My career - Graham Wood

30th June 2015

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Gregory Webster

Principal auditor, DNV GL

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

I was in the second year of a geography degree, while others around me were starting to apply for various jobs. I began to think: what do I like doing? I spoke to my tutor who advised me to do an MSc. She recommended the environmental technology course at Imperial College. So that was it, a plan.

What was your first environment/sustainability job?

It was for Aspinwall & Company. I was a graduate and for the first year did quite a bit of “grunt” work, such as environmental monitoring or working on contaminated land sites. I then moved into an audit team.

How did you get your first role?

I am fortunate to be old enough to have been at college when the need for environmentalists was starting to grow. I was at Imperial College doing my MSc when several employers came for an evening seminar. I had a chat, posted my CV and did not think anything of it until a job offer came back. I was not specifically thinking of a consultancy role, but the opportunity was there.

How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?

I was made redundant from my first job, which in hindsight made me stronger. I realised that I wanted to be a generalist, dealing with multi-issues, so that’s the direction I took. I did a month’s contract with David Bellamy Associates in Durham and loved it. While I was there, I secured a job with Southern Science, part of Southern Water. The work was diverse as it was a start-up, so you did what was available – from EAs, some liability assessments, contaminated land investigations and water/effluent sampling. After three years, I moved to PE/David Bellamy Associates.

What does your current role involve?

I project manage and undertake certification audits for 14001, EMAS, 9001 (quality), OHSAS 18001 (safety and health) and 50001 (energy) in a diverse range of industrial and business sectors. I am also a lead EU ETS verifier and do some non-mandatory carbon reporting verifications.

How has your role changed over the past few years?

The main area of change is that I have moved into carbon accounting.

What’s the best part of your work?

Working with a diverse range of clients, and sometimes getting to see things that are “awesome”. I still find different business cultures and the way that companies work interesting.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Travelling and numerous nights away from home can lead to personal stress and be very tiring. Conversely, some of the most memorable work experiences have come through travel – I have now worked in about 30 countries. It is difficult to keep up with information. I have to consider just about every business type, from offices to offshore installations.

What was the last development/training course/event you attended?

It was an in-house supplier ethical data exchange (SEDEX) course. The last external course was an ETS verifiers course.

What did you bring back to your job?

I have not had an opportunity to use the SEDEX course, but the area of labour practices and “sustainability” is an interesting one. The ETS course was very good in terms of gaining some of the background to the scheme.

What is/are the most important skill(s) for your role and why?

Very simply: robust technical knowledge and communication.

Where do you see the environment/sustainability profession going?

I think that this is an interesting time for the environmental management. It has recognition as a discipline in its own right now and environmentalists are starting to crop up in varied roles, slowly migrating out into various business channels.

Where would like to be in five years’ time?

The truth is I don’t know, but I think it’s important to keep evaluating opportunities as they arise.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

If you are dedicated to following an environmental career, I would say that a postgraduate qualification is really worth doing. It puts you one rung higher up the ladder and will probably give you the opportunity to learn from others on your course – some of whom are likely to be mature students already working.

How do you use IEMA’s environmental skills map?

I work in a profession that has its own competence management system, and we have to demonstrate this to our third-party auditors (UKAS). My company, DNV GL, also has its own career path model, which ostensibly is a pyramid of grades built around technical/managerial skills and behavioural requirements.



Career history:

1989–91 environmental consultant, Aspinwall & Company

1992 environmental consultant, David Bellamy Associates

1992–95 environmental consultant, Southern Science

1995–97 environmental consultant, PE International/ David Bellamy Associates

1997 to present principal auditor, Det Norske Veritas – now DNV GL


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