My career: Damien Smith
Damien Smith, head of client services at Ecodesk, says you have to have passion and demonstrate your enthusiasm to people in this far-reaching sector
Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
I know it sounds a bit clichéd but I wanted a career move that would make positive change a daily occurrence. My main motivation was to apply learning to innovative programmes, which could leverage the transformative power of organisations. Also, I see behaviour change as a critical component in addressing environmental issues and I wanted to support, nurture and encourage pro-environmental behaviour.
What was your first environment/sustainability job?
My first assignment was drafting an environment policy for a very small event management company. I also had to manage the firm’s environmental permits and implement low-level initiatives to get it thinking about the way it ran its business.
How did you get your first role?
I started by volunteering with Walsall Countryside Services, implementing biodiversity plans, conducting wildlife surveys, species identification, constructing SuDS and learning basic woodland management. Working in the environment sector opened conversations and dialogue with common-interest stakeholders, enabling me to connect with like-minded people.
How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?
I selected an MSc course that would sit at the heart of environment policy, governance and sociology to formalise my learning. I then used my spare time to broaden my environmental horizons and refine my world view while seizing “extra-curricular” opportunities to attend events and network.
What does your current role involve?
Project management for clients requesting environmental data from suppliers to be reported to Ecodesk using GRI protocols. Managing and developing my team of sustainability experts, and helping to evolve the Ecodesk platform to focus on emerging topics, such as conflict minerals, compliance and risk. Working with, and presenting to, organisations in the supply chain to help them understand their reporting duties and data collection.
How has your role changed over the past few years?
There is now less advisory content from a reporting perspective; familiarity with the GHG protocol and maturing environment management systems mean that organisations know how to collect their data. Increasingly, I’m involved with data analysis and starting to build supplier engagement programmes. Auditing of the datasets is also a central feature of the role.
What’s the best part of your work?
Conversations and sharing knowledge with colleagues and peers – it’s the kind of work that is gaining traction with procurement leaders and to be able to engage them as a new audience is exciting. Equally rewarding is the fact that I learn about innovative projects and voluntary initiatives from around the world.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Convincing some organisations of the merits of reporting environment data can be tough. Too often, the default response is to look at the financial benefits and base a decision to provide data purely on that.
What was the last development/training course/event you attended? An online course on lifecycle assessment (LCA), which focused on the underlying principles, methodologies and applications of LCA.
What did you take back to your job?
Reinforcement of how critical LCA is to sustainability and that there are significant gains to be made by coupling it with supplier engagement.
What is/are the most important skill(s) for your role and why? Strong communication skills and commercial awareness are key. Data analysis and interpretation skills are vital to ensure measurable change can happen.
Where do you see the profession going?
Chief sustainability officers (CSO) becoming more central to operations and a greater emphasis on value chain disclosure and environmental, social and governance reporting. I think we’ll see the migration of other business professionals to the sector and, with that, far more strategic influence and steering of corporate strategy.
Where would like to be in five years?
I’ve set my sights on achieving CEnv and would like to think I’ll get there. The evolution of the CSO role is very exciting and I’d like to steer my learning and experiences in that direction.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
As with any career, if you have passion and demonstrate your enthusiasm to people they will help you. As it’s a far-reaching sector, I would recommend staying targeted on the sub-sector or topic area you really want to know more about and work in.
How do you use IEMA’s environmental skills map?
It was vital in helping me determine where I wanted to get to and the milestones I needed – or still need – to reach.
BA (Hons), MSc, AIEMA
- 2012 to now Head of client services at Ecodesk
- 2010–2012 Environmental consultant
- 2009–2010 Studying (MSc)
- 2006–2009 Environmental adviser
- 2000–2006 Managing director – printing and advertising
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