Meet edie's 30 Under 30 class of 2019: Kathryn Patchett, Taylors of Harrogate
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: Kathryn Patchett, product sustainability specialist at Taylors of Harrogate.
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 Kathryn Patchett, product sustainability specialist at tea and coffee firm Taylors of Harrogate.
How I got to where I am now:
“After attending Leicester University to study an undergraduate degree in economics and politics, I decided to go on to do a masters degree to gain more skills and experience in the area I was most passionate about, so studied international development at the University of Manchester.
“When I graduated, I was job-hunting for a role that was related to international development – but in a tough job market with fierce competition, my search gradually got broader and I ended up here at Taylors of Harrogate in a sales role as maternity cover. When that role came to an end I moved into the operations team and was responsible for planning the production of our speciality teas and some Yorkshire Tea products.
“In April 2017, an opening came up in the sustainability team and I jumped at the opportunity. I currently focus on the full value chain of our products and packaging, from packaging sourcing and product design, to factory operations including energy and waste, to how customers deal with our products and packaging at the end-of-life stage.
“It’s a really broad job and I enjoy going from conversations about tea dust waste in factories to meetings about on-pack recycling labels – no two days are the same.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“When I first joined the sustainability team I was in a newly-formed role looking at areas relatively new to sustainability at Taylors. Traditionally, our focus had been on tea and coffee supply chains, but this role was introduced to give us the chance to look at what sustainability means in other areas of the business, such as operations and marketing.
“Exploring areas like office waste, product packaging and communications paved the way for me and the team to get sustainability on the broader agenda across the business, and I’m so proud to see the engagement across the business as people make changes in their behaviour or come to me with questions.
“On specific projects, I spent a lot of time last year working with our R&D team mapping out all of our plastic packaging and identifying where alternatives could be explored. This led to us signing the UK Plastics Pact and setting up monthly cross-functional meetings to assess progress against our plastics targets.
“Another key focus area for me has been assessing all waste streams in our factory and offices here in Harrogate, introducing new bins and sharing internal communications to re-educate staff around recycling and waste.
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“That you can only do so much.
“Even with the best communications and engagement schemes, you can’t alter the behaviours of all your employees and consumers - a part of our waste footprint will always be in their hands; it’s our job to encourage them to do the right thing and dispose of things responsibly.
“It’s also a challenge to balance what consumers want us to do with what’s either possible or what we know will generate the most positive impact – particularly around plastics. Progress towards plastics targets could seem steady and I understand why consumers may feel impatient, but there are no easy fixes, and we want to make the right decisions for the environment in the long-term without having unintended negative consequences or putting product quality at risk.
"We’ve just set up a page on our Yorkshire Tea website sharing information on what our packaging is made of, how it can best be disposed of, what changes we’re looking to make and when.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
“Motivated to make a difference.”
A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:
“Doing a lot more work on our plastics roadmap, to introduce clear deadlines around certain items as projects move into the implementation phase; and also embedding sustainability into our innovation and NPD processes in a systemic way, so it becomes the heart of product design.
“Another key focus for our team is ramping up our sustainability communications, part of which will be the launch of a new website dedicated to our sustainability work, covering topics such as gender, climate change, regenerative farming, product design and recycling.
“On a personal level, I’m aiming to complete the IEMA Foundation Certificate in environmental management by the end of 2019 and become an Associate member of IEMA. “
In five years’ time, I would like to be:
“In the same role, but with a lot more knowledge and experience to back me up.
“By that point, we’ll have made a huge amount of progress against our packaging and plastics targets, and we’ll be seeing plans we’re making now have come to full fruition. Several of our projects around recyclability, compostability and removing certain single-use components have two-to-three-year timelines and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of that hard work and cracking on with the next set of plastics priorities.
"I would also like us to have really engaged consumers who are still as passionate about environmental and social impacts. I’d love them to not only to know how to dispose of our products and packaging, but to be really motivated across all areas of sustainability and aware of their influence on local green policy."
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Playing hockey, which I’ve been doing since I was seven. I play for my local team every Saturday throughout winter. During the summer, I spend a lot of time watching cricket with my partner, and we’ve been lucky enough, this summer just gone, to see the Cricket World Cup and four of the Ashes test matches.
"Family is also hugely important to me and I love to spend time catching up with my close family and seeing my nieces and nephew grow up."
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Be bold. Given the situation we’re in, we will need extraordinary action to combat key global issues, such as climate change and poverty. Businesses need to think beyond the norm and set stretching, ambitious targets that take them out of their comfort zone.
"Also, it’s important to bring others on the journey with you. Sustainability ambitions won’t be as effective if they’re developed in isolation and then pushed onto other departments. Instead, you need to get all areas of the business involved from the start so they can help shape your strategy and feel ownership too."
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Don’t panic or be discouraged if you don’t find your ‘dream’ role straight away.
“Try your best to look for roles in the area you’re most passionate about but know that taking a detour isn’t the end of the world – you can be super involved with environmental issues in a number of different ways and not all of them require this to be your full-time role. Make the time to grow your passion and you’ll be able to integrate sustainability into your career more and more as time goes on – I imagine most employees would thoroughly support that.”
The full Class of 2019 series can be viewed here.
To stay in the loop for 2020 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email firstname.lastname@example.org.