At BSR, we are proud to say we have a global team of sustainable business experts that collectively, along with our members and partners, advances our mission to create a more just and sustainable world. But we are more than just the sum of our parts.
We are excited to launch "Inside BSR," a new blog series to get to know the people who make up the BSR team. Each month, we will feature a different team member and learn more about them, the unique background they bring to BSR, and their passion for sustainability.
For our inaugural interview, we connected with Margot Brent in our Hong Kong office. Margot spoke to us about the roots of her obsession with sustainable fashion, her work with the Sustainable Futures Lab, and her firsthand experience with women's empowerment programs.
Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from, where are you based, and how did you get started working on sustainable business?
I’m originally from South Africa but have lived in Hong Kong for the past six years.
Following an undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and a post-graduate degree in Sustainable Development, I began working on climate change adaptation with vulnerable groups in South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Nigeria.
I spent a good amount of time literally trekking through mud-filled mangroves working with coastal communities when I decided to trade in the field work for the city and headed to Hong Kong to pursue another passion.
When did you join BSR and what is your current role? What are some interesting projects that you get to work on as part of your role?
I joined BSR mid-2019, and I’m currently an Associate. I’m part of the Sustainable Futures Lab and also work with our consumer sector members.
As part of the Sustainable Futures Lab, I work on our quarterly emerging issues publication, entitled The Fast Forward. The publication helps make sense of the rapid and complex changes companies are facing and potential disruptions coming down the line, from new technologies to growing social movements. I enjoy the creative process of exploring these nascent issues and the significance of developing future-fit strategies together with our members.
The opportunity to work on all these issues that I am passionate about, with one eye on the future, is what drew me to BSR. I love that I get to explore so many parts of sustainability and how rapidly it is changing, as well as how the solutions to wicked problems, such as unsustainable fashion, the climate crisis, and gender inequality, converge and intersect with one another.
Can you tell us about your experience before BSR? Have you always been interested in issues of sustainability?
Alongside my interest in climate, I’ve been interested in fashion, and sustainable fashion, for many years—including hours spent poring over the Vogue archives I discovered at my university library. I found fashion to be this intensely contrasting space filled with beauty, craft, creativity, and self-expression, all things I love, but historically has faced a lot of environmental and social challenges.
It created a strong conflict in me: how could I love these beautiful things while knowing what’s behind them? At the same time, I knew the power and importance of the industry and how it could be a force for good for so many, especially women.
When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I joined Li & Fung and Fung Group as an innovation manager, exploring emerging technologies, innovations for sustainability, and new collaborative ways of working in the fashion supply chain. We used a lot of design thinking and rapid prototyping, and these are approaches I still value in my work.
It’s also here that I really learned about BSR and HERproject and got involved in another women’s empowerment NGO, The Women’s Foundation, as a volunteer helping to design and implement a women’s professional mentoring and leadership skills program. As a beneficiary of the program, I felt firsthand the impact that it can have on professional and personal development, and so I joined the advisory council to give back and help develop the program further. I still meet regularly with my mentoring circle all these years later.
2020 was undoubtedly a difficult year. What were the things that brought you joy amid lockdowns/quarantines? What are you most looking forward to in 2021/when the pandemic is over?
It goes without saying 2020 has offered us all a moment of reflection—both globally and as individuals.
Personally, I’m fortunate to live in a city full of beautiful hiking trails on our doorsteps, so much of my time has been exploring the wild side of Hong Kong. I’ve tried to welcome the boredom—such a novel concept in the overstimulated 21st century—and bring more mindfulness to how I spend my time and what I consume, both physically and digitally .
That being said, like most people, I cannot wait to be gathered around a crowded table of home-cooked food and family back home, reflecting on the absurdity of this experience.