My career: Henrietta Anstey

13th February 2012

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Henrietta Anstey explains how she moved from banking to head of environment and sustainability with BAE Systems

Why did you become an environment professional?

I wanted to study something that was important to me, rather than what would lead to a job, so it was natural to choose my degree in countryside management. At the time, cost-benefit analysis was a new concept, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 was just coming into force and environmental job opportunities were limited.

What was your first environment job?

In 1999, I became an environmental manager for a construction company that was a subsidiary of Bristol Water. It needed ISO 14001 certification to remain on the prime contractor list for a major utility firm and I was given responsibility for managing the development and implementation of the 14001 system in just 18 months.

How did you get your first environment role?

More by luck than design! Having gone into banking after university, I realised that, while I was gaining some excellent business skills, I didn’t have much job satisfaction; I needed to do something that I was passionate about. After signing up with a temp agency and finding myself working in a construction company, I mentioned I had an environment degree and was keen to use it. Little did I know that I would soon be working to help the company certify against 14001.

How did you progress your environment career?

Having achieved 14001 at the construction firm, I needed a new challenge and became aware of a consulting opportunity at a maritime design company whose main customer was the Ministry of Defence (MoD). My role was to provide contracted support to the
MoD on activities including ensuring that ship designs were compliant with environmental legislation and developing an environment management system. I moved from this company to BAE Systems and became involved in more significant maritime environmental projects with the MoD.

What does your current role involve?

I am now the lead environmentalist at BAE Systems and responsible for shaping policy and for securing executive agreement. My role is to support the business in developing sustainability plans across our operations, supply chain and products.

How has your role changed over the past few years?

A lot! Having initially worked in one part of business I had a good idea of what I wanted to improve once I was in head office. I set about making those changes and I am now looking to embed these through better education, ultimately strengthening our corporate environmental capability.

What’s the best and hardest part of your work?

Best – when an employee or a business has taken the principles of environmental sustainability, successfully applied them and enjoyed the benefits that follow. Hardest – in a global business, reaching agreement takes time. I have learned to be more patient and understanding of the concerns of the various businesses – this is essential as they are responsible for delivering the operational efficiencies and product innovation, and have the supply chain relationships.

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

Environmental knowledge is a given, but communication is the most important. From the choice of words to the appropriate medium to send the message – I am still trying to get it right.

What was the last event you attended and what did you bring back to your job?

The 2011 IEMA annual conference as a speaker. This brought new contacts, which helps to extend my network and an opportunity to learn how they are driving change.

Where do you see the environment profession going?

Becoming more mainstream and more significant, given the increasing population and our insatiable attitude to consumption.

Where would like to be in five years’ time?

A director with an environment-related remit.

What advice would you give to someone considering going into the environment profession?

Qualifications are the start, and professional registration gives you extra credibility, but it is how you engage with people that will really determine your effectiveness. Understanding people, and tailoring your communications to their values, will help ensure they do the right things well.

Career File


FIEMA, CEnv, MSc Integrated Environmental Management, BSc (Hons) Countryside Management


Head of environment and sustainability, BAE Systems


Senior principal environmental consultant, Surface Ships, BAE Systems


Principal environmental consultant, BMT Defence Services


Environmental manager, Bristol Water


Retail and corporate banker, NatWest Bank

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