We all rely on advice in our personal lives and our professional lives. From doctors to accountants, from lawyers to plumbers we need to trust people to do a good job for us, to be properly informed and to act in a manner applicable to their profession. Of course this does not always work so we need rules and some form of resolution when things go wrong. The same is true for sustainability professionals.

If we are going to realise IEMA’s vision to transform the world to sustainability we first need to transform IEMA. We are rapidly moving towards being the professional institution of choice for a much broader range of people who advise clients on subjects such as social value and modern slavery whilst making sure our traditional members with deep environmental skills still have the support they need. Additionally, we are moving rapidly from a UK focused institution to an international one. All this, coupled with our plan to obtain a Royal Charter, makes IEMA an exciting can be challenging place to be. We need simple guidelines and efficient processes that are robust and transparent.

I have been honoured to chair IEMA’s Professional Standards Committee in scrutinising the new Code of Conduct and Complaints procedures. IEMA has always had a code of conduct and disciplinary process but both were ready for review. The code of conduct in particular was subject of great debate; we needed something that is meaningful to all our current and future members and their clients. Our members must provide sound professional advice and services, sometimes faced with vested interests that may not want to hear the advice they have been given. A professional advisor or service provider, either a consultant or employee, must be able to draw the line and tell it the way it is, not how their clients or employees want it to be. The code of conduct needs to protect them in this case. Equally, if clients or employers receive bad advice or a poor service, they should have a proper process to have their concerns addressed.

A Code of Conduct alone is not much use. There must be sound and transparent processes to back them up. In this respect I would like to thank our committee member, Karen McArthur for her efforts and expertise in this area to ensure we have modern, transparent and effective methods for dealing with complaints.

Codes of Conduct are a bit like the Terms and Conditions we all click on various websites or the instructions for our latest gadget. Not very interesting and largely ignored until we need them. Our Code of Conduct is perhaps no different from a compliance and governance point of view; but it what it represents is something far bigger, and absolutely needs to be there in the background to be used if required. It is fit for purpose and helps IEMA to support members and their clients wherever they are.


Shaun McCarthy OBE


About the Author

Shaun McCarthy is Chair of IEMA’s Professional Standards Committee, and an independent advisor, author and speaker in the field of sustainable business policy and practice. He has been a leader in sustainable supply chain management for over 20 years; having instigated much of today’s best practice. He also pioneered a unique assurance programme over the sustainability of the London 2012 Olympics. He was awarded an OBE, for services to sustainability and the London Olympics, by Her Majesty the Queen in her 2013 birthday honours list. Shaun has over 20 years’ senior management experience with large companies and 10 years’ experience as an independent advisor to a wide variety of corporations and governments around the world.