What degree course did you study and when did you graduate?
Philosophy, Politics and Economics - graduated in 2020.
What is your current role?
Sustainability Manager, Finnebrogue, UK and Sustainability Analyst, Foundation Earth, UK/Spain.
I am splitting my time between the two organisations. Finnebrogue helped establish Foundation Earth and as a result I took the opportunity to work for Foundation Earth.
Tell us about your career story since graduating from Warwick
I graduated in July of 2020 at the onset of covid-19. I had planned on taking time off after University, as I went straight to university after graduating from High School and did an integrated year abroad instead of an intercalated year. By summer of 2020 I did not have a graduate job lined up, so I decided I wanted to learn a skill that would be useful and keep me busy. Out of all essential businesses still open at that time, the one that interested me the most were bakeries. I enjoyed buying fresh bread from Haddie and Trillby in Leamington and not long after became familiar with George, the owner.
Through connections made there, I was introduced to Denis Lynn, a visionary in the food industry. Denis was at a point in life where his businesses were doing extremely well and decided to turn his focus towards environmental sustainability and transitions towards sustainable food systems. As a food producer, he wanted to make the most sustainable food, but there was contradicting information on how to do this. And there was not a clear way to communicate to a consumer how sustainable food was or what it would mean in comparable terms. Denis set up an independent organisation called Foundation Earth which issues environmental impact labels for food and drink products using primary data, giving producers the insight they need to make sustainable products and consumers the tools they need to make more sustainable choices.
Finnebrogue and Foundation Earth fit perfectly with my interests in systems change and environmental sustainability, and my society and academic experience fit the requirements for the role of Sustainability Executive at Finnebrogue. The sustainability role in Finnebrogue was new, allowing me to design the scope of work and discover what is material to food businesses. I did stints with most departments to understand the functions of a FMCG business and to design a sustainability plan for the company. This included setting up more data collection and management systems for environmental assessments, setting environmental targets, and keeping up with policy developments.
In 2021 Foundation Earth was officially launched, and I had the opportunity to be seconded to the Foundation. Among general start-up work, I set up the Sustainability Analysis function, working with large clients like Pepsi, Unilever, Nestle, and others to analyse Life Cycle Assessment results.
After a year and a half with Finnebrogue I became Sustainability Manager and now coordinate sustainability functions across departments while working with Foundation Earth.
How has your time at Warwick helped you during your career?
My time at Warwick was very important in helping me define my career interest and solidifying my qualifications to work in the sustainability industry. I believe the PPE degree fits perfectly with sustainability, as the breadth and depth of knowledge I gained shows resilience and adaptability. Sustainability touches all functions of a company, and by training to understand things from multiple perspectives, it set me up to understand how a business works and therefore where impact drivers are. Sustainability is also dynamic; we want to use the most up to date science to make important decisions now. I have to be up to date on policy and scientific methodologies, and the breadth of topics covered in PPE were a great introduction to research I am conducting now.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
In the future I want to move closer towards the intersection between science and politics to really drive meaningful policy making. The climate crisis is a reality, and we need to create systems that incentivise people to make the right choices. This could be gaining a more influential role in either Finnebrogue or Foundation Earth, or moving towards the EU policy sphere. However, to make choices and keep society and the world on sustainable pathways, we need sound science and meaningful analysis, which is why the link between science and policy needs to be solidified.
What advice do you have for Warwick graduates who would like to work in your sector?
For graduates looking to work in Sustainability, the most important thing would be to speak to others in the sector, keep up to date with news in the industry and really learn the different methodologies behind environmental assessments. Sustainability is still a relatively new area of expertise, and people in the industry come from many different backgrounds. If you keep up to date with the big 4 consultancy reports around sustainability, you’ll see that there is no one pathway into the industry, however keeping up to date with what is most material to each specific industry will allow you to find the pathway. Sustainability is not in a silo, and every industry will have environmental pressures from stakeholders very soon if they have not felt them yet. By making connections with those in the industry you will learn what skills are in demand and what topics are material, which will help you understand what skills you will need for roles. The industry is also still relatively small, which means a small network will go a long way.
What 3 top tips would you give to students looking to find a graduate role in the UK or elsewhere in the world?
- Chat with the people doing the job you would like to do. There really isn’t a better way to learn what organisations want, what skills are important and how to approach a company than speaking to people in the company or in the industry.
- Do your homework on the company, industry, and type of environmental impacts and assessments and gain experiences with these.
- Take risks.