Meet Lee Stewart, Head of Sustainability

I’ve had a bit of an interesting upbringing really; I was born in South East Asia, Brunei. I moved to Singapore and then to New Zealand when I was six. Dad’s a Kiwi and my mother is from Brunei, and they met over there. Dad’s from Ranfurly, so I would spend my summer holidays there on the cousins’ family farm. I grew up in Napier, so as a kid mum and dad would drive us down to the farm and I would work my butt off and then they would fly us home at the end of the holidays. Central Otago is amazing, it is the one place after 20 years away I thought, ‘oh when I get home that is exactly where I would want to go.’ 

I started my career in a telecommunication technology company in Wellington. I worked there for a couple of years and got transferred to Sydney. I got given three days’ notice to pack up and leave for a new role in the company, in a new country. I ended up there for 20 years. 

I spent several years thinking about how I was going to make change with technology.  Like many Kiwis, I took advantage of the two-year visa in the UK and went to London. When I got there, I helped set up e-learning with an education provider and it was then that the ticking in the back of my mind began, ‘how was I going to make change with technology?’

After the two years in London I went back to Australia, I had two start-ups. The success came when I started developing courses around sustainability. I developed a carbon trading course; what everyday office people can learn about sustainability and how to create mass scale behavioural change using immersive technology. It was basically gamification of content.

After about eight years of start-ups and with a second child on the way, I decided to trade in my jeans and sneakers and put my suit back on. 

I took a role at Fujitsu, which is a Japanese global IT company with over 160,000 staff in over 100 countries around the world. As State Manager for IT Sustainability Consulting, my objective was to make our IT more energy efficient but also figure out where we could use technology to enable the rest of society to reduce emissions. It was a tough gig, I always felt we could do more. I took a punt and lobbed a proposal over to the CEO about how corporate sustainability and consulting could be integrated better together, and next thing you know I am called in to the office and given the role of Head of Sustainably for the Oceania region. I ran it for seven or so years and by the end of it I was the only non-Japanese adviser to the Fujitsu President.

Globally,Fujitsu has committed to 100% renewable energy and I feel lucky to have been part of that. That was definitely a key career highlight presenting our case inthe Tokyo board room.

Consultancy life came next, advising on climate change strategy, risk, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas auditing and the like. I spent a wee while there, but it was the call I got from a recruiter in February that was really interesting. I did my research and decided that Fonterra, back at home, was my next challenge. So here I am, excited to be here and past my grace period of asking silly questions.

I believe I am passionate about sustainability because I grew up in New Zealand. My father was an environmentalist and I think I took after him. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to make a living and feel purpose driven. I’m invigorated coming back to New Zealand and continuing to drive sustainability, and it is a real bonus that my kids get to grow up in New Zealand.