Q&A: Nathan Vear

Published on: 23 May 2019


Director, Kapaciti Ltd

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision on my part. I was looking for a third-year dissertation topic when doing a year out on my degree at Philips Medical Systems. I gave a list of possible topics to my service manager and he chose environmental design. It all went from there.

What was your first environment/sustainability job?
On graduation, I was offered a position at Philips, now Elekta Oncology Systems, as environmental project manager.

How did you get your first role?
I must have made a good impression during my year out. I tried to add value to the company, showing passion and commitment, being useful, willing to contribute and to make a difference.

How did you progress your career?
Early on, I would say ‘yes’ to any opportunity that was offered. That opened so many doors, from representing my sector at government and in Brussels when the WEEE and ROHS directives were being drafted, to getting to work at a group level in Stockholm. At the same time though, people do respond well to those who ‘get stuff done’. Success breeds success as they say.

What does your current role involve?
I get involved in private-sector consultancy, public-sector interim management and project and programme management. I’m also a qualified coach-mentor, so I do that as well. Its varied, and very rewarding.

How has your role changed over the past few years?
I’m often responsible for large teams, so my role nowadays is much more about demonstrating effective leadership and management, not just in sustainability, but also on the people side of things. Quite different from EMS auditing or conducting SEAs that I used to do.

What’s the best part of your work?
Seeing progress and achievement in the organisations and people I work with.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
It’s not the hardest part of my job per se, but navigating organisational politics can be frustrating. Organisational culture can be enabling or inhibiting, and is the difference between leading, high-performing organisations, and those that settle for mediocrity.

What was the last development event you attended?
The ISO 14040 sustainable procurement event put on by IEMA and the BSI at the Loughborough London Campus.

What did you bring back to your job?
An IEMA summary report and a realisation that standards can be esoteric.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job?
Effective communications skills and the ability to build a good rapport with people. Building confidence and trust is crucial – it’s not possible to be taken seriously as a sustainability practitioner without it.

Where do you see the profession going?
Our profession is an enabling force that guides and empowers others to incorporate sustainability into their life, personally and professionally. This means championing sustainability, showing the way and involving others. Achieve that and there is no longer any need for sustainability champions…, well, IEMA will have a bit of an existential crisis on its hands. 

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
These days, who knows where anything will be in five years’ time? 

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
Having technical knowledge and skills is important, but don’t lose sight of the need to cultivate a positive set of behaviours and ‘soft’ skills. Knowledge can be acquired, but attitude and behaviours make the difference at interview.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?
Largely as a personal development tool, either for myself or those I work with. Having been fortunate to have worked with IEMA to create the skills map, I hope others use it and get value from it on their own IEMA journey. 

Career File 

BEng (Hons), PgDip, IEMA Full with Chartered Environmentalist, PS CEnv

Career history:

2015-present, Contract project manager, IEMA

2015 Interim head of environmental development, Oxford City Council 

2014-present, Director, Kapaciti Ltd

2014-present, Non-executive director, Humber Nature Partnership

2014-present Interim chair, East Midlands Board, Chartered Management Institute

2012-2016, Midlands Board Members, IEMA

2012-2014, Head of environmental infrastructure, North East Lincolnshire Council 

2008-2012 Head of neighbourhood improvement, North East Lincolnshire Council