Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
I have always been happiest in the countryside, and noticed detrimental changes over time caused by human interaction. After having children I became aware that we need to influence and control how industry operates, and protect the environment. I wanted to save the whales, but realised very quickly that I would be at the polluting end of industry. Now however, my career has come full circle and I am saving the whale!
What was your first job in this field?
At a waste management consultancy – I undertook waste audits in manufacturing sites and helped apply the waste hierarchy.
How did you get your first role?
I took a third-year placement at university, assisting in EMS implementation at manufacturing sites. I met my future employer when improving waste management at a client’s site.
What does your current role involve?
I am engineering lead for environmental risk for a defence contractor, providing assurance to the engineering director that our military products comply with legislation and have managed impact throughout their lives. I govern how we identify and manage business and capability risk presented by product environmental factors. I spend a lot of time with our businesses and customers, promoting more sustainable design.
How has your role changed/progressed over the past few years?
Much of what I now do is about access to resources in the future and ensuring continued capability. I also consider our contribution to relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals, as it’s possible to define our performance in a succinct, globally recognised way. I think not only about how our products impact the environment, but also about how the changing environment will impact the performance of the products.
What’s the best part of your work?
Knowing that I am making a difference.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Pushback from senior leaders and other functions, though things have improved, and most now recognise the business risks and opportunities associated with sustainability.
What was the last development event you attended?
Apart from the bimonthly IEMA Wales network meetings, I supported the Fellows Working Group in developing the Thought Piece on Disruptive Technologies.
What did you bring back to your job?
An insight into how organisations are embracing these technologies to capture and manage data – for example, to provide information for more accurate measurement, better decision-making and targeted action.
What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job?
Tenacity, communication skills and continuing professional development.
Where do you see the profession going?
With the drive towards net zero, and the emerging business risks, we will have a greater voice. This is why the Skills Map and competency is so important – credibility comes with competence.
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
Retired, hopefully! But with the realisation that I have left a legacy of sustainability in a sector that is slow to change.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
Accept that you won’t change the world overnight, and keep learning.
How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?
It helps me determine strengths and development areas when I am mentoring others to become fully rounded effective environmental professionals.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Enthusiastic, logical and interested.
What motivates you?
Seeing decisions being influenced by environmental factors.
What would be your personal motto?
‘Be true to yourself and you will never let yourself down.’ Or….’It’s better to live one day as a tiger than a thousand as a mouse.’
Greatest risk you have ever taken?
Taking a role for which I felt I was not fully competent. No-one is 100% capable in a new role, but you learn as you go.
If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?
Rachel Carson, who wrote about her findings and initiated the environmental movement in the 1960s, despite fierce opposition.