My career: Nigel Marsh

4th August 2016

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John Hems

Global head of environment, Rolls-Royce

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

I started supporting some early environmental audits as BS 7750 was emerging and looking at environmental liabilities from an insurance perspective. With the emergence of ISO 14001, I decided to take the opportunity to move into environmental management as it was an area of natural interest for me. Having been in research and development, I also liked the excitement of doing something for the first time and making it work. It also felt like this was an area where we should all be doing more.

What was your first environment/sustainability job?

As an auditor and then moving to become a corporate environmental manager.

How did you get your first role?

Rolls-Royce created a corporate environmental function and I saw the opportunity that this provided – a global company with amazing products and diverse manufacturing processes, and associated environmental aspects and impacts to manage. It seemed like a perfect step having spent a few years auditing, which had been frustrating because the focus was on findings rather than solutions.

How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?

By getting involved in emerging stakeholder requirements and thinking about more than just operational environmental issues. Taking part in external groups like the EEF, CBI, the aerospace industry trade body and selected cross-sector forums also required that I broaden my horizon and see what was happening in other sectors. Working with people from other sectors and firms makes you realise that, apart of some unique issues, you all have similar key impacts to manage.

What does your current role involve?

Everything from operational EMSs to consultations on policy, new regulation, global standards, external reporting and end-of-life issues. A large part of what I do relates either to continual improvement (reducing both our environmental impact and our costs) or identifying and providing solutions to potential business continuity. As well as managing risks, Rolls-Royce is also looking at opportunities. I am a director on both the International Aerospace Environmental Group and Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association and use these positions to promote developments that will benefit the aero sector – this is an extremely rewarding part of my job.

Has your role changed over the past few years?

Yes, there’s been a need to be a lot more focused. Also, to work more collaboratively across the sector and to seek efficiencies and cost reduction as well as reducing environmental impact. There’s also been a much greater focus on driving global solutions and being less parochial.

What’s the best part of your work?

Meeting people from other firms and parts of the world who have a shared passion for the environment. Being able to make a contribution and a difference in the sector. Seeing change implemented.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Getting consensus and pace in delivery.

What was the last development event you attended?

ISO 14001 revision, although I seem to spend more time as a presenter these days.

What did you bring back to your job?

It’s always a mix of new knowledge but often a confirmation that you’re working along the right lines. It’s always useful to see others’ take on and approach to things.

What are the most important skills for your role?

Communication is often at the heart of everything. You also need resilience and perseverance but at the end of the day it’s being able to tell your story and get the messages across to the key decision makers around you.

Where do you see the profession going?

Hopefully, from strength to strength. Without doubt there is an increasing demand for professionals who can respond to the current and future challenges that we will face around continued access to resources and finding ways of doing more with less – the old nugget of decoupling growth from the consumption of materials.

Where would like to be in five years’ time?

Quite possibly retired but I’ll always have an interest in promoting the profession, especially as an ambassador for IEMA, and reflecting on the environmental impacts of my sector.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Get as broad an experience as you can, both inside your own company and across your sector. Network as much as possible and take advantage of IEMA – it is the premier organisation in the world for the environment. Also develop your skills in communication and business case development as you need to sell a solution as well as find it!

How do you use IEMA’s skills map?

I frequently recommend it to other firms and I’m trying to see how we can include elements of it at Rolls-Royce and across the aero sector.

Career file


BSc (Hons) Metallurgy, CEnv, MIEMA

Career history:

2000 to date, global head of environment, Rolls-Royce

1997 to 2000 environmental auditor/ improvement manager, Rolls-Royce

1997 senior consultant, Entec

1992 to 1997 environmental auditor/consultant, Environmental Services Unit

1984 to 1992 senior research officer, International Research and Development

1982 to 1984 project/process engineer, Davy McKee Corporation

1979 to 1981 sponsored student, British Steel

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