My career: James Clayton

30th September 2015

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Director, Clayton EHS Services and founder of

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

I've always enjoyed the outdoors and when I was a student began volunteering for several nature and heritage conservation charities, eventually leading teams of volunteers. That started my interest and, after my first degree in engineering, I decided to do a masters in environmental management. It covered a range of topics and I realised a career in industrial environmental management was a good way to use my engineering knowledge.

What was your first environment/sustainability job?

Nothing to do with engineering, ironically! I worked as a projects officer for the Groundwork Trust. I had great fun teaching primary age kids about waste recycling.

How did you get your first role?

The Groundwork Trust was relatively small and new at that time and I saw the job advertised locally. The educational aspect of the job was not something I had planned but I learned some useful skills.

How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?

As part of my MSc I did a three-month placement with process engineering firm Amec. About six months after I finished my degree, the company offered me the sort of role I was really looking for so I spent around two years developing its environmental management system. After that I moved into consultancy to broaden my experience and that's what I've been doing since.

What does your current role involve?

I left my consultancy job in April 2014 to start, a website providing a new way for businesses that need environmental, health and safety (EHS) support to connect with consultants and other service providers.

How has your role changed over the past few years?

Starting my own business has been the biggest change by far. Consultancy taught me some skills that have proved very useful in the process, such as patience and attention to detail.

What's the best part of your work?

I still undertake a range of consultancy, training and auditing work. Working with people to help them address the challenges they are facing and maybe see things in a different way can be very satisfying and rewarding.

What's the hardest part of your job?

I have always travelled a lot for work and having a young family makes it hard being away from home. But coming back is always something to look forward to!

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

It was two days training on the revised ISO 14001 environmental management system standard.

What did you bring back to your job?

It was interesting to find out how seemingly minor changes to the wording of the standard are likely to have significant implications to businesses and will hopefully act as further drivers for improvement.

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

When starting any new venture you have to be willing to take a risk but you also need to plan ahead. It teaches you great self-discipline too: you're on your own; if you don't do it, no one else will.

Where do you see the environment/sustainability profession going?

I've seen a lot of environmental professionals/specialists who are too isolated from the business agenda. We need to make sure everything we do has relevance and value, either in the context of risk management or business efficiency. Those of us who can make those connections will be the most successful in the future.

Where would you like to be in five years' time?

I'd like to be making a real contribution to helping business find high-quality environmental, health and safety support.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

There are a lot of areas or industries you can specialise in; take your time and get involved in as many different things as possible (consultancy is a great way to do this). Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses, and pick something that suits you best.

How do you use IEMA's environmental skills map?

I think it's a great tool. Although I don't use it personally, I have made a number of colleagues and clients aware of it. It's great that simple, clear, high-quality resources like this are publicly available.



Career history:

2014 - present Director, Clayton EHS Services and

2006 - 2014 Principal consultant/technical director, Environmental Resources Management

2006 - Health and safety manager, Bovis Lend Lease

1998 - 2006 Consultant/senior consultant, Environmental Resources Management

1996 - 1998 Environmental adviser, Amec Process and Energy


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