Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2019: Stuart Gascoigne, Clarks
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: Stuart Gascoigne, global energy & waste manager at shoe giant Clarks.
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 Stuart Gascoigne, global energy and waste manager at UK-based shoe manufacturing and retail giant Clarks.
How I got to where I am now:
“Ever since I was very young I’ve had a real interest in the outdoors, camping in the Yorkshire dales with my family and learning about climate and extreme weather. At one stage I even thought I’d become a weatherman!
“With that in mind, I knew that I’d like to learn more about the environment and business, so I chose to study climate change and energy management in Bristol – a course which connected sustainability and business. Back then, the course was seen as quite niche, but I’m so pleased that I did it and had the chance to learn from the people that already understood the climate emergency more than a decade ago.
“Since graduating, I’ve worked in sustainability for a Housing Association where I supported tenants to live more sustainably – which was arguably the most fulfilling role I’ve had – and have also worked in financial services leading environment and health and safety. In my current corporate responsibility role at Clarks, I guide the organisation to drive down the carbon impact of our global operations.
“A lot of my time so far this year has been taken up by measuring our footprints. Clarks operates in more than 70 markets worldwide so capturing the information has been tricky but necessary to determine a long-term ambition.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“At the very beginning of my career, I worked with an environmental practice in Beijing where I contributed to the city’s carbon reduction plan. The air quality was really poor whilst I was there which gave me a real sense of urgency and desire to contribute to something big.
“But I always think it’s important to remember the small things too. Last summer we marked Recycling Week at Clarks across our four largest corporate sites in the UK and US and tasked them to ban single-use coffee and drinks cups in favour of reusables. We saved half a tonne of plastic in a week and we’re set to save almost 30 tonnes by September 2019. It got everyone talking in the offices, ruffled a few feathers, and it quickly becomes the new normal.
“And, on a personal level, I was thrilled to achieve Chartered Environmentalist status and Full IEMA membership earlier this year. I’ve had some brilliant mentors over the years who have helped me get to this point and I’d certainly recommend fellow 30 Under 30 members to go for it and get the recognition for their hard work. “
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Resistance to change.
“Before the Blue Planet 2 effect, there was a feeling that people needed convincing. I think we’ve all come a long way over the past year and it feels like there is now a sense of urgency – which encourages me. There’ll always be a conflict of priorities, and it’s important as sustainability professionals to keep that in mind, but to also stand up for what we believe in.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
“Courageous and open to change."
A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:
“A big focus will be supporting the business to deliver the British Retail Consortium’s “Better Retail Better World” SDG initiative. We signed up in 2018 and one of my focuses is on Goal 13: Climate Action. Since signing up, we’ve significantly increased our purchased renewable electricity, which will account for 90% of our controllable operations across the UK and mainland Europe by January 2020.
“Another big focus is on our packaging. Significant steps have been taken to increase the recycled content in our shoeboxes to 90% and minimise the amount of material used. The work continues to remove internal packaging where possible and make it easy for consumers to recycle at home.
“I’m also keen to do more to inspire colleagues to do their bit We marked World Environment Day at Clarks and I was really keen for our people to understand the little changes they can make in their daily lives that would make a difference, like sourcing foods locally. We’re bombarded with intimidating facts on a daily basis, and the solutions can often seem too difficult, so highlighting simple alternatives is really key.”
In five years’ time, I would like to be:
“Still sharing my passion for a sustainable future. I’m amazed at the progress that I’ve seen over the past year that brands have taken to start making a sustainable lifestyle simpler for the consumer, and I’d love to still be a part of that.
“In my personal life, I hope to have halved my own carbon footprint.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Yoga. I started practising ashtanga five years ago and continue to do so at least once a week. I really enjoy Bikram hot yoga too when I get the chance, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.
“I also like to run. I attend my local ParkRun most Saturday mornings and I’ve enjoyed the challenges of the Bristol Half Marathon and Bristol 10k over the last few months. I’m running the Cardiff Half Marathon in October for the charity, Mind, which I’m really looking forward to.
“And anybody that knows me well knows that I love to travel. I was lucky enough to visit South Africa earlier in the year. It’s a wonderful place so I highly recommend for the food, scenery, the animals and the people were brilliant.”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Give it a go. It’s sometimes daunting to explore solutions that haven’t been tried and tested by others, but innovating is key to rapid progress and a sustainable future.”
My key piece of advice for young professionals entering my industry today is:
"Getting started is less about the technicalities and more about using your passion to drive change. If people aren't passionate about sustainability, their career in the field likely isn't going to last long.
"It's a field where you need to have resilience, because, as I mentioned, there often is pushback. However, it's also extremely fulfilling as you're tackling some of the world's most pressing problems and, often, you can see results fairly quickly."
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.