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'Travel helped build my resilience', Julia Jackson

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Julia Jackson joins Purposely Podcast to share her career journey and travel experiences that shaped her vision. Time living and working in Latin America led her to a career focused on sustainability and purpose.



Julia also explains her role at Kiwibank and what it means to lead a purpose strategy for a major bank and play a significant role in their B Corp certification.


Aged just 22 Julia announced to her parents that she was leaving New Zealand and heading to Latin America to travel and live there. A one-way flight to Buenos Aires was booked and, despite not speaking a word of Spanish, Julia set off on her big adventure.


‘It wasn’t easy, and it was quite hard to make friends. It was quite lonely at times, and I wondered what on earth I was doing there. But it helped to build my resilience and up my tenacity, the experience was absolutely life changing’.


Julia talks about the motivations behind the trip, citing her desire to breakout from her bubble and her ‘middle class privilege’ after completing a degree in International Relations at Victoria University in Wellington, NZ.


‘Growing up I had a privileged childhood and I think I was always very conscious of that. My awareness influenced what I studied and my decision to go overseas and travel across Latin America. I wanted to use my privilege to give back and help the community in some way’.


Her International Relations degree and the focus on international development was a motivating factor in choosing to travel in Latin America, over the more traditional England and Europe. Her fascination centred on two trends that were developing at the time, the first around environmental sustainability and the second on the self determination of communities, including initiatives like fair trade and the empowerment of people to choose their future direction.


‘I really wanted to see the theory in action, and I could see the potential to revolutionise things for the better’.


Julia’s travels coincided with the 2008 global financial crisis, and she found getting employment challenging. After travelling around Chile, Bolivia and Peru she would eventually go on to work in hospitality. However, first she took a volunteer role in Ecuador working in a hostel, initially in the Capital Quito and then in out of the way volcanic regions where they were building a new eco-resort. This was motivated by her desire to put her degree into action particularly the study she had done on sustainability.


‘So, I was building a greenhouse and helping them get the composting systems up and running, and all that sort of stuff. I absolutely loved seeing those systems really come to life’.


Julia would eventually move on to Panama and then settle in Guatemala where she met her now husband who immigrated to New Zealand with her in 2011.


‘I met all these amazing indigenous communities that lots of people would never have had the opportunity to meet’


Landing back in New Zealand Julia secured a role working in sales for an insurance company, however, it wasn’t long before she joined a mission focused charity called Sustainable Business Network and she was able to put her studies and her life experiences into action professionally.

‘I always really saw the value of giving back and the value of community. To get involved in some of the quite challenging and strategic projects, particularly things around (sustainable) procurement and investment at the time’.


In May 2017 she jumped from the charity sector to corporate with a large Australasian bank as maternity cover.


Julia then joined Kiwibank in 2016 as a corporate social responsibility lead, seven years on she is Head of Purpose and Sustainability. Kiwibank, as far as banks go is in a unique proposition, it is a B Corporation which means it works hard to meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact.


‘It has been amazing to see the number of customers that are choosing Kiwibank because of the (B Corp) certification, although that’s not why we did it. We embarked on the certification because we were living the values.’


Certified B Corporations are committed to considering the impact of their decisions on workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.


Initiatives provided by Kiwibank include; sustainable finance , financial education programmes and prioritising purpose alongside other commercial measures.

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