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Head of Sustainability

Becoming a more sustainable organisation isn’t just about the quick wins or the single actions. It is about an ongoing programme of activity across the organisation touching each activity and all staff. So how do we identify ways to be greener? Our Head of Sustainability’s passion for the natural world took her from studying Environmental Biology to where she is today. Below, she explains how we’re maintaining our commitment to better ways of working, and why everyone has a vital role to play.

“Having spent a lot of my career trying to influence foreign governments to take more action on climate change, I thought it would be interesting to take on the green challenge myself, inside FCDO Services. I established a focused Environment and Sustainability team, and we’re making good strides. My conclusion is that action is much harder that words, but the challenge and sense of purpose are what motivate me.

I have always been interested in the natural world, and I did a degree in Environmental Biology. I’ve spent my whole career in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, with several periods in FCDO Services. Mostly, I’ve been a British diplomat, specialising in international collaboration around science, technology and innovation. This includes working on international climate change and energy policy.

“The challenge and sense of purpose are what motivate me.”

There is a good level of interest in sustainability at FCDO Services. So how do we turn interest into genuine engagement and action? People often need a more directed approach with clear instructions. But being sustainable requires people to think things through for themselves. It isn’t a single action but a new way of working – just as business models are fundamentally shifting from linear systems to circularity, and from buying/owning to borrowing/leasing. 

Sustainability is half behavioural and cultural change, half process and technology. And a culture of sustainability needs to run all the way through, like the lettering in a stick of rock. Virtually all areas of FCDO Services now have sustainable standards that apply to different roles – for example: architects, surveyors, mechanical and electrical engineers, project managers, IT service managers, data centre managers and procurement managers.

“It isn’t a single action but a new way of working.”

As a business, we have a significant international travel and freight footprint, including freight packaging. Overall, our reported carbon footprint has reduced by 31% since 2017/18, and achieving our 2025 target of 56% reduction is possible if we can deliver sustained reduction. In addition, inflation and rising costs are really putting the spotlight on the need to be more efficient and there is a strong synergy with sustainability.

Being more energy efficient, rationalising flights, consolidating freight, re-using things, avoiding waste: all these things help us reduce our footprint and save money. Energy efficiencies can be are relatively easy to achieve, but we need to keep finding different things to maintain our trajectory. It’s hugely challenging as time goes on, because there are fewer levers to pull.

Here’s what we’re doing to reduce the footprint of our logistics packaging and phase out single-use plastics:

“We are very focused on the overlap of sustainability and efficiency.”

Sustainability is becoming the business norm, and it stimulates innovation and improvement. It’s not just an opportunity to address the climate crisis, but to achieve a competitive edge. Our customers want us to deliver greener products and services, because they have to meet the same sustainability targets we do.

I find that the millennial generation have a more ‘instinctive’ understanding of how sustainability links to their role as they have studied climate change in different ways throughout their education. That helps but what’s key is a willingness to really learn and change. Celebrating and recognising even small successes is really important in demonstrating what is possible.”

As our Head of Sustainability says, we’re making good strides but there’s still more work to do. If you’d like to join us in sustainability or learn more about our world, explore our different career areas.