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The U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce is excited to bring you our newest Q&A series, Global Sustainability Leaders.
We’ve traveled the globe searching for the best and brightest sustainability leaders and we’ve found them. In our series, you will meet the
people who are creating a healthier and happier planet for you, your business and your community. Click here to view all of our Global Leaders

Ms. Elaine Nevin

Company/NGO Name:

ECO-UNESCO Clubs Ireland

Region, Country:


1. What is the mission of your company/NGO? 

ECO-UNESCO channels the passion of young people into environmental protection and promotes the personal development of young people through practical environmental projects. We do this by engaging, educating and empowering young people through direct youth programmes, training programmes, and education initiatives.


2. What is the most innovative or environmentally/socially impactful project/practice your company/NGO has implemented?

ECO-UNESCO runs a wide range of direct youth programmes and education and training programmes. One of our programmes Young Environmentalist Awards recognizes and rewards the work of young people through local environmental action project work. We also run peer education programmes including Youth for Sustainable Development and ECO-Choices Health and Well-being which works to develop young peoples leadership and peer education skills so they can work with others. Our training includes Green Youth Employability programmes which works with young people to develop their employability skills


3. How have those projects positively impacted the local community and/ or your country?

These projects have positively impacted the young people engaged by developing their confidence and self-esteem; developing their communication and team building skills; building greater awareness of the environmental and of the Sustainable Development Goals. They have positively impacted on communities by improving the local environment through practical environmental action projects.


4. Please share any new projects you will be implementing in the near future.

In the future we are looking to provide more opportunity to young people through our peer education programmes including Youth for Sustainable Development and ECO-Choices programmes; increase engagement of young people in our Young Environmentalist Awards; raise greater awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and provide more training supports to those working young people.


5. What are your top 3 career accomplishments? 

Becoming Director of ECO-UNESCO; in this role developing the Youth for Sustainable Development programme; achieving national training accreditation for ECO-UNESCO’s training programmes; leading the first consultation for a National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development in Ireland; leading ECO-UNESCO to become a Key Partner of UNESCO and its Global Action Programme in ESD; being appointed to the Irish Environmental Protection Agency’s Advisory Committee and to the Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Group on the National Dialogue on Climate Action in Ireland.


6. What inspired you to choose your career path?

I was inspired by the rural setting I grew up in, seeing the sky at night and the wonder of the natural world.  I developed an awareness of the planet we live on and the interconnectedness of everything. I understood early on that there is a lot of damage being done to our natural environment; that education is a powerful tool to achieve sustainability and young people are powerful agents of change.


7. Why do you care about sustainability? What is your story?

I grew up on a farm in Galway in the West of Ireland so was very much in touch with nature when I was growing up. We lived very sustainably even though it wasn’t called that at the time.   I was always interested in the natural sciences and studied Geography (physical incl. climatology, oceanography, geomorphology etc.), Political Science and education; I then began working with young people and since then have been very much inspired by their passion, energy and enthusiasm and encouraged by their innovation.


8. What is/are the biggest incentive(s) for businesses in your country to adopt sustainable practices?

In terms of incentives, there are a number of grant schemes coming from government agencies including the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency and Enterprise Ireland encouraging businesses to become more sustainable in their practice.  The awareness of sustainability has increased and more and more we find businesses getting interested in how to adopt sustainable practices in their work.


9. What is/are the biggest environmental or social challenge(s) facing your country today?

The biggest challenges are climate change and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to agreed European and International levels.  This will mean reduction in emissions from sectors including transport, energy, agriculture, domestic etc.

Our other big challenge is to ensure that we channel young peoples passions and that they are engaged effectively and given a voice on issues of real concern to them.


10. What is the most positive action your country has taken to positively impact its environment or social well-being?

Ireland has implemented a number of recognised measures such as a levy on plastic bags which has been successful in reducing plastic bag use; a ban on smoking in public spaces (it was the first country in the world to implement this) and again has had an impact in reducing smoking.

Ireland has also a National- Strategy in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) developed since 2014 which is being implemented; this promotes ESD in formal, non-formal and informal education in Ireland through curricula reform, whole institution approaches, youth programmes amongst other areas.


Bonus Questions:

1.  What are your thoughts on climate change? What is your company/organization doing to help bring awareness or to help mitigate climate change? 

I think Climate Change is one of if not the biggest challenge we have.  It has the potential to be so hugely destructive for our planet, our species and other species and is therefore so important that we can find solutions.

ECO-UNESCO’s programmes raise awareness in young people of the environment, of the SDG’s and how they can take action. One of the issues we have focused on over the years has been climate change; in our Young Environmentalist Awards programme we have a climate change category which encourages local actions by young people to combat climate change; we have always promoted a holistic approach to our work.  


2. What are the biggest challenges you have faced when pursuing or trying to promote sustainable practices/projects?

In the past one challenge was to build awareness of the concept of sustainable development which promoted the interconnected between environment, society and economy. With the UN adopting the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 the concept of sustainable development has become more mainstream so the general awareness has increased.

Another challenge is that often promoting sustainability can mean people making some form of lifestyle or behavioural change and this can be difficult.


3. How dedicated are your nation’s businesses to corporate social responsibility? List some practices you think would be helpful.

Many businesses in Ireland have Corporate Social Responsibility policies and support voluntary organisations through funding, volunteering or pro bono consultancy work.

Some businesses also have sustainability or environmental policies guiding their own work.


To learn more, please visit Elaine and ECO-UNESCO Ireland on their website and social media:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elaine-nevin-51696720/ 

Website: http://www.ecounesco.ie/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ecounescoireland/