To celebrate Pride month (June) 2022, IEMA is speaking with members who are LGBTQIA+, to find out what they are doing in the sector and to hear their thoughts on LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the environment and sustainability profession. In this interview, IEMA's Tom Pashby speaks with Peter Watts MIEMA, director of Watts Sustainability.

If you identify as LGBTQIA+, are a member of IEMA, and would like to be featured during Pride month, please contact IEMA’s digital journalist Tom Pashby at [email protected].

Who are you? What’s your role in the environment and sustainability sector?

My name is Peter Watts, I run the consultancy Watts Sustainability and I am a Chartered Environmentalist and IEMA full member. I work as a helping hand for organisations big and small to deal with global challenges like the climate and biodiversity crises. I also have a specialism in education and training – for example, I have developed some of IEMA’s key sustainability training courses such as the new Pathways to Net Zero, the revamped Foundation Course in Environmental Management and the Sustainability Skills for the Workforce Courses.

How do you describe your LGBTQIA+ identity?

Usually gay or queer works – although growing up in rural Derbyshire I thought I couldn’t be gay as I was into guitar music, the outdoors and camping and there were not many role models out there who seemed to be like me. It took me a while to realise that being queer is incredibly diverse and you don’t have to be limited to stereotypes. Since going to university – I have been pretty comfortable with my identity, although there have been a few bumps along the way. To be honest, I think it has made life a lot more interesting.

What does your organisation do?

Watts Sustainability works on a mixture of strategic projects – typically in the corporate, not for profit and higher education sectors – developing plans and programmes to help organisations deal with the dynamic range of sustainability challenges they face. We have expertise in carbon footprinting and decarbonisation and are doing a lot of work helping organisations implement net zero programmes. It’s a really exciting time to be at Watts Sustainability as we are taking on a wider range of projects and the business is growing.

What are your thoughts on Pride?

I think it is really important – particularly events where there are arguments to be fought around rights and a difficult political and social context – for example Trans Pride and Black Pride in the UK. I was in Poland a few weeks ago and got swept up in a pride march there, it seemed really important given how people are having to fight for their rights there, even more than the UK, especially given the looks from the crowd which were not always friendly.

Do you feel like the environment and sustainability profession is inclusive for LGBTQIA+ individuals?

For a long-time, I thought that I was the only queer person working in sustainability and environment – and its only recently that I realise that there are so many more! I think social inclusion and equality are key facets of sustainability and by its very nature – people working in this area tend to be largely kind and thoughtful, so personally, I have usually felt accepted. I don’t think this is necessarily everybody’s experience, I am looking at this from a position of relative privilege as a white man – while the LGBTQIA+ spectrum of course is highly diverse and I think others face additional barriers.

What do you think the environment and sustainability sector could do to improve equality, representation and inclusivity for LGBTQIA+ professionals?

Visibility! This is a great initiative – I can’t wait to see who else you profile. I still don’t know if there are many LGBTQIA+ people working in the field and it would make me happy to know more about them. I think people like to feel like they can ‘fit in’ and be accepted so events, interviews, profiles and talks are all really helpful.

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the contributing individual, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.


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