YCOSST Questionnaire for Sustainability Professionals: Mariola Kopcinski

September 24, 2013

AIChE’s Youth Council for Sustainable Science and Technology (YCOSST), chaired by Jeff Seay and Sarah Widder, is part of the AIChE Institute for Sustainability. The goal is for YCOSST to be a clearinghouse for information and resources for K-12, undergraduates and young professionals interested in careers or college majors that involve sustainability.

One of the initiatives is to provide profiles of current professionals (industry, academia and government) working in the area of sustainability.

Every month, AIChE's Youth Council for Sustainable Science and Technology (YCOSST) will present profiles of sustainability professionals or those with a background in sustainability. Learn about their educational background, current employer/title, job function, and how sustainability plays a part in their industry, university or agency. The goal of this project is to provide examples for young people of the role sustainability plays in a variety of careers and college majors.

What is your name?

Mariola Kopcinski

What is your job title, current employer and employment sector (industry/academia/government/other)?

Global Strategic Marketing Director, FMC

What sector do you work in?

Specialty Chemicals

How many years have you been in your current position?

2.5 yrs.

What is your educational background?

Ph.D Biochemistry, MBA Finance

Could you give us a brief description of your job function?

As a part of FMC’s agricultural products business, I lead the global strategic marketing group. My team looks at industry trends and technology to help shape what the business will look like in 10-15 years. We are responsible for managing the life cycle of our current products, evaluating investments aimed at developing new products, and leading new product development strategy. I also serve on the company’s sustainability implementation team.

How does sustainability play a role in your day to day job functions?

Sustainability is involved in all aspects of new product development and product life cycle management.  It is also an integral part of our process for assessing the continued viability of  projects in development.

How have attitudes in your industry / university / agency changed with regard to sustainability in the last few years?

Our business spans several different industries. Across all of them, we have observed a few big trends or what we call “market shaping shifts”:

• There is a growing desire for increasingly safe and environmentally benign materials.
• As efforts to cope with greenhouse gas and other emissions become more aggressive, the impact on high-intensity industries will increase.
• A growing population is increasing demand for energy, water and other basic resources.
• Increased agricultural efficiency will be required to produce crops, biofuels, biotextiles and bioplastics.
• A growing population will require increased food production and more nutritious foods to meet the rising expectations of an expanding middle class.

In response to these realities, FMC has made choices regarding sustainability that affect how we do business, what types of products and services we bring to market, and how we make decisions that impact our business and the future of the communities where we live and work.

What do you foresee moving with regard to sustainability in your industry / university / agency?

Sustainability has long been a part of FMC. Although we had not highlighted it in the past, sustainability is a business practice and operating philosophy that quietly underscores all that we do. But as the coming decades bring new challenges to supply the world’s rapidly growing needs, we need to acknowledge that sustainability must be more than simply a part of who we are. It must move to the forefront of our corporate consciousness. It must be an explicit part of our decision process.

What skills and competencies in sustainability are particularly important for people entering your field, or seeking sustainability focused majors at your institution?

People need an in-depth understanding of technology in order to incorporate the elements of sustainability in new product development and the life cycle management of existing products.

What advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a career / major involving sustainability in your industry / university / agency?

I would recommend getting an advanced degree in chemistry and/or life sciences. Then they would need to supplement that expertise with additional business training – either through more study or hands-on work experience. To be truly successful, you need be at the nexus of science and business.

Go to Mariola's Profile

Learn More about YCOSST

To illustrate the breadth of chemical engineering and to explore ways in which the profession is changing, throughout 2013 AIChE will be featuring profiles of today’s  young professionals, as well as experienced engineers. This effort is being spearheaded by 2013 President Phillip Westmoreland. To learn more, see Dr. Westmoreland's President's Message. You can also read his blog series entitled "We Are ChE: Entering a Golden Age".