Profile: Kye Gbangbola FIEMA CEnv Founder and managing director of Total Eco Management Ltd

Published on: 24 Sep 2021

KyleWhy did you become a sustainability professional?

To use my directoral and academic ability to help organisations operate sustainably at a gold standard.

What was your first job in this field?

As development director of one of the UK’s largest social housing programmes – the first to be awarded ISO 14001:2004 and the largest black-led organisation in Europe. The environmental software I designed was Constructing Excellence awarded.      

How did you get your first role?

I created it! I see sustainability as a duty of every director, so I led by example; colleagues saw the benefits and bought in. It led to enhanced environmental performance, post-completion occupational surveys, and happier customers trained in the operation of better homes.  

What does your current role involve?

Providing training and consultancy services that enable organisations to improve efficiency, be more profitable, cut costs, increase revenue, enhance reputation, improve diversity and become resilient. I have written books on sustainability and use my expertise to help executives who want to change their organisation’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance and response to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I chair, moderate and speak at global policy events as the UK’s first Global Reporting Initiative certified expert.

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

As ESG reporting is increasingly mandated, organisations must change or be left behind. It is good to help more organisations and individuals gain qualifications so they can help deliver the sustainable industrial revolution.  

What is the best part of your work?

Happy clients, as we achieved for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What is the hardest part of your work?

Trying to grow a business in a sector that needs to support black-led organisations more, and keeping the team and others safe during coronavirus, which has resulted in us placing our corporate sustainability reporting training online.

What was the last development event you attended?

I chaired a global policy discussion on SDGs for built environment professionals.

What did you bring back to the job?

The joy of seeing leaders understand that ‘business as usual’ cannot continue.  

What are the most important skills in your job?

The ability to apply knowledge, leadership and collaborative working. I did an MBA to develop my skills, having been a director for 28 years.

Where do you see the profession going?

There is increasing demand for qualified, competent people to operate sustainability departments. Wealth funds are investing £2.4trn a year to meet new global laws for sustainability. Consistency across reporting standards will reduce misleading claims and greenwashing.

Where would you like to be in five years time?

Leading a restorative net-positive organisation that has decoupled growth from resource use. The world is always learning – my son Zane brought sustainability into the lexicon of his headmaster, and the school now has many sustainability credentials. At the age of six, he said: “People think being green and sustainability is about tidying their garden, but its about tidying a bigger garden that belongs to everyone.” I hope we all get his message.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Note the things you like, then identify companies that do these things well, seek to join them and grow through continuing professional development.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?  

To review my personal development, and that of my team.

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

Professional, hardworking, pioneering.

What motivates you?

A vision of sustainable global communities that lift humanity, where justice, environmental justice and protection are rights for all.

What would be your personal motto?

Never give up, never despair.

Greatest risk you have ever taken?

Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic when I was very unwell, with the symptoms of COVID-19. I got lucky!

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

Jesus Christ and his disciples.