CEO Blog - Firm Foundations

"A memory that really sticks in my mind is one from over 20 years ago. Working as a gas fitter I had ambitions to move out of that role and into something more senior, more strategic. I know where I wanted to be and within a reasonable margin of error, knew what it would take to get there. I considered the training I’d need, the people I’d need to meet and the talk I’d need to talk. What I hadn’t given any time to was the fact that I needed to remember my roots. There was absolutely no way that I could move up the ladder without having first put in the effort to climb the lower rungs. Being reminded to “remember where you come from” by someone I considered a mentor gave me a very clear, albeit brutal, realisation that firm foundations are as valuable as grand ambitions.

Setting that in the context of IEMA, we have set ourselves some ambitious targets through Vision 2020 – namely around sustainability, membership growth and global influence – and with the support of Members, our governance groups and our staff we are equipped and ready to go for it. However, I’m very conscious that since I stepped into the ‘CEO of IEMA shoes’ in April 2013 I’ve talked a lot about what needs to change and a series of new objectives. That’s important, mostly because most of those things like the merger with GACSO or the launch of Sustainability Training Solutions were sparked by what Members said they want or need. But what is equally significant is that we retain much of what IEMA has always been about, what has already made us very successful.

It’s not by accident that our membership grew to 15,000 in little over a decade and managed to remain stable throughout a very gloomy economic period. Our intent to build and empower a profession that will change the world is what resonated with our very earliest members and continues to hold clout in 2014. We always have been and always will be primarily committed to the learning, development, promotion, recognition and celebration of Environment & Sustainability Professionals. We’re making a clear call that everyone in every role should become armed with environmental sustainability skills and we’ve put the mechanisms in place to make that happen. But environmental management, assessment, auditing, leadership and compliance will always be at the very heart of what we do. Environmental skills are crucial to a sustainable economy and it’s our role to ensure that specialists will always be supported to do their very best work.

While you’re no doubt seeing – and ideally benefitting from – new elements to your membership, like the GACSO offer, new training courses and increased opportunities to network, the things that attracted you to become a member are not going away. If anything, they too will become enhanced over time. So your monthly ‘environmentalist’ magazine is constantly getting stronger; we are holding many more events, webinars and conferences as the months go by; you have increased opportunities to help shape national and international policies and standards; our collective voice in the media is louder than ever and we are about to begin the process of updating our membership structure to ensure that the very core of our organisation remains attractive and fit for purpose.

I want to reassure members and our partners that the IEMA you know is not morphing into something you don’t recognise. Our roots go too deep for that to happen. Any changes we’re introducing are simply about building an impressive structure on very firm foundations."