My career: Ryland Cairns

9th March 2017

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Skills ,
  • CPD ,
  • Qualifications ,
  • Training



Environment manager, Muntons

Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?

Growing up in the countryside enabled me to develop a strong connection with the natural environment. I have been fortuitous to carry this passion on through university and into my profession.

What was your first environment/sustainability job?

My first real environmental job involved being responsible for the management of all MoD water, wastewater and waste treatment assets and operations in the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island. I felt incredibly lucky to be helping to ensure effective environmental operations in such unique ecosystems.

How did you get your first role?

I studied with the previous manager of MoD water during my MTech in water processes at Cranfield University. His breadth and depth of knowledge relating to the technical, regulatory and environmental management aspects was simply amazing. He attributed this to his MoD role. He was so inspiring that when the position became available I jumped at the chance.

How did you progress your environment/sustainability career?

Although I have invested a lot of time in personal study I attribute the team around me as the single biggest contributing factor in my career progress. As a leader, I devote a lot of time developing knowledgeable and empowered teams with strong, shared values. As the team begins to take ownership of their assigned areas it allows me to take a step back and focus on strategic issues and drive improvements. This helps us all progress our environmental careers.

What does your current role involve?

Driving environmental performance and compliance for Muntons’ food manufacturing site. A key part of this is ensuring effective operation of our award-winning anaerobic digestion plant, leading the transition to ISO14001: 2015, and aligning our environmental reporting with the new GRI standard.

How has your role changed over the past few years?

I have increased the time I spend communicating and reinforcing sustainability values internally and eternally. While it is important to set and achieve the right environmental objectives to create a sustainable value chain, it is also important to communicate this to demonstrate that sustainability does pay from a business perspective. I see this as the cornerstone in getting businesses and the government to embrace sustainable initiatives.

What’s the best part of your work?

On top of doing something I believe in I would say that it is my immediate team that makes this current role extra special.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

On top of my environmental role my secondary responsibilities involve leading the site’s facilities management team. Although this is a discipline that I am trained in and enjoy, I just don’t get as much satisfaction out of it compared with some of the great environmental initiatives we have going on.

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

I am currently studying for an MBA, which I am undertaking in sustainability leadership.

What did you bring back to your job?

I am using the concept of developing sustainable value chains to help to form our sustainable procurement strategy and ultimately help to set us up for achieving ISO 20400 next year.

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

Embedding a sustainable culture within a business is key to achieving present and future environmental objectives. Transformational leadership plays a critical role in getting the right values, the right beliefs and the right attitudes to ‘stick’.

Where do you see the environment/sustainability profession going?

In the current climate I am worried that environmental policies and initiatives could be abandoned in favour of more short-term and popular alternatives. As such I would like to see a greater emphasis on the development of sustainable leaders focusing on long-term goals.

Where would like to be in five years’ time?

I would like to be looking after environmental strategy, compliance and operations on a small island or a remote location because you feel closer to the positive impacts that you are making.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

Invest time in understanding yourself, what aspects of the career you enjoy/find rewarding and then set your goals accordingly. The details may change as you meander through your career but if you stick tight to your core values you can’t go too far wrong.

How do you use IEMA’s skills map?

The map provides a great framework for structuring my and my team’s training needs, and communicating these to the rest of the business.

Career file



Career history:

2015 to date environment manager, Muntons

2015 site manager, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Thames Water

2011 to 2015 South Atlantic water services manager, Interserve Defence

2010 to 2011 South Atlantic contracts manager, Satec

2008 to 2010 research engineer, Cranfield University

2007 process engineer, Severn Trent Water


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Career profile: Kimberley Lasi, CEnv, MIEMA

Senior consultant, EcoAct

3rd April 2024

Read more

At a School of Management careers event at Cranfield University, one of our IEMA-approved university partners, we spoke to students from a range of postgraduate courses, from supply chain to marketing and management.

28th March 2024

Read more

To make real change on sustainability, it’s time to redefine leadership models, writes Chris Seekings

1st February 2024

Read more

Caris Graham (she/her) is Diverse Sustainability Initiative officer at IEMA

1st February 2024

Read more

Lisa Pool reflects on the highlights of the past year and what they mean for the future

1st February 2024

Read more

The percentage of women working in the built environment sector rose significantly last year although people from ethnic minorities find it up to six times harder to be recruited, according to a major survey.

17th January 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close