Constantinos Liarikos (DEREE ’97), the head of Program and Operations at WWF Greece, is a trained economist (BA in Economics from DEREE) with postgraduate studies in Development (LSE) and Environmental Management (CIHEAM-MAICh). He has worked in the private sector, in education and as a freelance consultant. Since 2000, he has collaborated with a number of academic and research institutions, including the University of Lecce, the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos, the National Centre for Social Research, the University of the Aegean, the Agricultural University of Athens, and the Harokopion University of Athens. In the latter two he is also an occasional lecturer.
His academic interests center on the general subject of sustainable development and the results of pertinent research. His work has been communicated in reviewed journals, conferences and edited volumes. As a practitioner he is keen on the themes of project management and evaluation, as well as on a number of subjects relating to civil society organizations.
Since 2002, he has been working with the Greek office of WWF, as a project manager and takes part in environmental policy and strategy teams. Today, he holds the position of the Head of Program and Operations. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the “Greek Landscape Association”, an adjacent member of the National Spatial Planning Council, and a member of the Steering committee of the National Rural Development Network.
1. What are your fondest memories of DEREE?
Hundreds of warm and exciting memories. Early mornings in the cafeteria and silent evenings in the library are what mostly come to mind whenever I think of DEREE.
2. Did you have a favorite class or professor?
I was lucky to have studied under many gifted professors. Among them, the late Albert Arouh was a man that really shaped my way of thinking and played a decisive role in my professional course.
3. What are some of the skills that DEREE equipped you with and that have helped you in your career?
Well it is not easy to discern one or two skills. I can only say that I left college equipped with a great toolbox that has never failed me.
4. Have you found the DEREE alumni network useful in your work?
To be honest I have never tried to utilize it. Yet, during my career I have worked with many former DEREE students and have always found that our common studying background facilitated productive collaboration.
5. How can ACG alumni, students, faculty and staff become volunteers at WWF? What can people do if they are interested in joining your efforts?
In the course of our work, we are always in need of people with the will and time to voluntarily support us. From high-end experts that assist us develop projects and positions, to people that can share a bit of their time and assist us with every-day office tasks. All relevant information can be found on our site, where anyone willing can fill-out a “volunteer form” and offer his or her services.
Many companies also offer us pro-bono professional services or gifts-in-kind, something that is vitally supporting in our work. Especially in fields outside our core expertise like financial/accounting services, certifications, advertising, etc.
And of course, the heart of this organization is beating because of the 11,000+ people that provide us with direct financial support. Despite our many other fundraising mechanisms, our financial supporters are the sole reason we are able to maintain our independence and flexibility. Joining this group of supporters is probably the most valuable and immediate way to help us – especially in these dire times.
6. Can you tell us about your work at WWF?
Well maybe it is not as fascinating as it sounds, but then again maybe it is. A large part of my work is essentially identical with that of any other senior manager: supervising projects and operations, managing people and teams, planning and monitoring resources, managing relations with donors and associates.
There is another part of this work, though, that is very different than that of any other manager’s. It is the one that has to do with developing ambitious projects that aim to change a small part of this world, getting in touch with people and having a chance to address audiences with your ideas and visions, working with a miraculous team of dedicated people, travelling and spending time close to where things are happening.
I think this second part is the reward I am getting for the many long hours and days invested in the first part…
7. What are some of your most memorable projects?
Each and every project I have worked on or am working on is a bit of a favorite. And all of them are memorable, both for their successes and for their failures.
If I was to highlight only one, I would probably choose our project in the Dadia Forest in Evros, since it was in this project that my work with WWF Greece started.
8. What are some of WWF’s most crucial concerns in terms of protecting the environment in Greece?
Sometimes we tend to forget, but Greece has a natural environment of global importance, and of such scale that we should focus all our efforts to conserve it. Pressures on the Greek environment are not of the scale we see in other developed countries, but their impact is many times huge because these small or medium scale pressures are scattered and totally uncontrolled. All these issues come under the large umbrella of land-use and spatial planning and hence a large part of our work in Greece focusses on issues such as forests’ policy and management, protected areas, containment of spatial pressures, etc.
In this framework, in these times our most important concerns are centered on the environmental legislation and policy rollbacks that we are witnessing. Driven by investors’ pressures for deregulation or the perceived need to lure investments, environmental legislation and the services that are responsible for enforcing it are under a constant war, potentially with huge and irreversible impacts.
9. How far has Greece come in the last decade in terms of conservation and environmental protection?
In recent decades there have been important improvements both in terms of legislation (mainly due to EU legislation improvements) and in terms of citizen awareness and practices. Unfortunately, these changes can only yield marginal environmental results since the country lacks crucial environmental policy instruments (as for example the cadastral) and vital environmental management infrastructures. This results in aggravated competition over land and resource use and reduced ability to implement improved practices at the household or small business level. Hence so many of our efforts are concentrated on these subjects.
It is also important to restate that recent years have seen very important rollbacks in environmental legislation and practice as a result of the economic crisis. This is not only in Greece but also at the European level.
10. During a recent CSR Conference in Athens, you spoke about “Creating the CSR Policy Framework in Greece”. How should this framework be and what needs to be done to get us there?
What I talked about in this conference was the need for companies to distinguish CSR from the mere upholding of environmental legislation or the management of environmental risks. CSR is about walking the extra mile or supporting initiatives over and above what legislation and proper business practices require. This unfortunately is not the usual case in Greece.
11. What are some simple steps we can take as consumers, as individuals, at home or at the office, that will contribute to conserving the environment?
The natural starting point is to identify how one’s lifestyle of business conduct relates to the environmental challenges around us. No one can change everything from one day to the next, but with this identification in mind we can start adopting small changes in these areas that are most important. To give you a hint, dietary habits, energy and waste are probably the most important fields where easy and important changes can be made.
For those interested, the site of our “better life” project (www.kalyterizoi.gr) has a wealth of information and tips on things we can do in our everyday life.