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Insider Insight: Kate Whitehouse

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Working for IMServ since 1997, Kate has spent the last 10 years in her role as environment, health, safety and sustainability manager. Kate is also responsible for the premises, facilities, fleet and travel, and is well placed to understand all areas of environmental impact across the business. Kate has a NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety and is a Technical member of Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

Q: How did you land your current job?

A: I have been lucky enough to be given opportunities to work in a number of different areas, so I have experience of sustainability, health and safety agendas as both an employee, where these areas have affected my day-to-day business objectives, and as someone implementing the strategy. I have always been passionate about delivering a good service to customers and now my customers are the IMServ employees, so creating a ‘want to be part of’ environment is a key question I always ask myself. There is an element of fun you can have with employee engagement, which we then cascade into employee schemes and company social events.

Q: What attracted you to working at IMServ?

A: IMServ has evolved from a small organisation, which was part of the original deregulation of the electricity market, into the UK’s largest independent electricity data collection provider. At IMServ you are able to know all your colleagues whilst being part of a large global parent organisation. The company delivers customers visibility of their energy usage and shows them how to make energy savings or reduce their carbon impact. These benefits make you feel like you are doing your bit for the environment.

Q: What has helped you get where you are in your career?

A: I believe it is flexibility and a willingness to learn and try new things. Much of my health and safety training required self-motivation. There often isn’t a large team of experienced professionals to call upon so I had to ensure I trained myself to a sufficient standard. This allowed me to be both responsible and knowledgeable about the field. It is made very clear in legislation that you are personally responsible for the welfare of individuals, so although daunting initially I am now confident in what I have to deliver, to both the business and our employees.

Q: Do you have any tips for people about to embark in your field, on how to make a success out of their careers?

A: I would say the key to success is a desire for continual improvement. Legislation can often change and you need to ensure that you are clear about what you have to deliver and what you are responsible for. There is certainly a steer towards continual improvement, especially when trying to monitor and manage an ever changing environment. 

Q: What stages of your career have been the most challenging?

A: The two areas I think are most challenging for health, safety and sustainability are getting engagement from staff and the board. You need to ensure that your staff support the company ethos and are consciously considerate of safety and environment matters in all aspects of their roles. As for the board, it can be challenging to get business cases approved for investment, but there is benefit in any change we implement.

Q: What have been the most rewarding stages of your career?

A: The most rewarding aspects of my career have been personal development and the opportunity, from a sustainability perspective, to see a wide range of businesses that are part of our parent company. I may not choose to work in all sectors but it is fascinating to share experiences with my counterparts.

Q: What is the key to getting the most out of your team/colleagues?

A: It is essential to understand that everyone has day jobs. You cannot bombard them with endless updates, tasks and ‘did you knows’ as it could risk the important messages being ignored. It’s important to choose your battles and when you want engagement. A little fun and distraction from everyday work also goes a long way.

Q: What have been the ground-breaking instances or milestones in the sustainability industry that have really changed the way you have to work? And how did you adapt to these events?

A: The biggest milestone was simply the introduction of environment and sustainability issues within business. For many companies, issues regarding sustainability weren’t even on the agenda 20 years ago. Many people aren’t conscious about energy prices, let alone understanding how their business impacts the environment and what they were doing to counter this effect. IMServ was an early adopter of ISO 14001 but in the market there are many businesses, services, accreditations and training courses now linked to this field. My advice would be: take each challenge one at a time and don’t be afraid to bring new ways of doing things to the business.

Q: What qualifications have been necessary/most beneficial in your career?

A: Over time I have evolved into the position and then added qualifications over the years. I would advise people to look around and ensure they get the right training and qualifications for what they want to do. The scope of environment, health, safety and sustainability is a vast industry today. You don’t need to decide initially but there are opportunities to be a generalist or specialist, front line delivery or consultant. The key, as to all roles, is building up experience and a willingness to challenge yourself.

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