Montserrat Pavón, Coordinator of Environment, Prevention and Quality.

“We have to explain to society what we are doing”

Despite her young age, Montserrat Pavón has spent 18 years at Sertego, and is one of the people that knows the company best. As Coordinator of Environment, Prevention, and Quality at Sertego, she is especially proud of the individuals that she works with, a multi-disciplinary team that combines youth and experience, and works every day to make Sertego one of the world’s leaders in industrial waste treatment. Methodical, a perfectionist, and with an eye for detail, Montserrat is concerned about “the world that we are leaving for our children”. She defines herself as an environmentalist more than an ecologist, and strives to lead by example.

May 2017 web copy.

Montserrat Pavón, Coordinadora de Calidad, Prevención y Medio Ambiente de Sertego
Montserrat Pavón, Sertego’s Environment, Prevention, and Quality Coordinator.

What do you like to do when you are not working?
Dance, I love to dance. It takes my mind off things. For me, dancing is a way of relaxing and relieving stress. In the past, I was a dancer. My studies were in Spanish dance. I think that dance gave me discipline, it let me learn about myself, and it gave me the ability to sacrifice. Now it is a hobby.

Is discipline your greatest virtue?
That and constancy, which is a result of discipline. That is what kept me afloat during many stages of my life. When things don’t go well, constancy and perseverance are what help you turn the situation around. Besides my virtues, I also have my faults. I tend to be negative about certain things sometimes. I worry a lot before problems even come up.

Tell us about your professional career.
I studied Business and Economic Sciences. In one of the courses, they started talking about natural resource economics, and that subject really changed my perspective. I noticed that I liked it, and then after graduating, I decided to get a Master’s in Environmental Studies. I started at Sertego in 1999 in the used oil division. My work involved implementing environmental systems into regeneration plants. Little by little, I started taking on more centres, and one fine day I was offered management over the Quality and Prevention area. Currently, I am more involved in the Environment and Prevention part.

What do you like about the company?
Its open nature and the quality of its people. At SERTEGO, you can tell that the project was born and consolidated from unions with other companies. Here, they have integrated different cultures and ways of looking at business. This integration has enriched the company. We have improved a great deal. Everyone started quite young. I started when I was 22 or 23 years old. The feeling is as if the project is something that belongs to you, something to be proud of.

What was the best moment?
Perhaps at the beginning, when after two years I took on the responsibility of doing all the management systems and was able to certify all of the centres. I remember at the beginning some directors would say to me, “this centre is going to be impossible, you’re not going to be able to do it, things are quite bad here…”, and when you achieve that first professional accomplishment, I think that is like your first love that you will always remember (she laughs). Seeing things evolve is very important. You have to have perspective.

What about the worst moment?
Any time you have a serious workplace accident. Those are the most difficult times.

What are your current responsibilities?

In the Prevention, Environment, and Quality area, we work on maintaining all of the systems at all of the centres. I have a team of seven individuals distributed by geographical areas. These individuals coordinate the environment, prevention, and quality audits. We organise all the documentation, and we are in charge of communicating all legal requirements to the centres, and reviewing their compliance.

We are also the connection to URBASER’s central services, and we are responsible for materialising directives in terms of training. It is very important to steer training towards what is necessary, and we have a lot of client training demands. Then, we are responsible for all communication matters. Online brochures, or any corporate matter passes through us.

Lastly, we are responsible for coordinating the meetings of all of the business units. The only way to fuse everything together is to have the team get together frequently and create a culture.

What things do you think can be improved?
Lots of them! We know that we are doing a good job, but now we need to communicate that externally. We are in a sector in which the competition has not worked following environmental best practices, or even complying with minimum legal requirements. We want to make an effort to communicate what we do, everything we are capable of. We are a solvent waste management company.

Is there good environmental education in Spain?
We have a long way to go. You can even see it in domestic waste management. Sometimes I myself have doubts about where certain waste goes… If you don’t have this kind knowledge about what’s closest to you, it is impossible for you know about industrial waste, which is, after all, what we all end up producing as consumers.

For example, I know very few people around me who have the habit of going to a waste facility. I even go to throw away a frying pan. I keep things, and then I go when I have quite a few. We need to know that everything we do has an impact. The fundamental step is for people to understand that. This is often the case with mobile phones: it’s not a question of if you can or can’t afford it, but a culture of use, which doesn’t mean war economy. It’s about being consequent with our limited number of resources. I have never been an ecologist. I’m an environmentalist. I understand that I need to use a car, that I need to consume certain things, and I’m not an extremist. I want to have a certain level and quality of life, but I want to have that with as little impact as possible.

What are your goals for this year?
I am really excited for the challenge of moving forward with SERTEGO’s communications. I think we need it, and I think that it’s going to be a major challenge to be able to communicate what we want to communicate. We have to be able to explain to people and to society what we do, which is very important. They need to know the amount of hazardous waste that we process, treat, recover, and reintroduce into the value chain. They need to feel the peace of mind that waste is being managed by a company that does things the right way.
I would also like to simplify many of the processes. It’s good to listen to people younger than you, people who have another perspective on life, trying to simplify things and be more pragmatic. This is continuous improvement.

What comes to mind when you hear about the ‘Circular Economy’?
Things being constantly reused. People are talking a lot about what a lifecycle is right now, perhaps it would be another concept that has other implications, that will go further and reuse waste. Climate Change is a reality that many people don’t see. At Sertego, we are already doing things to fight against climate change. For example, we have been avoiding sea pollution for many years.

You would like…
I would like for all of us to stay conscious of the fact that the environment is not something that is separate from us, it is an integral part of our lives. Taking the metro instead of your car to work one day seems like something silly, but it makes a difference. We have to think about the future that we are leaving for our children.