My career: Markus Herz
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Markus Herz, group environment manager, Allianz talks about his journey from chef to environmental executive
Why did you become an environment professional?
I became interested in environmental issues at an early age, and I’ve always had a particular passion for waste and materials reuse. My first job as a chef strengthened my conviction that there was much to be done to reduce the environmental impact of business and that I want to dedicate myself to this.
What was your first environment job? I was employed by London Remade, a “green” not-for-profit, as a broker for the Mayor of London’s green procurement code. The programme aimed to develop the market for products made from recycled materials.
How did you get the role?
In 1994, London prepared for the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The commitment to be a “green games” was already in place and London Remade was commissioned to investigate how a closed-loop recycling system could be operated during the games. Materials from catering were expected to form a significant portion of the waste, which made my academic focus on waste and my background as a chef a good fit. Also during my studies I completed a placement with a small consultancy called Wastebusters. This gave me practical experience and started off my professional network in the environment sector which proved very important.
How have you progressed your career?
Through a combination of continually developing my skills, having a real drive to advance my career and being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. While working at London Remade, I secured the contract to deliver the Envirowise programme as the regional manager for London. This allowed me to further build up my professional network and live the mantra of “resource efficiency = business sense”. It was at that time I joined IEMA. I secured my first corporate role as UK environment manager at KPMG two years later. In 2013, after five years in that role – during which I took on responsibility for Europe, Middle East, South Asia and Africa – I had the opportunity to progress my career and return, after 20 years, to my native Germany by joining Allianz.
What does your current role involve?
My role is based in the Allianz4Good department and my responsibilities involve delivering the elements of our climate change strategy that deal with minimising environmental impacts. I am responsible for the strategic development of the environment management system, coordinating activities relevant to our environmental performance and leading a network of local environment officers across more than 50 Allianz entities worldwide. Another core part of my role is the undertaking of an annual assessment of Allianz’s global environmental footprint, which is reported externally.
What’s the best part of your work?
Being able to contribute to how a large company addresses climate change is a real privilege. While much of my work is numbers-based, I really enjoy working with the people behind the numbers and seeing ideas lead to action that translates into environmental improvements.
What was the last event you attended?
I regularly attend online training sessions, peer exchanges and conferences. In April, I went to a symposium discussing the impacts of climate change on Germany.
What are the most important skills for your job?
Sound technical knowledge and skills on greenhouse-gas management and reporting are important, as is an appreciation that understanding the business is crucial in identifying improvement opportunities. Another important skill is the desire to work with and inspire a wide range of people to achieve a common ambition.
Where do you see the profession going?
I think the profession will continue to diversify and provide more opportunities for sustainability professionals. However, particularly within an environment management context, there will continue to be a need for environmental knowledge and a good understanding of the core business.
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
In my current role, but engaging with an increasingly diverse set of stakeholders to inspire the significant changes required to meet the challenge of global climate change.
What advice would you give someone entering the profession? Acquire solid technical skills in your particular area of interest, take advantage of networking and work-experience opportunities and don’t restrict yourself geographically too early in your career – experience abroad will bring many advantages.
How do you use IEMA’s environmental skills map?
I use it as a very helpful point of reference in my personal development and as part of building skills within our global EMS.
AIEMA, BSc in environmental management
- 2013 to now Group environment manager, Allianz
- 2008–2012 UK environment manager, KPMG
- 2006–2008 Regional manager, Envirowise
- 2004–2006 Green procurement manager, London Remade
1986–2003 Chef in restaurants in Germany, Bahamas and London
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