Career Profile: Nicola Stopps

Published on: 4 Jul 2019

Nicola Stopps

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

I have always considered working with businesses to be the most effective way to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. They have the potential to make a substantial positive impact on society and the environment 
if we can guide their innovation and their resources.

What was your first job in this field?

My first job after I graduated with my masters degree was with SLR Consulting. I was lucky enough to work alongside truly inspirational people. I was given the opportunity to grow professionally and as a person. I felt invested in, and I will always appreciate that.

How did you get your first role?

I sent out more than a thousand speculative letters and CVs to environmental consultancies and got one reply. Luckily, I got the job!

What does your current role involve?

I founded Simply Sustainable in 2010. We are an award-winning corporate responsibility and sustainability consultancy, and I have the pleasure of leading an extraordinary, talented team. What each client requires from us can vary depending on a variety of factors, the most prevalent being the point at which the business is on its sustainability path. This may mean we need to provide thought leadership on the use of artificial intelligence, or perhaps provide a tailored CSR benchmark for a company still early on its journey.

How has your role progressed over the past few years? 

We are constantly listening to our customers, identifying the challenges they face and asking ourselves how we can improve our services to tackle these. For example, we developed a tool in partnership with an econometrics company to calculate sustainability’s return on investment. Proving the financial value of long-term environmental investments can be very elusive, and I believe that this tool is something every sustainability leader needs to have in their arsenal.

What’s the best part of your work?

I’m a people person, with a thirst for knowledge. There is nothing better than collaborating with my team to help provide useful and future-facing solutions for our diverse clients.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Slowing down enough to appreciate what has been achieved.

What was the last development event you attended? 

I have been honoured to have been chosen to attend the four-month Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme. Working with my cohort to scale some of our biggest business hurdles has been a real opportunity for me, and I’ve enjoyed working with people in so many different industries.

What did you bring back to your job?

The programme has reinforced an empathic approach – the need to appreciate the professional and personal challenges of our clients.

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

Active listening, positivity, and being practical.

Where do you see the profession going? 

As individuals, we need to arm ourselves with a wide variety of general business skills as well as specialist sustainability skills. We also need to scale up and speed up if we are going to tackle the global challenges we face.

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

In five years, I’d love to still be an active and valued client partner while enjoying fun family time.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Educate yourself on sustainability, but also immerse yourself in business drivers, challenges and priorities. Most of this work involves integrating environmental goals while expanding broader business objectives. The most successful sustainability strategists understand that they cannot achieve any impact goals if they cannot also achieve the bottom line.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?

We use it to support the development of our teams.

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

Joyful, positive and resilient.

What motivates you?

The people around me, my wonderful family and the beautiful world we live in.

What would be your personal motto?

Always make time to look at the view.

Greatest risk you have ever taken?

Bridge jumping and swimming in glacial lakes.

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

Nelson Mandela – for resilience and commitment to non-violence.