Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2019: Henry Cawson, BaxterStorey
This new series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of 30 hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Next up: Henry Cawson, sustainability manager at BaxterStorey.
The future of business leadership starts right here. Earlier this year, edie unveiled the inaugural members of its brand new 30 Under 30 initiative – a group of bright and ambitious rising sustainability and energy stars from across the UK.
After being nominated by their colleagues and impressing judges from Global Action Plan and the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS), this cohort of youthful visionaries now benefit from an unrivalled opportunity to connect with one another and co-develop solutions to some of the most pressing environmental and social challenges of our time.
In this weekly series, we will be sharing their stories and successes beyond the group, giving edie readers insight into the minds of those who will be leading the charge in creating the low-carbon, resource-efficient economies of the future.
This week, it's the turn of Henry Cawson, sustainability manager at hospitality food provider BaxterStorey.
How I got to where I am now:
“I studied geography at Durham University and that is where I first started learning in-depth about sustainability as an academic field and an industry. I always knew at uni it was the area I wanted to get into, but I found it hard to get a graduate job in that space, so I joined the BaxterStorey graduate scheme which gave me a fast-track into management in the hospitality industry.
“I started off in catering and spent time being a chef, helping front-of-house management and sorting out back-of-office tasks like paperwork for the nine-month scheme. Luckily, as I was finishing, an opportunity came up in the sustainability team working under Mike Hanson. I jumped at the opportunity, and that was around two years ago.
“It was almost completely by accident that I joined a catering company and I’m glad that I did.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“About six months ago, I got a phone call at about 4.30pm from a client who had hosted an event and didn’t tell us that only 150 of the 400 people registered to attend had turned up, meaning there were more than 150 packages of sandwiches left over – all marked with a midnight expiry.
“I immediately starting calling around charities, trying to find a way to use this food which no-one ever really requests from us at that time of the week, and rallying people in the office to try and find an Uber or taxi that would take us to one of them, complete with the sandwiches in tow.
“Through sheer perseverance, we managed to find a charity up in Camden and managed to redistribute all of the food to a homeless shelter. I’ve obviously donated a lot more items since then, but to do that for the first big event I managed at such short notice felt amazing. It really set the tone for the approach me and the team wanted to take to reduce food waste.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Public perception. The largest part of my job is plastics and packaging and there is this huge misconception that all plastic is inherently evil. It’s easier to have the conversation setting out why that isn’t the case on a one-to-one basis.
"Food waste is the single biggest environmental impact that we have as a business, and packaging can, for certain items, go a great way to tackle that issue. With that in mind, convincing people that it is possible to use plastic responsibly – and even getting those who claim they really care about this to switch to alternatives like reusable containers – is challenging.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
“The best potential the world has for positive future change.”
A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:
“Completing work to phase out plastic stirrers, straws and cutlery ahead of the Government ban is a priority at the moment – we want to be way ahead of policy.
“Also on resources, we recorded a 26% reduction in single-use coffee cup use last year and we want to work hard on really increasing that and sharing our lessons from that process. I want to get not just us, but more businesses moving towards using plastic responsibly.
“For me, having no non-conformities on our ISO 14001 re-certification would also be a sign of a very successful year.”
In five years’ time, I would like to be:
“Ideally, managing a sustainability team and (again ideally) here at BaxterStorey.
“Plastics and packaging is my main passion, but food sourcing is something I’m equally interested in. I’d love to be helping companies make a positive change in the most impactful way they can, which is really important to me and something I always try and push.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“I’m a really keen photographer and I’m often on a walk around the neighbourhood taking pictures of plants and buildings with my SLR camera. I enjoy doing portraits, too.
“My other main hobby is ultimate frisbee, which I play for a team in Brixton. I’m definitely not at an international level yet, though!”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Every business has the potential to use resources sustainably and engaging the whole business is the best success a sustainability professional can have.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Genuine enthusiasm for what you’re doing is a must. People can instantly tell if you genuinely care about the environment and are passionate about creating positive change, so I would say these are more important than any other quality or qualification for getting into the field in the first instance.
“Also, being really engaged is the best way to make progress. Take notes and pay attention to every seminar or conference you go to, read up about your field and stay switched-on.”
The full Class of 2019 series can be viewed here.
To stay in the loop for 2020 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email email@example.com.