People and Culture

Meet Martina Blum: Taking her Zühlke skills into her new role in politics

Explore how Martina and Zühlke collaborated to support her political ambitions – even though that meant losing her after only one year. Hear about Martina's experience working with Zühlke's sustainability team, and find out what’s next for her political career.

©Photo Enzo Lopardo / enzolopardo.pictures
Martina Blum elected to City Council of Winterthur
5 minutes to read

Throughout Martina Blum’s career, she’s sought out organisations that tackle sustainability challenges head on – and solve them in the most efficient way possible. It’s a mission that originally brought her to her role as Principal Business Consultant – Sustainability Innovation at Zühlke, and that will drive the next exciting chapter of her political career.

“I’ve always been fascinated by sustainability challenges. I started out as an environmental engineer, having studied environmental economics and it’s been quite a journey to this point. Not only have I developed a deep knowledge of how to practically orchestrate sustainable innovation, ‘sustainability’ itself has moved higher up the global agenda. It’s been an extremely rewarding and exciting time to work in this field.” explains Martina.

Below, we dive into Martina’s journey with Zühlke and look ahead to the new chapter she’s about to start, as a city councillor for the Green Party.

Martina Blum working as environmental engineer

Why choose Zühlke for a sustainability role?

Sustainability is a much debated discipline, and each business has a different way of defining and approaching it. But for Martina, there were two key reasons that the role at Zühlke presented a great opportunity.

Martina says she knew Zühlke was already doing some great work in sustainability founded on lean innovation principles. But there was also a real opportunity to shape what Zühlke’s sustainability offering actually was. A chance to bring together what was working, learn from what wasn’t, and develop an offering that was practical, impactful, and scalable.

As Martina explains, this level of autonomy is key when joining an organisation at a senior level.

“I had over 20 years experience in this field. When you reach that place in your career, you want to work somewhere that empowers you to use that experience to create positive change, not just execute a predefined plan. I really felt that Zühlke was interested in my ideas, not just my skill set.”

What have been the most unexpected learnings on the journey?

One unexpected learning for Martina has been her desire to actually move into politics.

“I didn’t want to move full-time  into politics originally. But, in my role as a consultant, I heard more and more businesses express a need for political support that could set the course towards a more sustainable economy. I knew I needed to change the system.”

As Martina explains, the projects she’s worked on at Zühlke have also been full of unexpected learnings.

“Something I hadn’t expected was how financial gain is still very much in the foreground compared to social or environmental gain for many businesses. Of course there needs to be a business case, but there also needs to be a case for sustainability. We need to find the sweet spot in the middle.”

Martina adds that her team has had projects where they were able to tackle this head on: including installing lean processes that were better for the environment – and better for business value too.

“It has grown my confidence to talk to industry leaders and guide them to these better outcomes – and reassure them they won’t need to throw their growth targets out in the process.”

How did you balance Zühlke duties and a political career?

Martina had already started her political career when she joined Zühlke – something the company supported from very early on.

She was campaigning for a seat in the local parliament when she applied to Zühlke and strongly believed there was a way these two roles could not only co-exist but actually complement each other.

She discussed it with Zühlke and together they found a way to make that happen. But Martina is also keen to point out that Zühlke’s support didn’t stop there and has been invaluable as she’s launched her bid to move into politics full time.

“I’ve been really bowled over by the support I’ve received. I explained my decision to run for the chair on the city council, and that it would mean leaving my role at Zühlke if I was successful. They not only talked through the best ways to make the next step a success – they even granted me unpaid leave to run for election – and publicly celebrated with me when I won.”
 

LinkedIn Post by Zühlke to congratulate Martina Blum for being elected

What are you most excited about for your next step?

For Martina, a move to a full-time executive political role is the perfect outlet for the skills and ideas she’s cultivated over her impressive career.

“I’m really excited about amplifying the positive impact I can make. At Zühlke I became an expert at launching practical sustainability programs within complex regulatory frameworks. Now I have a chance to shape regulatory frameworks. Make them less complicated, more built-for-purpose. Plus, I'll have the chance to work within our local community to plant the seeds for future impact.”

What’s something you’ve learned at Zühlke that you’ll apply in this new role?

As Martina explains, a key skill she has developed has been how to balance a wide range of perspectives, and turn debate into meaningful action.

“Working in sustainability at Zühlke puts you in the role of a translator. You need to understand business needs, regulation, environmental economics, technology – and translate it into processes that actually work. Balancing a diversity of perspectives is vital if you want to make a lasting impact – so it’s definitely something I'll be using going forward.” says Martina.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into sustainability?

While Martina has a lot of good things to say about working in sustainability, she has three key pieces of advice:

  1. Act. Martina says everyone can put sustainability to practise. “Start wherever you can — at work, at home, at school.”
  2. Use an outcome-mindset. For sustainability to work, you need to find the moral case for sustainable practices and the business case too. “That’s where great sustainability programs are born.”
  3. Work somewhere that supports you. Somewhere that respects you as an individual and has a culture founded on collaboration, empowerment, and development. “I am biased but I’d say Zühlke is a pretty good place to start.”


If you like to learn more about Martina’s career and projects – click here

Picture credits:

Header Image (Martina with flowers after being elected): By ©Enzo Lopardo, Enzo Lopardo Pictures | freier Fotograf in Winterthur

Image of voting event (members of Green Party in Winterthur): By ©Alessandro Stalder, Stapic: Fotografie, Film, Website in Winterthur und Zürich

Employees in this article

Martina Blum

Martina Blum

Principal Business Consultant

CV

Martina Blum is Principal Business Consultant Sustainability Innovation and since Mai 2022 at Zühlke. She has over twenty years of consulting experience in environmental and sustainability strategy, evaluation and management.