In Chapter 5 of 16, environmental management expert Andrew Hutson shares the experience that prompted his corporate sustainability career. Hutson returns to Honduras, where he had worked previously, to assist with Hurricane Mitch recovery efforts. While hiking, he learns about polluted pineapple grove irrigation drainage into the Bonita river. He finds the government turns a blind eye to corporations.
How a Corporate Sustainability Career Began in Honduras Erik Michielsen: What did your return trip Honduras, post hurricane Mitch do to shape your views and what the private sector can do to make an environmental impact in the world? Andrew Hutson: I went back to Honduras, I had been there this nature guide training program that I was volunteering with and I went home and almost immediately, or a couple of months I've gotten home, hurricane Mitch hit, it was absolute distraction. Couple of my friends had lost their homes. So I went down there, basically I was working as a waiter, I was sort of between – I was doing nothing, so I went down there and look, I got a couple of hands and help you do whatever you need to be done. And so, I went back down and I was with a friend and looking at the site where he was building he new home. The next day we went on a hike and he was a nature guy in Pico Bonito National Park which is near the city of Les Ceiba, a beautiful cloud forest. And we were hiking and on the way back, you have to cross pineapple grooves, like a pineapple plantation on the way back to the highway. So we’re walking through the pineapple plantation, we’re going to catch the bus to go back into town. And if you look at your irrigation channels, this is all kind of frothy, it was really full of like pesticides and fertilizers and there’s pretty nasty stuff and so I kind of naively asked him, where does this drain? Where does this go? And he said this goes t the Bonito river. And I just spend another day before, and so again, I naively went, well, that can't be, there's kids swimming there. I saw kids playing in the water, I saw one washing he clothes, and he kind of shrug his shoulders, well, yeah. And again, on top of that, I said what does the government do about that? He kind of look at me and shook his head, he’s like, men, this is Honduras what do you think? You know the fruit companies kind of run everything; it's very little we can do. And so, in my own head I was thinking, well, if the government is not going to do anything, either they were unwilling or not capable of acting as something like this, how do you get a company then to change behavior for the better that have a real impact on people’s lives. And that’s ultimately a question that sent me back to grad school and sent me on almost decade long odyssey in graduate school to think about – the answer to that question. And I'm not answered it fully yet, but I'm getting closer, it's what I'm trying to do everyday.