Career profile: Adrian Barnes

Published on: 30 May 2019

Adrian Barnes


Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional? 

I wanted to make a positive difference in the world, and leave it in a slightly better state at the end of my career than it was in at the beginning.

What was your first job in this field?

I was a researcher and personal assistant to Dale Vince, the founder of green energy provider Ecotricity.

How did you get your first role?

Through a recruitment agency. They needed someone at graduate level with a general understanding of sustainability and renewable energy who was willing to work on a random and unpredictable range of issues.

What does your current role involve?

Day-to-day, my main responsibility is ensuring that all of Green Investment Group’s (GIG) investments meet our ‘green objective’, so contribute positively to one of our ‘green purposes’. As the sustainable finance agenda gains traction, we’re also increasingly looking to provide green advisory services to other investors, fund managers and governments. I also spend a fair amount of time ensuring that GIG remains a thought leader on emerging issues such as disclosure and standardisation, where I’m working with the British Standards Institution to contribute to developing green finance standards.

How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?

I joined when the Green Investment Bank was just being set up – we spent the first few years setting up and working out the processes we would apply to investments. Having refined that approach, our focus is on working out how we can best apply that knowledge and experience to benefit the wider global expansion of clean technologies and green infrastructure.

What’s the best part of your work?

The interesting conversations I get to have about the hot topics of the sustainability agenda with professionals and stakeholders across a range of fields: investors, project developers, technical consultants, NGOs, regulators, lawyers and civil servants, to name just a few.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Making sure I prioritise the day-to-day work on projects and investments – reviewing technical reports, contractual agreements, project modelling – over the interesting discussions with colleagues and external contacts about the direction of our industry.

What was the last development event you attended?

A few weeks ago I was at the IEMA Sustainability Leaders’ Forum in London.

What did you bring back to your job?

It was a great opportunity to exchange ideas with a lot of the leading thinkers on sustainable finance.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job?

The ability to communicate complex technical messages about sustainability issues to a non-technical audience.

Where do you see the profession going?

An understanding of sustainability issues is increasingly important for professionals in all fields. Our profession has an opportunity to influence thinking about the development of our economy and society more than ever before.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

The field of sustainable finance is pretty exciting right now. I’m looking forward to building GIG as a globally established leader in green and sustainable investment, underpinned by a rigorous approach to green assessment.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Be flexible and ready to try something that may not look exactly like what you were hoping for, but has potential to be shaped into something interesting. I know a number of environmental professionals who started out in roles that were not strictly environmentally-focused, but used their position as an established and trusted colleague in an organisation to mould their role or move across to what really interested them.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?

To identify important skills for my development that I wouldn’t normally focus on in my job, for example keeping abreast of policy and legislation.

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Principled, considered, flexible.

What motivates you?

Knowing that I can be proud to tell my children what I do.

What would be your personal motto?

If you really know what you’re talking about, your expertise will shine through – you don’t need to force it when trying to make a good impression.

Greatest risk you have ever taken?

As a fresh graduate, I turned down a job offer from a London-based consultancy – the first offer I’d had in several months of looking – because everyone there looked so miserable. Best decision I ever made!

If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?

Albert Einstein. Not only a genius, by all accounts he had a sense of humour.