Career profile: Dave Gorman

Published on: 31 Jan 2020

Dave Gorman

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
We owe it to ourselves, future generations and the other forms of life we share the planet with to look after what we have, and I wanted to be part of the change.

What was your first job in this field?
Recycling officer, Dundee City Council in 1993 – the UK recycling rate was 2%!

How did you get your first role?
As soon as I completed my masters, I was lucky enough for the role at Dundee to become vacant.

What does your current role involve?
I am senior lead for advising the university on what it means to be socially responsible and sustainable. We advise on climate change and sustainable operations, what it means to be a responsible investor, human rights in our supply chains, relations with the city, community engagement and more.

How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?
We are increasingly taking a ‘whole institution’ approach, embedding social responsibility and sustainability into core processes and strategy, rather than just thinking about operations. We see ourselves as key players in educating our students so that they can tackle the key challenges of the future and work with the sustainable development goals.

What’s the best part of your work?
Working with a great team and colleagues, constantly addressing new challenges and opportunities, seeing the impact our work has on nature or people’s lives, and feeling we are making a difference and ‘raising the bar’. The added bonus is being surrounded by thousands of young people, who are full of energy, ambition and new ideas!

What’s the hardest part of your job?
Making change is tough, especially in large organisations, and there are so many challenges to address. It’s important for a leader and their team to look after their own wellbeing and take time to celebrate success.

What was the last development event you attended?
The EAUC sustainability leaders’ programme at Cambridge University in January 2019.

What did you bring back to your job?
A greater understanding of various theories of leadership – in particular why sustainability leadership requires different approaches.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job?
Technical expertise, resilience, communication and influencing skills, the ability to translate evidence into viable future opportunities for Edinburgh University.

Where do you see the profession going?
We have come a long way since I started, but we need to make sure we can talk the language of leaders and changemakers, keep stretching our ambitions to match the size of the challenge, and bring people and social justice more into our thinking. We must also improve diversity.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
In the same job, but with even more ambition!

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
Don’t get lost in the technicalities. Learn early on how to communicate, persuade, make change and influence. Also learn some history, to give you context! And don’t forget about social justice and inequality.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?
It’s a great way to identify skills we can improve, and to track progress.

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Strategic, focused and future-oriented.

What motivates you?
Protecting the planet, tackling injustice, and widening opportunity for all.

What would be your personal motto?
Something like ‘We can always do better working together, respecting the planet and each other’.

Greatest risk you have ever taken?
Persuading the university to divert some of its £1bn of investments towards social and responsible investments.

If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?
Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni (a brilliant polymath from Khwarazm).