The National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM) is the largest professional association for corporate environment, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability decision-makers. We are dedicated to empowering our members to advance environmental stewardship, create safe and healthy workplaces, and promote global sustainability.
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Member Spotlight - September 2010
Mario Varela

This month we introduce you to Mario Varela, Director of Corporate EHS at APP Pharmaceuticals, LLC, one of the members who helps make our network so unique.

Mario Varela headshot

1. Why did you join NAEM?

I joined NAEM in 2002 while I was still an employee of the Wm. WRIGLEY Jr. Co. My former boss at Wrigley (Andy Holynskyj) was a devout proponent and supporter of NAEM, as one of the association’s "founding” members. He and his corporate ESH group hosted several NAEM events at the Wrigley Building in Chicago and sponsored all of us to attend. I liked what I saw. The seminars were great, very informative, and they had a global feel to them (members came to present on topics about their EHS experiences around the world). Presenters were also of high caliber in my opinion. It just suited us all well because the company is global and obviously there was a push to take our ESH programs to the next level across all regions.

2. What do you like about your job?

What I like about my job, besides the fact that doing EHS is all about preserving our environment and natural resources for generations to come and making sure all employees have a safe and healthy place to work, is the fact that it lets me interact with colleagues from various functional areas, at all levels of the organization, as well as with my peers from across industries. Somehow, in business, it seems like all roads eventually lead to EHS. I think this is very cool. It makes you a more well-rounded individual and professional.

3. What is your biggest challenge in your current role?

The biggest challenge has to be accommodating and adapting quickly to the increasing demands on the business. I think this is probably true for most EHS professionals out there and across most, if not all, industries. Nowadays, change is the ‘name of the game’ and how successful or painful the final result ends up being is highly dependent on your attitude and approach towards new things.

4. What is your best strategy for doing your job despite the changing demands?

In the EHS world, we have to strike the delicate balance of being the protectors of people, property and the environment, and still be company-people. However, if you embrace your responsibilities with integrity, respect, and ethics then you have nothing to worry about: Speaking from the heart, saying what you believe is right (even when it is not the most popular answer), acting in the best interest of those you represent and/or for whom you work (employer and employees plus neighboring communities), and genuinely caring for people and our natural resources, are all things that will help you navigate the choppy waters of the ever-changing regulatory demands, political winds, new business models and management transitions, flavor-of-the-month programs, and whatever curve balls our working life may throw at us.

5. What are the three words your spouse/colleagues/best friends would use to describe you?

My wife would say I’m a social butterfly because I’m not shy to meet new people and engage in conversation immediately. My colleagues would say I’m fun but also a hard worker. My best friends would say I’m very funny, loyal, and a good dad.

6. What aspect of the natural world/environment impresses you the most? Why?

The aspect of the natural world and environment that impresses me the most is the immensity of the oceans and their power. I’m also fascinated by outer space and its many mysteries. The presentation from Story Musgrave, the astronaut who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope and who presented at the 2006 NAEM Forum in Savannah, Ga. still resonates in my head. Simply amazing.

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