South Asian Heritage Month 2023 – ‘Stories to Tell’ with Vibhati Bhatia

This blog for South Asian Heritage Month is brought to you by our Managing Consultant (Social Sustainability), Vibhati Bhatia. In her own words, Vibhati shares her journey which led her to work in sustainability and climate action at Energise, and how her identity and heritage has shaped this choice.

For South Asian Heritage Month, I thought I’d share a little about my journey and moments that have shaped who I am today as a British-born Punjabi woman and how my identity and heritage has influenced my choice to work in sustainability and climate action at Energise.

Throughout my childhood, living in an inter-generational home, I was fortunate enough to have been raised with the best of Indian values, rooted firmly in spirituality and dharmic traditions. Through the Sant Nirankari Mission, I volunteered for many conservation projects throughout my childhood, including tree-planting, street clean-ups and other charitable fundraiser events. The values and appreciation I built through this service or ‘sewa’ for our planet, nature and humanity has most definitely fed into the passion for what I do today.

I studied Psychology BSc at the University of Southampton, graduating with First Class Honours in 2018. I was fascinated by behavioural change theories and understanding what drives and motivates us as human beings. During my course, I had the opportunity to study a module in Global Challenges. This is when I realised that I could centre my career in the same value of giving back and knew from that point on, I had to work in a purpose-driven role to help solve the issues at hand.

Not having an academic background in Environmental science and being a young woman of colour trying to get into the second least diverse industry in the UK wasn’t the easiest journey; but I was motivated to do whatever needed to be done. I spent a large amount of time supporting NGOs and environmental campaigns in the Midlands, whilst simultaneously completing an online diploma on Climate Change Action and Communication at Cornell University. I also spent some time volunteering for communities in Indonesia, after which I eventually landed my first corporate job in business social responsibility.

During COVID-19, I had a lot more time to reflect on my career journey and when I started seeking mentorship, I truly realised the diversity issue in the industry, particularly representation of South Asian leaders in our space. It occurred to me that there were no online forums or organisations for South Asians working in impactful roles, so I took in on myself to reach out and connect with as many professionals as I could find virtually. South Asians for Sustainability was launched in 2021, after spending the most part of 2020 networking far and wide, to understand what our community needs were in the diaspora; and where the gaps lie in engaging people on climate action.

I have met some incredibly inspiring individuals from the global south and diaspora regions, working across all industries on some amazing solutions and creating huge impact. The campaign’s aim is to bring all those people together and highlight their work. We actively promote and enhance representation of South Asian professionals in the space and share culturally relevant content and resources to South Asian communities, to inspire significant change, impact and mentorship for younger generations.

As much as diversity, inclusion and equal representation in our sector is imperative for progress, I feel particularly passionate about highlighting environmental and social injustices caused by systemic and geo-political issues. With the brunt of the climate crisis already being experienced by communities in all parts of South Asia (my family included,) I am driven to bring climate justice to the forefront of my work; to help bridge the gaps in the sector to bring about immediate action. If people of South Asian heritage and all global south regions are not part of the conversation, there is no way we can bring about the change we need, as quickly as it’s needed.

Being a part of the team at Energise, I feel the most empowered I have ever felt in my career – as a South Asian woman, as a climate and social impact activist, as an artist, as a managing consultant and in all areas of my life. To feel genuine belonging, autonomy and trust embedded into everyday work culture, truly makes all the difference in enabling me to stay motivated to bring about positive change (even when it gets tough), and constantly strive to improve. I am very much looking forward to delivering meaningful impact, keeping the door wide open for other young South Asians hoping to work in sustainability and wouldn’t be able to do this consistently, if not for the support and encouragement I have working at Energise.

Written By    Vibhati Bhatia

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