From The Straits Times    |

Do you like your job? Or wonder what it would be like if you’d gone against your parents’ advice and pursued your dream career? Her World’s Career Confessions column spotlights the professional journeys of its subjects and reveals how each individual’s career path and the choices they have made can have an impact on their personal finances, psychological health, and interpersonal relationships.

Transitioning from the glitz of the entertainment industry to the realm of philanthropy and entrepreneurship was a deliberate choice for Nanette Medved-Po

The former actress first soared to fame in the early ‘90s through her acting career, notably portraying the iconic superheroine in the 1991 film “Darna.” However, her trajectory took a significant turn when she opted to pursue further education and delve into advocacy work.

Graduating summa cum laude from Babson College with degrees in Finance and Entrepreneurship, she seamlessly merged her educational background with her passion for social good. Recognising the potential to leverage her platform for meaningful impact, she chose avenues where she could make a tangible difference.

“I saw opportunities to leverage my platform and chose the ones that I felt I could make the most difference,” shares Nanette. “Luckily, Babson College’s training helps you to assess opportunities critically.”

Nanette Medved-Po, founder of HOPE and PCX

In 2012, she embarked on her journey as a social entrepreneur by founding the non-profit organisation, HOPE. This venture focused on investing in education, agriculture, and carbon sequestration within the Philippines. 

“In 2012, I was simply trying to prove to businesses that brands which invest meaningfully in social good (beyond just CSR) would be supported by the market,” she notes. “11 years later, we have found that our work has grown beyond investments in public school education, to agriculture livelihood, and environmental interventions. It would be wonderful if other brands found their own public benefit investments. I truly believe that business can be an incredible force for good when it wants to.”

In 2019, she further expanded her impact by establishing the Plastic Credit Exchange (PCX). PCX began as a non-profit in the Philippines, one of the epicentres of the plastic pollution crisis. The company, which is now headquartered in Singapore and Manila, has enabled the clean up of 74.4 million kg of plastic waste.

There are now two entities under PCX. 

PCX Solutions, a non-profit organisation, collaborates with governments worldwide and aids companies in understanding their plastic footprint, implements reduction strategies, and manages a transparent, audited Plastic Pollution Reduction Standard. 

PCX Markets, on the other hand, combines advanced tech with sustainability, operating as a fully transparent plastic credit marketplace for audited, traceable plastic waste recovery as well as responsible processing worldwide, using blockchain technology.. It also supports communities on the ground with programs that improve livelihoods and scale social impact 

Today, the actress-turned-philanthropist and entrepreneur has charted a distinctive path in effecting positive social and environmental change. Nanette’s contributions have garnered significant recognition, including the prestigious Asia Game Changer Award presented by the Asia Society in New York in October 2022. Moreover, in 2023, both HOPE and PCX were honoured as two of the world’s top 300 impact companies at the Real Leaders Impact Awards, alongside renowned brands such as Tesla, Ben & Jerry’s, and the Lego Group. 

Below, Nanette shares more about her journey from actress to social entrepreneur, and the lessons she’s picked up along the way.

Name: Nanette Medved Po
Highest Education: Summa cum Laude, B.S. Finance and Entrepreneurship, Babson ‘98, 
Job Title & Industry: Founder, HOPE and PCX
Years of Work Experience: 35

How would you describe your career? Would you describe it as a job, a career, or a calling that you’re extremely passionate about?

Certainly a calling that I am passionate about. It occupies more of my waking hours than any job should. 

HOPE invests 100% of its profits into public school education infrastructure. How do you see education as a catalyst for change, and what specific initiatives has HOPE undertaken to make a meaningful impact in this area?

We chose classroom buildings because this was (and still is) a priority project of the government. I was also interested in only delivering investments that could be easily and transparently traced by anyone, regardless of social station. We do this because we believe that the money HOPE makes is a public trust. We promise to deliver classrooms. Buildings are easy to understand because they are tangible. So, on our website we show where the classrooms are being built, by whom, for how much, how to reach the contractor, and how to reach the school principal. 

As for why education, I think it is clear that the return on investment to society is greatest when it is made in education.

Hope also provides women-micro entrepreneurs, called “Aling Tinderas”, with the infrastructure needed to buy and sell plastic waste in her community. Since its inception, the program, which encourages behavioural change and educates the public about responsible plastic waste management, has provided PHP 10,257,984 in incremental revenue to the women and their communities, diverted 4,103,193 kg of plastic from nature. In 2023, the average income of each Aling Tindera increased by 48%. Companies can buy plastic credits for Hope’s Aling Tindera program, funding cleanup as well as supporting socio-economic impact, as well as directly supporting specific collection sites. 

What I will say is 3 of the cornerstones of our approach is; 1) market-based solutions are key, 2) multi-stakeholder approach to problem solving, and 3) radical transparency.  

PCX has played a pioneering role in establishing a Plastic Pollution Reduction Standard. How does PCX’s traceable offset platform contribute to environmental sustainability, and what global programs has it initiated to address plastic pollution?

The origin story of PCX started in the Philippines, one of the epicentres of the plastic pollution crisis, where I saw first-hand its toll on nature, the climate, the economy, and our health. In 2019, I set up PCX Solutions, a non-profit organisation, which was the first in the world to establish a Plastic Pollution Reduction Standard that solved risks seen in carbon credits and applied best practices to plastic to ensure the impact and responsibility of plastic waste projects.

PCX Markets, which was set up in 2021, helps fund plastic pollution cleanup around the world. Our marketplace activates an ecosystem of partners who collect, transport and responsibly process plastic waste, which is tracked and verified through the power of blockchain technology, while supporting communities on the ground with programs that improve livelihoods and scale social impact. 

Credit purchasers are able to choose between a growing number of projects they want to support based on geography, type of plastic, collection type, and price. Today, we support projects that have capacity to divert 250 million KG of plastic waste in six countries – the Philippines, Indonesia, US, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Nigeria, Argentina – and we aim to expand to 15 countries, with up to 1 billion kg of annual cleanup capacity by the end of 2024. 

To date, we’ve helped divert nearly 100,000 metric tons of plastic from nature – including 40 million Kg as of the end of 2022, and approximately 58 million Kg more that was booked and cleaned up in 2023, which is now being audited and verified.

For us, sustainability means social and economic development too. Our model provides investments in environmental protection, support for behaviour change, and opportunities in the circular economy. 

Through projects like the Aling Tindera Waste-to-Cash program, which is run by HOPE, we do impactful work that not only provides additional income to communities but allows our partners to become champions of sustainability.

Is this the career path that you envisioned for yourself?

Absolutely not. 

Would you say that your life is primarily career-oriented?

My husband likes to say that HOPE and PCX are my other children. Hopefully that means I have struck some kind of balance. 

In your journey as a social entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced, and what valuable lessons have you learned that you would like to share with others in the field?

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that need to get done, or are going wrong. It’s important to not lose hope and just focus on putting one thoughtful foot in front of the other – you’ll be amazed at where you wind up.

Looking ahead, what are your future goals for HOPE and PCX, and how do you envision expanding their influence to create even greater positive change?

The biggest opportunity lies in our ability to help solve the plastic pollution crisis – not just in Southeast Asia, but globally. With the UN Global Treaty on Plastic Pollution providing powerful tailwinds for responsibility, our long experience in both voluntary and compliance markets allows us to be in a unique position to help businesses deliver. If we really wanted to, we could be the generation that solves the plastic pollution crisis.