We’d like to wish a warm welcome to Edge Environment’s newest team member, Max Van Biene. Max joins us as Principal consultant and Head of Project Delivery.
Advertising Strategist Develops Conscience.
My role at Edge is a culmination of a somewhat varied (and at times conflicted) career.
It all began in the fabulous and (not so) glamorous world of advertising. As a young and enthusiastic graduate I was drawn to the concept of using the power of creative storytelling to mould consumer behavior to the will of corporate big-wigs. I quickly worked my way up the rungs as a Communication Strategist at one of Australia’s largest advertising firms. It wasn’t until a few years later, during a celebration for successfully selling a ‘record number of phone handsets’ for our client, that I was hit with an existential crisis. What had my life become….!?
It was at that moment that I vowed to use my expertise in business strategy, strategic communications and stakeholder engagement to help organisations deliver positive social and environmental outcomes.
After a few more years delivering various sustainability communications and campaigns for a range of IT and manufacturing clients (cough…. Greenwash… cough) I made the jump across to a dedicated environmental consultancy where I was given the opportunity to deliver a number of game-changing strategies for clients that were genuinely invested in creating positive change.
Through my role as Head of Client Engagement at a consultancy called Kinesis, I worked with some of Australia’s largest public and private organisations to translate the data and insights derived from their suite of carbon management and sustainability software into tangible and actionable strategy. This involved leading the delivery of Greenhouse Gas and Water Reduction Strategies for various local governments such as City of Sydney and City of Parramatta Council. I also led the development of sustainability strategies for several large tertiary intuitions, spanning all aspect from asset management plans to student behavior change campaigns.
It was at this time that I was accepted to undertake Climate Reality Training with Al Gore, following which I presented his updated presentation to a range of influential stakeholders including the NSW Premier and the board of several of Australia’s largest banks. I was also lucky enough to be chosen as an ambassador to attend the UN Climate Summit in Paris in 2015.
Following this, I spent several years leading the Sydney practice for a specialist social impact consultancy Spark Strategy. It was here that my understanding of sustainability broadened, slowly coming to the realization that…people matter too. Here I used the lenses of business model design, strategic planning and social impact strategy and measurement to deliver innovative approaches to maximizing social impact. This included helping various corporate clients define and understand the social impacts of their philanthropic and workplace giving programs, helping not-for-profits maximize their impact through alternate business models and helping to establish various social procurement partnerships in disability, mental health and indigenous affairs sectors. I also delivered the Environmental Employee Engagement Strategy for one of Australia’s big four banks, social innovation projects for various mixed-use precinct developments and sustainable business model strategies for various not-for-profit organisations such as Landcare NSW.
Alas, now I have ended up on the sunny shores of Edge where I hope to leverage my expertise to ensure that all our outputs make it as easy as possible for our clients to enact positive change.
Here are a few principles that I try to integrate into all of my work:
- Strategy is only as good as implementation: I work with my client not for them, and in doing so I hope that the insights we uncover together will more likely transition into action.
- Make the complex simple: All consultant outputs, no matter how technical, should be easily understood by any member of that organisation, from intern to chairman of the board.
- Uncover the hidden shared value: A sustainable approach to business is a profitable approach to business, it’s just about finding the right way to sell it.
- Remember that people matter too: It’s easy to get caught up on the environmental impacts of business, without focusing on their impact on the people (both positive and negative). Organizations and businesses should be used as a tool to drive equality, inclusiveness and overall well-being. I’m pleased to say that so far, Edge has proved to be such an organization.