Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Abigail Smith, Linbrooke Services Ltd
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. Up next: Abigail Smith, environment & CR manager at Linbrooke Services Ltd.
The future of business leadership starts right here. Last year, edie unveiled the second cohort of members of its 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 benefits 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 Abigail Smith, who joined Linbrooke Services Ltd as environment & CR manager in 2020 from Arriva Rail London.
How I got to where I am now:
“I studied ecology and environmental management for my undergraduate degree, which was a really great experience. A lot of people on my course went on to be ecologists but there were a couple of modules that focussed more on corporate sustainability in general, which interested me the most.
“I chose to continue studying and completed a masters’ in sustainability and consultancy and, during that time, did a few different stints of internships and work experience at consultancies.
“Eventually, I landed my first full-time, permanent role as an environmental advisor for Arriva UK Bus. I moved across within Arriva after two years, becoming environment and energy manager for their Rail division.
“In November 2020, after deciding it was time for a new challenge, I started my current role at Linbrooke Services – an infrastructure company for rail, power and optical networks. It’s been a bit of a jump from operation to infrastructure and construction. In my current role, I create environmental management plans for construction projects and also play a big role in the business’s overarching corporate social responsibility and sustainability strategising and delivery.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“Joining the edie 30 Under 30 was a big one for me – I was so proud when my email came through!
“It’s a shame that I got the news in a year where we couldn’t actually all meet physically, but it’s been really great to be recognised in this way.
“Also, given the current climate with Covid-19, I feel that it’s a big achievement to be employed in something I really want to do – something that is relevant to my experience and can help solve big challenges. I’ve seen so many sad stories about redundancies but it seems like there is also a lot of positive change – which sustainability is a part of. ”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Covid has been one of them.
“But something that has come up time and again is changing processes that seem to be relatively simple but are deeply embedded within an organisation with many linked processes. This can be extremely frustrating but it’s part of the package at organisations that have been operating for decades.
“This is where having leaders who embrace change, or an organisational culture which is open to new ideas, is important. In these cases, you can go beyond the initial challenge to drive more systematic change.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
A successful 2021 for me looks like:
“Settling in at Linbooke Services to the point that I can truly say I’ve embedded change and taken responsibility for multiple new sustainability initiatives.
“I joined a new organisation in the middle of Covid, so it’s been remote working for the past few months. I’ve heard that it usually takes six months to settle into a new role, and that’s if you can go to the office every day. It’s important to know an organisation well if you’re striving to drive real, successful, lasting change in terms of sustainability. I want to gain as much knowledge as possible this year.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Trying new food and drink. Pre-Covid, I’d love to have friends and family over to entertain or to try new restaurants.
“But lockdown has helped me take on the challenge of learning to cook from scratch a lot better. It’s been interesting and full of fails – including focaccia bread with the texture of a doorstop – but also lots of successes.”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“It’s never too late to commit. The challenges we face can seem huge – the scale of change needed and the level of work needed to make a real difference is high. But change is inevitable – even just in terms of legislation and governance, before thinking about reputation and changing client and customer demands.
“The sooner you start to look at social and environmental impact, the easier it will be further down the line.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is
“It’s quite common to be either the only member of staff responsible for environment or sustainability or part of a really small team, at many organisations. So I would say, try not to feel overwhelmed.
“Sustainability covers most business areas and it is easy to think you need to take responsibility for everything. But, ultimately, there will not be any one department that will not contribute to key activities. Start with the basics, realise that change doesn’t happen overnight and form strong connections with colleagues in other departments.
“Also, especially if you’re the only one in your team, don’t underestimate the importance of connecting with others outside of your organisation, through forums such as edie.”
The full Class of 2020 membership is detailed here.
To stay in the loop for 2021 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email firstname.lastname@example.org.