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Career profile: Amber Harrison FIEMA

12 Dec 12:00 by TRANSFORM Editorial

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Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional? 

I have a background in print, communications and brand, but have always tried to live sustainably. Seeing the environmental impacts of the industries I work in (aviation and IT), I wanted to make a difference.

What was your first job in this field?

Senior manager in corporate social responsibility at SITA.

How did you get your first role?

I lobbied to create a role to look at CSR after looking at trends in the aviation and technology industry that SITA operates in. It covered both the environmental and social aspects, and had a global remit.

What does your current role involve? 

I look after a range of programmes globally, from our ISO 14001 certification management to CSR strategy and reporting, a community foundation and work on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I’ve just started a new carbon remediation programme to mitigate our air travel impacts. It’s busy!

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

There has been a shift from high-level thinking on what sustainability could mean to delivering against a strategy that’s material to the business. Credibility through frameworks such as ISO, UNGC and the UN SDGs has also increased, and new legislation means new focuses.

What’s the best part of your job?

Looking back to where we started and seeing that a difference has been made – and sharing our journey with others.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Balancing the priorities – sometimes you need to be pragmatic and set aside some time to focus on just one or two key areas for a while.

What was the last development event you attended? 

Edie’s Sustainability Leaders Breakfast with BaxterStorey and Vodafone presenting.

What did you bring back to your job? 

That any business with the commitment and dedication can engage its teams to make a difference.

What are the most important skills for your job? 

Adaptability, influencing, engagement and determination.

Where do you see the profession going? 

I see it being a consultative part of any business, so that sustainability is considered part of corporate strategy, rather than being reactive.

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

I’d like to be sharing the experiences I’ve had in my career with organisations or individuals looking to expand their own knowledge.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession? 

Go for it. The breadth of opportunity is great, and it’s hugely rewarding. IEMA is a great place to start. Try and talk to as many people in the profession as you can about what they do – most of us will willingly share our insights.

How do you use the IEMA Skills Map? 

It’s a great way to introduce people to the scope and scale of the profession, and to show them the competencies they need to progress. It’s also useful to review your own CPD opportunities.

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

Curious, driven, passionate.

What motivates you? 

Making a difference – whether in tangible terms, or by changing mindsets to think about sustainability as ‘business as usual’.

What would be your personal motto? 

Be useful, be kind, be fair.

Greatest risk you have ever taken?

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge – heights are not my strong point!

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

Johannes Gutenberg. As the printer of the first major book (the Gutenberg Bible) using metal type in the 1450s, he started the revolution that brought access to information to a much wider audience, instead of just those who could afford it. 

I lobbied to create a role to look at CSR after looking at trends in the aviation and technology industry that SITA operates in. It covered both the environmental and social aspects, and had a global remit.