Interview with Shreya Ghodawat, Sustainability Strategist, Founder & CEO of Sustainable Guides
Shreya Ghodawat is a name to watch in the world of sustainability and social impact. Driven by a passion for reducing the material footprint and promoting climate solutions, she is making a difference with her work as a strategist, writer, speaker, sustainability consultant, and advisor.
Her unique blend of education, including a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Gender Studies from the National University of Singapore, and a Master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism from the Sustainability Management School of Switzerland, and expertise, positions her as a leading voice in the fields of sustainable eco-tourism and fashion. With unwavering commitment and a drive to make a difference, Shreya is paving the way towards a more sustainable future.
The founder and CEO of SUSTAINABLE GUIDES, a venture devoted to promoting ethical eco-tourism, and an advisor at Ahimsa VC, Shreya is an accomplished entrepreneur who has travelled extensively to more than 65 countries, gaining insights into the role of indigenous cultures in shaping the global discourse on sustainability.
As a vegan and a climate reality leader, having completed the Climate Reality Leadership Course in 2020, she brings a unique fusion of ideals and action to her work.
Shreya’s vision for conscious leadership is shaped by values of empathy and integrity, and she is dedicated to fostering the growth of women-led tech unicorns focused on social and environmental impact.
A captivating speaker, she has hosted a TEDx Countdown event aimed at catalysing action on climate solutions.
Her areas of expertise encompass a wide range of subjects, including climate change, women in tech, sustainable living, sustainable travel and tourism, women in leadership, intersectionality in environmentalism, purpose-driven entrepreneurship, decolonizing sustainability, and reclaiming the Indian/Asian context of sustainability.
Her achievements and impact have earned her a plethora of accolades and certifications from esteemed institutions such as the GSTC Sustainable Tourism course, the RISE TRAVEL INSTITUTE Certificate in sustainability and anti-oppression in travel, the University of Cambridge Certificate in Business Sustainability Management, the Harvard University’s Creative Writing, Gender Studies and Literature course, and the Elephant Journal Diploma and Apprenticeship in Social Media, Communications and Creative Writing.
With her unwavering dedication to effecting positive change and her unwavering commitment to promoting sustainability and social impact, Shreya stands out as a visionary leader, an inspiration to us all, and a shining example of what can be achieved when purpose, passion, and impact are aligned.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Shreya Ghodawat: I’m an impact-driven entrepreneur, sustainability advocate, and an eco-feminist, who is putting a new spin on climate activism.
Born and raised in India, I have lived across Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Sweden whilst learning about cultural and indigenous nuances of sustainability that go beyond economic and environmental impacts. A serial entrepreneur, I have been building startups since the age of 17.
I graduated with a degree in sociology and gender studies from the National University of Singapore. Following this, I also have a master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism from Sustainability Management School in Switzerland.
During my years in academia, I organised a TEDx Countdown event on climate change that had more than 1200 attendees.
My extensive travel experiences led me to launch Sustainable Guides in 2020, a venture aiming to educate people on ethical eco-tourism.
Leading a vegan lifestyle for the animals, people and the planet, I am an advisor for Ahimsa VC, which invests in cruelty-free, future-food technologies.
Ahimsa VC is India’s first investment fund focused on reducing harm to the planet, animals, and human health.
I’m also a member of Top Tier Impact Network, a global ecosystem of impact and sustainability investors, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia.
Moreover, I’m a part of Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum for young leaders to drive dialogue, action, and change in their communities.
In 2021, I co-founded Simppl, a sustainable fin-tech startup to inculcate mindful consumerism and help people develop an eco-conscious lifestyle.
I have recently been chosen as the India Ambassador for SHE changes climate – a global campaign advocating for equitable female leadership in all climate decisions.
Please tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your journey in sustainable living and sustainable travel
Shreya Ghodawat: My sustainability journey started when I studied Sociology in university and took a module on Sociology of Food that dived into veganism.
I came back to my dorm room and watched all the documentaries I could on the truth behind dairy farming, the cruelty practices associated with it, and the devastating environmental impact animal products had overall.
I went vegan almost overnight and that awareness snowballed into sustainability. I realised the intersectional impact of generational discrimination, socioeconomic and gender disparities, and colonialism on people and the planet.
I dug deep into this by studying feminism and sustainable tourism and uncovering how sustainability and anti-oppression in travel work.
Having lived across 6 different countries, I began to corroborate my learnings with real-life evidence and understand sustainability’s cultural, local, and indigenous nuances.
I started to incorporate eco-friendly measures in my travels: carrying zero waste and reusable personal items, opting for public transport, staying in eco-certified accommodations, eating plant-based, and supporting local businesses wherever I went. I envisioned a new culture of responsible tourism, which led me to start Sustainable Guides in 2020.
What does sustainability mean to India and its people?
Shreya Ghodawat: As someone hailing from the global south, especially India, the second most populated country in the world, I was used to hearing my country getting blamed for overpopulation and its effect on the climate crisis whilst studying abroad.
But it took me a while to learn that recovering countries like India are most vulnerable to climate change even when they least contribute to it.
I believe that sustainability means different things to different people in India. However, at its core, it is about ensuring access to basic needs, preserving our diverse cultural heritage, and promoting economic growth that’s both inclusive and environmentally sustainable. It implies forging a delicate balance between economic growth and social and environmental progress.
For many Indians, sustainability means access to clean water, air, and food for all. It also means creating jobs and equal income opportunities.
India’s renewable energy sector, for instance, is a significant driver of sustainable development, providing affordable and clean energy to millions of people while also creating jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainability also means preserving India’s rich cultural heritage and tapping into our ancient wisdom and traditional practices.
Many indigenous communities in India have been practising sustainable living and agriculture for generations. These practices need to be preserved and integrated into our modern sustainability strategies.
How do you see the future of sustainable travel evolve in coming years?
Shreya Ghodawat: The future of sustainable travel looks optimistic and I’m thrilled to see all the innovation currently happening in the industry!
Travel has bounced back. And ever since the pandemic, people have become more aware of the environmental and social impact it has. This has led to a growing demand for sustainable, eco-friendly travel options.
One trend that’s taking the travel industry by storm is the use of technology to reduce our travel carbon footprint. From electric vehicles and hybrid cars, more folks are opting for eco-friendly transportation.
Airlines are also stepping up their game by exploring the use of biofuels and Sustainable Air Fuels (SAF) to reduce carbon emissions.
Another exciting trend is eco-tourism, where travellers are looking for destinations that prioritise environmental conservation and empower local communities.
Sustainable accommodation options are also gaining popularity. Properties such as eco-lodges and green hotels prioritise sustainable practices such as water and energy conservation, waste reduction, and serving fresh, seasonal, locally-sourced, organic foods. Who wouldn’t want to stay in a beautiful hotel that’s both luxurious and responsible? I know I would!
Moreover, travellers are becoming more aware of their impact on local communities. In the coming years, sustainable travel will involve engaging with local communities, supporting local businesses, and promoting cultural awareness.
Overall, I’m confident that sustainable travel will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years. People are more committed than ever to protecting the planet while still being able to explore new places and cultures.
As an eco-entrepreneur and founder of a sustainable travel startup, I’m thrilled to be at the forefront of this movement and to drive positive change in the travel industry.
What’s your vision of making an impact through sustainability?
Shreya Ghodawat: For me, sustainability is not just a buzzword; it’s a way of life. It’s about creating a regenerative future, rather than extractive, where we can live in balance with the natural world.
I strongly believe that making an impact through sustainability means putting people first. It’s important to recognise that the environment, climate, and nature are not separate from us, but are integral parts of our existence.
Unfortunately, the language we use to discuss the climate crisis often creates an emotional disconnect by making it seem like it only affects issues outside of us, which isn’t the case.
That’s why my work focuses on the global South, people of colour, and those who are affected the most by the climate crisis.
This can be achieved by contextualising and localising sustainability to celebrate our traditional ways and indigenous knowledge.
It is essential for us, now more than ever, to recognize and honor the cultural practices that have sustained us for centuries while also finding ways to adapt and mitigate the challenges of the future.
My vision is to create a world where sustainability is integrated into every aspect of life, from the food we eat, and products we use, to the way we travel, work and communicate with the rest of the world.
To create a world where both the planet and its inhabitants can thrive, and the environment is protected for generations to come.
Having dedicated my life’s work to sustainability, I’m committed to making this vision a reality. And I look forward to working with others who share this passion for making a positive impact on the world.
What advice would you give young and aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of sustainability?
Shreya Ghodawat: My advice for young and aspiring entrepreneurs would be to first and foremost find a cause that matters to them and values that they uphold.
Starting a business in this field requires a commitment to environmental and social impact, which can be challenging at times.
It is essential to figure out an area or cause that you feel connected to or passionate about. Conduct thorough research and understand the current trends and challenges in the sustainability industry.
This will help you identify opportunities and gaps in the market that your sustainable business can address.
Strive for transparency and authenticity, and communicate your sustainability goals to your stakeholders.
Try to collaborate and network with other sustainability-focused entrepreneurs, organisations, and experts.
This community can provide valuable insights, resources, and support in your sustainability journey. And lastly, be patient and persistent. Creating a sustainable business takes time.
Setbacks are inevitable. It can feel frustrating when you don’t see immediate results or your business doesn’t create the necessary impact.
However, don’t lose hope or give up. It is important for every one of us fighting the good fight to be optimistic (which are and therefore focused on advocating for climate solutions) and to be connected for collective action.
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