Monica Hornung Cattan

Director of Programmes at Responsible Business Forum, Global Initiatives

Please tell us more about yourself.

I’m Monica Hornung Cattan, Director of Programmes at Global Initiatives, a Singapore-based company that aims to help companies deliver their sustainability goals through effective and impactful partnerships.

Through thought leadership platforms such as the Responsible Business Forum, we bring regional leaders together to find a coherent approach to advance and accelerate sustainable growth, address inequalities and establish new ways of creating fair and decent employment.

I’m very passionate about sustainability. Before joining Global Initiatives, I held roles in External and Institutional affairs, driving change in this space over the last eight years.

What do you do at work on a daily basis?

I organise business-focused global platforms for stakeholders at the ministerial level, multi-national corporations’ leaders, NGOs and diverse interest groups, around climate action, urbanisation, circular economy, human rights and food and nutrition. These platforms also focus on dynamically implementing growth policies in line with agricultural innovation, climate change and the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our initiatives are implemented across 30 countries, and centre around partnerships, driving change and creating a better future for all. My work involves collaborating daily with regional policy makers and institutions to maximise the outcomes of Public-Private Partnerships. I also keep a team of five, oversee the development of our forums and ensure we that our key institutional partners are aligned.

What drives you in doing what you are doing?

Before I started my career in sustainability, I decided to pursue my International Relations degree and then a Master in Business Administration (MBA). I had felt then that there was a gap in tackling global challenges and that key stakeholders were unable to create meaningful dialogues that would solve these problems.

Today, we have amazing opportunities to collaborate on and to solve some of the greatest paradoxes of modern times. However, it remains clear that globalisation requires a multidisciplinary approach to unique challenges, and not just one answer to all these problems. This is what keeps me going.

What are some of the challenges that you face being in the industry that you are in?

Scepticism. Some business leaders, more than ever before, are taking a serious stance to social challenges. However, this is not for the majority. Many still develop their business strategies with an isolated approach, without considering the impact they could have on others and our environment.

The leaders of the future need to embed sustainability at the core of their business strategies and translate this into sustainable growth and performance. Not the other way around.

What is your advice to youths who are at a crossroad, unsure of which career path to take?

My three pieces of advice would be:

(a) Mentorship
It is very important to have a close connection with someone you look up to and who understands you well. A good mentor throughout your career is essential to providing the right perspective, not only for when you are unclear about things, but also when things get a little bit ‘rocky’.

(b) Youth as advocates of social change 
The potential of our youth has grown exponentially over the years. It is imperative that the choices they make be used to engineer positive and impactful change for their communities and country today and tomorrow. So, follow your passion and believe in yourself!

(c) Persistence
I know this term can be overrated, but I truly believe that we need to find ways to get out there and to develop a resilience towards rejection and having doors shut in your face. If you are unsure of what you want, go out there, seek advice, be prepared to fail and to stand up again.

What does it take to survive in the Singapore job market today?

Singapore is becoming a hub for international excellence and therefore the competition is high. I see a combination of hard work, resilience, creativity, taking a strong interest in local and regional affairs, and having an ability to adapt to changing conditions, as being key to thriving here.

What is your call-to-action/advice to those who want to pursue the industry that you are in?

Singapore is an excellent place to develop one’s vocation in sustainability, as I have had the fortune of. The Singaporean government in particular has been very inspiring.

They’ve appointed 2018 as the Year of Climate Action in Singapore, and are working hard at leading the region on sustainability as its ASEAN chairman.

These developments, amongst others, have been a tremendous opportunity for students, especially Singaporeans with a deep interest in international and domestic affairs, to gain a better appreciation of the tenets of sustainable development.

Describe the path you took to arrive at the job that you are in right now.

My keen interest in international business prompted me to pursue MBA studies at Politecnico di Milano with a specialisation in Country Risk Management. Thereafter, I continued project work at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), where I assisted the Trade and Sustainable Land Management Division by completing their country roles on Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

After my great experience at UNECE, I was offered a position as External Institutional Affairs Manager at the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), an international think-tank, and paved the way for the development of the company’s sustainability strategy. I then left to join my husband in Asia and was offered a position at Global Initiatives.

What are some of the perks or benefits of your job?

I’d have to say, connecting with international leaders on a daily basis, always serves as constant inspiration.

What are some of the qualities that you believe employers keep a look out for, in potential employees who aspire to work in the industry you are in?

Out-of-the-box thinking, teamwork in a multi-cultural environment, professionalism and leadership potential – always a welcome.

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