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A day in the life of a sustainability consultant

Ever wondered what a sustainability consultant does? Look no further, Lee Petts provides an insight - more at www.remsol.co.uk

So, you’re doing some Google research on sustainability, and among other results, you come across a lot of links to businesses like Remsol that provide sustainability, CSR and environmental consultancy services. “Just what does a sustainability consultant do?” I hear you ask – so here’s an insight into a typical day of mine.

6:30 am – get up, get coffee and breakfast, get ready.

7:30 am – first up, I deliver a short presentation to business leaders in Lancashire.

The North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce recently ran 6 questions on business attitudes to sustainability and CSR for us as part of its quarterly economic survey. I presented the findings, which are actually pretty interesting.

As well as actually running the business, a lot of my work involves 1-2-1 consultancy, working closely with a client to help them measure then improve their sustainability performance, but one-to-many can be just as valuable.

10:30 am – telephone conference with founder members of the Onshore Energy Services Group.

I’m the interim chief executive of a trade body that exists to advance the interests of British SMEs in the supply chain that supports onshore oil and gas.

That probably sounds counter-intuitive for a sustainability consultant, so let me explain: firstly, shorter supply lines are generally more sustainable and add more value in local communities, which is what I’m particularly eager to see; and, secondly, whilst I’m a big advocate of low-carbon energy sources, I’m also a pragmatist and recognise that we can’t meet all our needs with just renewables right now – so it’s sensible to back natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal in electricity generation, and if we’re going to use gas that way, it’s way better to use our own rather than rely so heavily on higher CO2 imports from abroad that also don’t contribute any taxes to spend on public services.

We discussed a programme of outreach to ensure that local companies, in parts of the country that might see onshore oil and gas drilling, get to know about the opportunities that might open up for them in the future.

11:55 – time for some Twitter!

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a big user of Twitter, both for social selling and sharing content but also making friends, finding interesting stuff and (occasionally!) debating with other users.

This time, it’s just a quick retweet.

11:30 am – some work on a client project.

It’s a chemical company that produces a sizeable quantity of hazardous industrial liquid waste every year costing several £ millions to dispose of safely.

We’re currently exploring alternatives for it, one of which includes potentially recovering valuable components from one of the wastestreams so that the client can reprocess it.

We’re also looking into a technique that might allow the client to treat some of the waste on site itself, producing a harmless byproduct that can be safely put to drain rather than having to tanker it off to a remote location many times a day. Having now signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with the technology provider, I spend some time discussing next steps with them, including some bench-scale trial treatments for proof of concept.

12:00 pm – lunch!

I’m working from our offices near Preston’s historic Albert Edward dock, part of which is now a very picturesque marina.

I take a walk around the entire dock, to stretch my legs, get some exercise and just get outside. I think it’s important to take time out like this in the day whenever possible.

It gives me time to think, and on this occasion, my thoughts turn to an internal research project I’m working on. We do an increasing amount of unfunded research – by which I mean nobody pays us to do it, it’s something we take on in-house for our own purposes, usually culminating in a policy paper or other, similar output.

This one is all about renewable energy and how well Britain is doing compared to other countries. Look out for it in the next couple of months, it’s going to be packed with interesting insights and policy suggestions for government to consider that might boost lower-carbon energy deployment.

12:50 – Twitter again.

I tweet a quick thank you to the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce for letting me present the results of our survey work at its Quarterly Economic Survey breakfast – but with a link to our news story about the event here on the Remsol website.

1:00 pm – launch preparation for our new academy schools partnership offering.

As part of our work helping to embed CSR into client organisations, we’re constantly on the lookout for interesting and novel ways of connecting businesses with communities.

In the next few weeks, we plan to launch a pilot scheme that will see us form a 3 year partnership with a local academy school (it’s top secret for now!) during which we’ll help it to boost its sustainability credentials and educate pupils on the advantages of ‘green’ thinking.

But we’ll also recruit other local businesses that have a purpose beyond profit to get involved too, fostering a lasting relationship with the school that will enable local children and their parents to better understand the employment and career opportunities that exist on their doorstep, whilst providing employers with access to local talent. Win-win.

We expect to launch the pilot toward the end of April, but there’s a lot to do between now and then because of the Easter half-term break – which means we need to have everything ready and in place by the end of tomorrow, Friday 8th April!

This afternoon is all about final preparations: reviewing draft press releases for final sign-off, checking and re-checking that we have everything in place at the school for “the big reveal.”

If it’s successful, we envisage a Lancashire-wide roll-out of this scheme to other academy schools and then possibly even across the UK. Watch this space!

In recent years, we’ve done a lot with schools. In 2011, we held our Big Green Calendar competition that saw children from over 400 primary schools across Lancashire invited to submit environmentally-themed drawings and paintings in a competition, with the 36 winning entries featured in a charity calendar – we raised just under £2,000 for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. The last two years have seen us help out with the annual Schools Sustainability Conference hosted by St Christopher’s in Accrington and, just yesterday, I chaired a ‘Question Time’ themed event with Business In The Community (BITC) and the Preston Business Class Cluster at Fulwood Academy, where pupils got the opportunity to quiz a panel of local business leaders about their commitment to responsible business.

1:50 pm – more Twitter!

As well as sharing Remsol content, I think it’s important to share other stuff I come across about sustainability, CSR and environmental best practice, and so I Google some recent news stories on these topics and these two catch my eye – I tweet them to my followers.

2:00 pm – paperwork.

I’m not just a sustainability consultant, I’m also the managing director and with that comes a whole other set of responsibilities. So I take a break from ‘delivery’ work to tackle something much more mundane: signing cheques and catching up with finance reports.

3:00 pm – telephone conference with a client.

Like a lot of businesses, we increasingly ‘meet’ with clients and partners via telephone or web conference. It’s just so much relaxing and convenient than having to drive to see people, and cuts down significantly on the need for business travel – which, in turn, not only reduces our costs but also our carbon footprint.

It’s not all as a result of increased telephone and web conferencing, but it’s definitely played a part in helping me personally reduce my travel as a sustainability consultant quite considerably: up until 3 years ago, I did an average of 30,000 business miles a year by car; in the last 3 years, my total annual mileage (business and domestic) has dropped to an average of 14,000 miles a year.

According to the 2010 National Transport Survey, the total average business miles travelled per year (private and company cars) was 8,380 miles. For a medium-sized car, that equates to 3.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. Even small reductions in business travel can help companies and their fleets reduce emissions, and utilising modern communications methods and infrastructure is one way of achieving that.

Anyway, we discuss an ongoing stakeholder engagement project (yes, that’s something else we do as a business!) and discuss some plans for the next 6 months.

4:00 pm – write this blog.

As well as the ‘house blog’ authored by colleagues every week, I try and write at least one of my own once a week too.

I think it’s important for business leaders to be accessible, show their human side and put their character into their businesses. Among other things, it helps to build trust – the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer published earlier this year found that 79% of people think bosses should share their personal values and are more likely to be trusted if they do.

One way to do this is to regularly share your thoughts in a blog, and to engage directly on platforms such as Twitter.

Apart from the obvious advantages to help our website rank well in Internet searches, as a sustainability consultant, I find blogging helps me to reach a wider audience than I could on a wholly 1-2-1 basis, giving me the opportunity to share insights and intelligence that others can hopefully benefit from in their attempts to grow a sustainable, resilient business.

5:00 pm – home time!

With this blog complete and published, it’s time to head home.

Tomorrow will bring a totally different day – because, as a sustainability consultant, it’s rare that any two days are the same. The sheer variety of the job is what keeps me hooked and just one of the reasons why I love what I do!

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