Meet Pindy Bhullar, a Senior Programme Manager in the financial services industry. Her work involves problem solving and delivering lasting change. Pindy joined Leg 5 of our Round The World Voyage from Aruba to Panama in 2019 with a motivation to see the human impact for herself and help find innovative solutions. We caught up with her to see what she has been up to since!

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I‘m Pindy and I work at UBS in technology. I began as a software programmer but have moved to focus on change and delivery in the environmental, social and governance department.  

How would you describe your superpower?

My superpower is my ability to connect the dots and see where the gaps are. It’s not just putting your plastic in the bin, it’s finding the source of the issue. There’s a whole never-ending chain and when you look closer, you can see how the problem seeps into every part of our lives. 

How did your journey with eXXpedition begin?

Honestly, it started more as a random curveball. I saw Emily Penn on BBC talking about this voyage and I thought it sounded amazing. When the applications went live, I applied. I tried not to think too much of it because I didn’t feel like I ticked any of the ‘boxes’. I didn’t think I’d actually be selected but felt there was no harm in trying. One day soon after, we were out walking the dog and I got the email to say I’d been selected!

Credit: Natalie Teng

What was the most surprising thing you learnt during your Voyage?

What really stood out was how the smaller countries deal with rubbish. We started in Aruba and visited the waste centre. When we saw the landfill site, there was this enormous mountain of rubbish, so large that it was overflowing and seeping into the water. This reality was horrifying. 

Credit: Sophie Dingwall

“Even though plastic as a product has done good in the world, it has also sadly been so abused and misused on a frighteningly large scale.”

As we continued on our voyage, we would visit these picture perfect islands. However, whenever we did beach cleans, we would collect bags and bags of rubbish. From toothbrushes to crocs – you name it, we collected it. Seeing all this human waste was devastating. You almost have to see it to believe it and understand the scale of the problem. Even though plastic as a product has done good in the world, it has also sadly been so abused and misused on a frighteningly large scale.

How has the experience influenced your life since?

The experience has been one of the most impactful on my life. First and foremost it taught me about the importance of human connection. When you’ve got the right people around you, you can do anything.

My time onboard took me back to my childhood. My parents always tried to be sustainable; growing their own vegetables, reusing plastics, repairing clothes and so on. If something was broken they would fix it or make it into something new. Mum would always tell me how when they arrived from India in the 1960s, they lived with all their extended family under one roof. They had one black bin and it was never full. Now even in a small household, the bins are overflowing every single week. The amount of waste we create now is staggering, we’ve become such crazy consumers. My voyage experience reconnected me to those memories and I realised how we have changed and began to examine why. 

“When you’ve got the right people around you, you can do anything.”

Credit: Sheri Bastien

“The amount of waste we create now is staggering, we’ve become such crazy consumers.”

It also made me realise that my work felt disconnected from climate and sustainability. I began to tell my story through presentations at work and at schools. I realised there was a gap in where sustainability comes into what I do with programming and technology. It kick-started me into beginning the PhD research programme that I’m on at the moment, where I’m exploring how we can use technology more efficiently and open the discussion of sustainability in this field.

In your experience, how does the financial industry fit into the issue of plastic pollution?

It is quite far reaching. There’s been a huge push for internal employees to make sure that we’re paying attention to our consumption and waste. It’s great because if the business is to become a better representation of sustainability then we also as employees should practise what we preach. 

In terms of plastic in the broader financial institution, one of the key things that we as banks can do is advise our clients where to invest that can make the biggest difference. We pinpoint what projects to support and what they need to get their feet off the ground. When we recognise companies working towards a better and cleaner planet, or they are creating innovative solutions to plastic pollution, then it makes for compelling investment criteria that we can steer investors towards.

Credit: Lindsey McCoy

One of the big action points we look out for is a companies’ carbon emissions. Regulations mean that they now have to disclose how they’re going to reach net zero and that they are actively putting things in place to work towards their sustainable development goals and targets. Having this bigger picture in view is a unique advantage for the banking and financial industry – we can see where and how all the capital is moving around the world. 

Following on from that, what changes would you like to see happen within this industry?

All industries need to have the environment and climate at the forefront of what they do. The specific issue with banking is that there are so many parties and elements involved. However, I’ve started to notice change and regulators are putting pressure on companies in terms of having to disclose on their ESG targets which is definitely a step in the right direction. With these monolithic, massive organisations, change does happen slowly but surely, and I have faith that we will get there. 

What are your plans going forward?

I am being sponsored to allocate more time to my studies. Through that, we’ve created a Sustainable Technology Guild where we collectively look closely at different issues and ideas and see what we can do better. Moving forward I want to dive deeper into sustainable technology. 

Picture Credit: Lindsey McCoy

What keeps you hopeful about the future of the ocean?

Women. All women have special superpowers. We have so much power to influence change, our unique opportunity to raise the next generation means even our day-to-day behaviour will be instilled in the future. Women are an unstoppable force.

If you could give one message to the world, what would it be?

Buy less and shop local. 

As a western society, we are greedy. We want products quicker, cheaper, without any thought of the consequences, and now we’re faced with this huge global crisis. As the consumer, we have power, and everything you do or choose has an impact.