Shengyuan Su

Shengyuan Su

Sustainability Director at Zendesk

Shengyuan Su’s journey as a professional from environmental science studies to corporate strategy, leading Zendesk’s sustainability initiatives

Shengyuan Su, currently serving as the Sustainability Director at Zendesk, charted an inspiring journey in environmental sustainability, marrying it with corporate needs. With  a robust educational foundation that bridges environmental science and business administration, including a Bachelor's degree in both areas and a Master's in Environmental Economics and Policy, Su melded the realms of environmental stewardship and corporate strategy. Her career, initially rooted in the renewable energy sector, reflects a passion for not just one aspect of environmental preservation but a holistic approach to combating the climate crisis through systemic change.

Su's transition from the renewable energy industry to leading sustainability efforts in major corporations underscores her belief in the power of business to instigate meaningful environmental change. 

"I love renewables, but I know it's only one piece of the climate solution puzzle," Su says, highlighting her desire to create broader systemic impacts. Her tenure at Salesforce brought great change to the company's strategy through climate action and ESG reporting initiatives, including setting Science-Based Targets (SBTs) and launching the sustainability-focused product Net Zero Cloud.

A combination of business mindset and sustainability at Zendesk 

At Zendesk, Su leverages her extensive experience to guide the company towards a low-carbon business model, aiming to accelerate positive planetary change. Her efforts represent a shift in mindset around sustainability in the corporate environment, a trend she acknowledges has grown significantly over the years. 

"In the early stage of my career, when I searched sustainability on LinkedIn it yielded few results,” Su explains, “and now it's thrilling to see that the sustainability profession has emerged as one of the top rising career paths." Su explains, as she shows the increased recognition of sustainability's critical role in modern business practices.

Navigating the complexities of integrating sustainability within a software business poses unique challenges, particularly in aligning sustainability and business strategies and embedding sustainable practices into business operations. Su emphasises the importance of optimising time to achieve the most profound impact, given the resource constraints and multitude of objectives she manages. 

"It's really important to ensure dedicated time for reflective consideration of the broader context," she notes, underscoring the strategic thoughtfulness required in her role.

Su draws inspiration from sustainability leaders across various fields, underscoring the importance of leveraging unique skill sets for environmental advocacy. 

"Every occupation has the potential to become a climate-focused role," she says, as she advocates a multidisciplinary approach to sustainability that leverages the expertise of professionals in various fields. This perspective not only broadens the scope of sustainability efforts but also encourages collective action and partnership across organisational boundaries.

Her advice on embracing collaboration and empowering others to integrate sustainability into their operations and strategies captures the essence of her leadership philosophy. Su's journey and accomplishments reflect a deep commitment to environmental sustainability, driven by a belief in the transformative power of collective action and the pivotal role of business in addressing the climate crisis. Through her work, Su continues to inspire professionals across industries to contribute to sustainability, regardless of their formal educational background, emphasising the universal potential to effect change.

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