My career: Sylvie Sasaki

14th July 2011

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Sylvie Sasaki describes how she moved from volunteering from environmental charities to environment manager at Royal Mail

Sylvie Sasaki
Environment manager, Royal Mail Group

Why did you become an environmental professional?

I became an environmental professional because it is relevant, interesting, innovative and the future. The environment puts professionals in a position where they can influence an organisation to reduce, stop or reverse its negative impacts on the planet and be more thoughtful about its actions.

What was your first environment job?

My first assignment was with ICI Paints, where I helped the innovation team design a streamlined life-cycle analysis tool. The tool was a quick (and cheap) way of understanding the unsustainable parts of the paint life cycle.

How did you get your first environment role?

I had an intense period of seeking opportunities through job hunting, networking, making use of contacts etc. I was also clocking up as much experience as I could by volunteering for environmental charities. I even recorded my household waste for three months for an audit study my local authority was undertaking.

How did you progress your environment career?

I think it’s important to be able to offer breadth and depth of experience. I got involved with new projects that would build on my knowledge and experience and lead to further opportunities. It’s important to take yourself out of your comfort zone to achieve progress.

What does your current role involve?

I work in-house as a carbon management expert. It means turning my hand to everything and anything carbon-related, such as offsetting, life-cycle analyses, and footprinting. Right now one of my responsibilities is looking after Royal Mail Group’s Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme compliance, ensuring we don’t pick up any fines!

What’s the best part of your work?

I love the variety, people and new concepts. I work with a range of teams – for example, procurement, finance and commercial – across the different Royal Mail business units on a number of projects. As an environmental expert, I need to keep my knowledge constantly topped up because the postal sector is changing rapidly.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Seeing potentially unsustainable projects gain approval – in this day and age! The cluttered and changing policy landscape can also make it tricky to sell the message.

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

A “PeopleProfitPlanet” breakfast seminar run by InterfaceFlor, the US multinational that manufactures carpet tiles and which has a mission to put sustainability at the heart of its business. Its sustainability strategy – “Mission Zero” – aims to eliminate by 2020 any negative impact the company might have on the environment.

What did you bring back to your job?

Three main things:

  1. You need a powerful mission.
  2. Give sustainability status.
  3. People have different doors to sustainability.

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

Project management, managing risks and stakeholders, communications, budgeting, and strategy and planning are just a few of the skills I need in my job. Being able to create a compelling sustainable business case is key these days too.

Where do you see the environment profession going?

At the moment I see the profession going through a period of redefinition and emerging more integrated into business. There’s going to be a need to put words into action and demonstrate how sustainability can really add value.

Where would like to be in five years’ time?

At the heart of new sustainable technology and innovation.

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

Pick up as much experience as possible, make contacts and know what the latest issues are for the area you want to get into.

Career file:

BSc (Hons), MSc, MIEMA

2008 to now:

Environment manager, Royal Mail Group


Waste and environmental policy officer, Spelthorne Borough Council


Recycling officer, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames


Project officer, ICI Paints

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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