Ten minutes with Stephanie O’Callaghan, Origin Green Ambassador

Stephanie O’Callaghan, who is gaining great experience on the Bord Bia Origin Green Ambassador Programme. She is currently in the middle of a six-month placement in the Environment team within Tesco.

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How did you get started in your role?

I joined the Origin Green Ambassador programme in September 2021 having completed a Masters in Sustainable Development, Agri-food and Co-operatives the previous year. Prior to that, I spent three years working as a Food and Agribusiness consultant working with a range of client types across the food supply chain. I have always been interested in agriculture and grew up on a mixed livestock farm in Co Cork.

Stephanie O’Callaghan, Origin Green Ambassador, with fellow participants in the highly prized Bord Bia programme hosted in partnership with UCD Smurfit School.
Stephanie O’Callaghan, Origin Green Ambassador, with fellow participants in the highly prized Bord Bia programme hosted in partnership with UCD Smurfit School.

What have been some of the stand-out moments in your role?

During my time on the Origin Green Ambassador Programme, I did a one year placement with McDonald’s in a hybrid role with their Global Impact and UK & Ireland? sustainability team. I am currently in the middle of a six-month placement in the Environment team within Tesco. I have been based in London for all of my placements which I have really enjoyed. Throughout the programme I was fortunate enough to attend different events such as the EAT DRINK THINK Sustainable Nutrition event run by Kerry, and the Sustainable Food and Drink Conference held in London. I was given the chance to get back on-farm through supplier or knowledge-sharing visits. I visited FAI regenerative farm in Oxford, which was an amazing opportunity to see regenerative agriculture in practice.

What does a typical day look like?

I am currently on my placement with Tesco, and on a typical day I will either travel to the Tesco head office based in Welwyn Garden City, or their central office which is based in Farringdon. My work in Tesco is focused on developing their nature strategy and a lot of my time is spent identifying biodiversity risk hotspots in their supply chain. Tesco has a longstanding partnership with World Wildlife Fund and it is exciting to see in practice the projects taking place, and the impact being made through the partnership. One thing I really enjoy about this role is that I spend a lot of time talking to various start-ups or tech companies who provide innovative nature-based solutions with the aim of enhancing nature and biodiversity —  not just in Tesco’s supply chain, but at a wider landscape level.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of the programme?

The most enjoyable aspect of the programme for me has been meeting so many amazing people in the sustainability and wider food industry. I have learnt so much from the other fantastic Origin Green Ambassadors and brilliant colleagues I have met along the way. The Origin Green Ambassador programme is a fantastic opportunity to build a strong network in the food and drink sustainability industry. This is really important because I’ve learned over the course of the programme just how small the food sustainability space is.

Would you recommend the programme to other prospective applicants? 

I think people should apply for the Origin Green Ambassador Programme as in my experience, the placement opportunities have been second to none and it is a fantastic way to gain a masters in sustainability in a really practical and hands on way.

Why did you choose to work with Origin Green?

Personally, the main attraction of the Origin Green programme was the placement element and the invaluable opportunity it presented to work on the sustainability teams of leading food and beverage companies globally.

Where do you see your industry five years from now?

I hope that the food industry, including our farmers, is recognised for its strengths and not just its weaknesses. I hope that we can transition to more holistic and nature-friendly food production systems.

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what would that be?

Follow what interests you and the opportunities will come. Don’t feel like you have to stay on the same career path forever if you don’t want to.

What would you say are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?

Being able to communicate effectively with lots of different types of stakeholders, being able to work in a fast-paced environment and strategic thinking.

What is the best career lesson you have learned so far?

It’s a very small world in this industry — put effort into meeting and maintaining new connections.

If you were applying for the role today, how would you prepare?

Read up on the current challenges and opportunities in the food and agriculture sector from a sustainability perspective. Be ready to showcase how your background and skillset would suit the programme — you don’t need to come from a food and agriculture background to be successful in your application.   Applications for the Origin Green Ambassador Programme are now open and can be made at MSc Business Sustainability | MSc Ireland | UCD Smurfit School.


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