Five years ago, did you ever imagine yourself as the as UK head of sustainability at Ramboll Environ?
No, it wasn’t necessarily part of the game plan, although I did of course aspire to a leading role in consultancy.
What has helped you get where you are in your career?
My varied education and experience over the years has combined fairly well to be able to bring a sector-wide understanding of sustainability issues. I believe that corporate expectations of their sustainability partners now reach beyond straightforward advice and extend to building trust and credibility. This inevitably comes through compliance and assurance related work which, if delivered with a consulting mindset, will deliver the value necessary to take clients towards best practice.
What qualifications have been necessary/most beneficial in your career?
Environmental pollution degrees on top of an engineering foundation have given a sound technical basis to my career path. Professional qualifications along the way, particularly those to do with auditing and assurance skills, have been instrumental in developing a ‘critical friend’ approach towards projects and clients.
Before that, an early qualification in forestry and woodland management took me towards fascinating sustainable forestry clients and projects in SE Asia, which would not otherwise have happened.
What have been the pivotal moments in the sector?
The consolidation in the environmental sector and the emergence of some very large consulting groups over recent years. I suspect this will continue and lead to a change in the distribution of work in terms of project size. It also throws up opportunities and, as a case in point, ENVIRON’s merger with Ramboll has brought together some very complementary sustainability-related skills that enable a wider platform for the legacy sustainability skills and services to develop. COP21 in Paris last year has reinvigorated the climate change debate, something Ramboll Environ can answer to with very credible skills and capability. The emergence of measured ‘capitals’ (natural, human, social, manufacturing, financial, etc) is a shift in context that will take the sector to the next level, with decision-making informed by quantified impacts across the value chain.
What stages of your career have been the most rewarding?
Most stages have been rewarding. I think the next will be more so, as it should nicely bring together a career of different roles and learning.
What other advice do you have for people about to embark on their careers in sustainability?
I have always believed that technical credentials are key; most negative impacts on society are historically derived through industrial and commercial activity, so to understand the root cause is important even if your role addresses mitigation and improvement further along the chain. Build up multi-disciplinary skills whenever you get the opportunity – sustainability is never going to be a single focus challenge.