Sorcha Kavanagh is the Coordinator for the Conscious Cup Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to reduce waste by creating “Conscious Consumers” and “Conscious Cafes”. Cafes are encouraged to offer a discount/incentive to consumers who carry their own reusable cup and in return participating cafes are geo-tagged on an interactive map and then promoted across social media. Sorcha has been working with various stakeholders including large organisations, universities, colleges, schools, catering companies, hospitals and community all of which want to bring about a change and reduce their dependency on single-use items. There are now over 1,000 participating cafes across Ireland and the campaign has achieved European recognition by winning the European Week for Waste Reduction Award in Brussels May 2018 and was a finalist in the Green Awards and the Repak Pakman awards. This initiative is now a collaboration between VOICE and the government.
Sorcha studied marketing at night and her background has mainly been in business to business sales and marketing with experience in various industries including retail, print, packaging and healthcare. Sorcha has always had a curious mind and she feels that has been a great advantage in wanting to understand our planet, how things work and getting to a solution. She is passionate about environmental and social issues, believing we all have a personal responsibility for our planet’s future.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
Yes, I believe leadership can be taught by leaders and learned from leaders themselves. This question makes me reflect back to the days when I went to night college over 25 years ago. One of the classes I enjoyed the most was buyer behaviour and in particular, I remember the quote “behaviour breeds behaviour”. We learn from each other through how we behave. As a teenager in the 80’s I worked with The Body Shop and that is where my environmental interest began because I was inspired and learned from Dame Anita Roddick, who was leading the way in the beauty industry. I worked for Virgin Retail while I attended night college, an organisation run by Richard Branson, an exceptional leader. Later in the packaging industry, I received exceptional mentoring under outstanding leadership about the importance of good business acumen. It was a university of life for me and I have very fond memories of a hard-working team as result. My point is that you can learn from leaders when you are exposed to them through experience.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
To me, management is more short term, getting the job done, fulfilling a duty and ticking boxes. Leadership is ultimately about inspiring others and having the ability to engender trust to achieve change. It is about taking risks, being innovative and forward thinking. Having an appetite to learn but also to mentor and share information so that others feel empowered. Integrity and good character are a prerequisite for leadership.
The world around us is changing faster than at any time in human history and we need more leaders to emerge. How do we make this happen?
As parents, we need to encourage children from an early age that we are all unique in our own way and to see that as a strength, to never be afraid to ask questions and express ourselves. In the workforce, it is about recognising the unique skills and strengths that employees possess and helping them to achieve the best of their ability. I think you need to have confidence to be a leader so if you feel you have been encouraged and supported then you gain faith in yourself and are not afraid to take the risk of putting yourself out there. The Conscious Cup Campaign is a very young initiative but so many people contact us as individuals, employees, students, community representatives asking for the tools to bring the campaign to their town. They are the leaders in their community, through supporting them we empower them to create behavioural change with the people they meet and the communities they live in.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
People need basic facts to be correct. Leaders can have an important platform to influence others, through their opinions. We rely on what they say to be accurate and true. When that information is inaccurate it can have detrimental effects. So the mistake being made is not researching and knowing the facts, however, none of us are perfect, its ok to make a mistake, because we learn from these mistakes.
What advice would you give to someone dealing with a high-pressure situation in their life or work?
In overcoming a high-pressure situation, I think it is worthwhile to first prioritise what needs immediate attention and what doesn’t, good time management can help. Being decisive is important however I often think that when a serious decision needs to be made it can be essential to take a step back from the situation, don’t let yourself feel you have to decide right there and then, give yourself the time to make an informed decision.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
I find I am learning on the job and from the people I meet more than from what I read. I am interested in the environmental sector and currently listen to the “Mothers of Invention” podcast with Mary Robinson and Maeve Higgins. It interviews women around the world creating change for the greater good of our planet and its inhabitants. I am also learning from a number of online groups that share information about the environmental movement. I think Barack Obama is an inspirational speaker, I especially loved his speech “Worry less about what you want to be and think more about what you want to do”.