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Profile: Chalaka Fernando, ALCAS Board of Directors

ALCAS is pleased to introduce our newest board member.

Chalaka Fernando is a sustainability practitioner with over 15 years corporate and academic experience. Currently completing his PhD in Systems and Manufacturing Engineering at ANU in Canberra, Chalaka holds a BSc Honours from University of Peradeniya Sri Lanka, an MSc in Chemical & Process Engineers from University of Moratuwa Sri Lanka and has completed postgraduate certification courses in Japan, Hungary, Thailand and Denmark on sustainability, climate change and LCA.

His corporate career has included environmental and sustainability roles with MAS Fabrics, Sri Lanka’s largest textile and apparel supplier, LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest cement company.

Chalaka is particularly interested in simplifying sustainability findings such as LCA, to enable consumers and companies to effectively interpret available information and adjust strategies and actions accordingly.

1. How did you first become involved with sustainability in general and LCA in particular?

While I was working for the Sri Lankan arm of a multinational cement firm, I was given an opportunity to expand my role as Environmental Manager to be responsible for wider business risks and opportunities associated with overall Sustainability.

I proposed to use LCA results in the marketing brochure of a newly introduced cement brand to compare the environmental impacts with an existing cement type. By using practical and simple metaphors the message was well delivered.

2. You have a particular interest in finding ways to make LCA findings more useable and understandable for stakeholders. Can you share with us some of the ways you have found to make LCA more generally digestible?

It’s not a complex formula. LCA can be made more digestible by understanding the audience and interpreting the results simply, if possible, by using metaphors. The overall goal of performing an LCA is to empower the stakeholders to make better decisions being environmentally conscious.

3. Before joining ANU, you had a 15-year corporate career as a sustainability practitioner. Have you seen corporations use LCA to make better decisions?

Yes and No. Both. Yes, those companies that are familiar with LCA and its applications are applying LCA better. No, some corporates are struggling to understand how to utilise the LCA results effectively. Simply, LCAs in a corporate setting are neither pure researches nor should they be just for greenwashing. LCA is a tool not only to be used and applied by corporate environmental managers, but throughout the organization. This is still largely missing.

4. You have recently joined the Board of ALCAS. What would you like to see ALCAS achieve over the next year or two?

ALCAS has been serving both corporations and policymakers in applying and developing LCA in Australia for years. While continuing this good work, building the wider acceptance of LCA applications by promoting it among consumers (real decision-makers) would be an important role for ALCAS. Also, as ALCAS already initiated, developing the next generation of LCA practitioners in Australia.

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