My career: Peter Barden

15th August 2011

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Consultant Peter Barden describes how he helped to set up a FSC certification programme before striking out on his own

Why did you become an environment professional?

My interest in, and love of, the natural world dates back to my school days. I studied agricultural science and forestry at university with the aim of going into forestry management. However, things did not work out as planned and I started work in the wood industries. It was extremely interesting.

What was your first environment job?

I suppose this depends on how you look at it. My first summer job was as a soil surveyor for the Forestry Commission. My first full-time job in the environmental field, however, was to set up SGS’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification programme, Qualifor. This was the first sustainability certification programme to link environment, social and economic considerations to an analysis of the supply chain.

How did you get your first environment role?

I wish I could say this was by design, but it was more a question of being in the right place at the right time. My previous job had been declared redundant and I was in need of a new challenge, when the three-month contract to join SGS and help set up the FSC programme came along. Fortunately, I had a mix of qualifications and experience that were suited to the task. Within weeks I was offered a full-time contract and I haven’t looked back.

How did you progress your environment career?

From forestry, wood industry and supply chain work, I moved into broader environment management consultancy, certification and training, together with corporate social responsibility and emissions trading. I have been lucky enough to be at the forefront of many new areas and initiatives, the latest of which have been in renewable energy and sustainable biofuels. Throughout my career I have maintained a close link with IEMA and I am proud to be a Fellow and a principal environment auditor.

What does your current role involve?

My role is typical of a technical lead in any environment consultancy. I have overall responsibility for the delivery of high-quality projects, using a mix of directly employed team members and associates. Our areas of work broadly divide into three: acting as auditors or verifiers, offering traditional consultancy services, and training development and delivery. My other responsibilities are the training and mentoring of junior staff.

How has your role changed over the past few years?

One of the most exciting things about working in the environment area is that things never stand still. Client needs are forever changing as a result of internal drivers, external stakeholder pressure and, most commonly, legislative changes. This inevitably creates a range of challenges for our clients and opportunities for us as environment professionals.

What’s the best part of your work?

The great joy of the environment profession is that it can take you into areas and industries you would not otherwise have the chance of seeing, and there are always new challenges so you never get bored.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

In constantly changing times the biggest challenges is keeping up to date.

What was the last development course you attended?

An international sustainability and carbon certification workshop in Hamburg. It gave me an appreciation of the German perspective on implementing the EU Renewable Energy Directive.

What is the most important skill for your role and why?

The ability to see the complete picture. Sustainability has to be a balance of equal parts and economics has to be as important as environmental and social issues. Setting sustainability in the true business context is critical.

Where do you see the environment profession going?

The profession will have to continue to evolve, especially in light of an ever increasing regulatory framework.

Where would like to be in five years’ time?

Building on what I have achieved to date and taking Future Perfect on to greater things.

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

You need to be flexible, adaptable and willing to keep up to date. If you want an exciting and interesting career in which to make a difference, then this is the job for you.

Career file:

MA (Oxon), MSc, MBA, FIEMA, MIWSc, CEnv

2003 to now:

Director, Future Perfect


Manager, KPMG Sustainability Advisory and Certification Services


Principal environment auditor and senior training consultant, SGS


Programme manager, SGS Forestry


Technical manager, Raab Karcher


Midlands regional officer/senior regional officer, TRADA


Various roles, Mallinson Denny Group

Tell us about your career

The “my career” page aims to inspire other environmental professionals by showing how an individual has progressed her/his career. If you have a career story you’d like to share with your IEMA colleagues, please contact [email protected]


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