lancaster, I really felt the difference of having a university life, enjoying the culture, having more leisure, but also being more focused academically. It was a very different lifestyle from Hong Kong.”
Asked what advice she would give current and future LUMS students for their careers, Carmen is clear they need to be open-minded and positive in their approaches.
“You need to be positive towards change,” she says. “There are so many changes happening every day – Covid, the financial crisis – so what I have learned is to ensure I have a positive mind-set, which can allow us to identify opportunities, rather than seeing them as challenges. We can turn that energy towards seeing opportunities that can benefit the business.
“Another thing is that you should never stop learning. With new technologies and developments, we have to be open-minded. Sustainability and many of the related subjects require a more stringent process. We need to keep on learning and understanding the world better so what we say comes from a science base.”Back to News