Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Jessica Foster, Bensons for Beds Retail
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: Bensons for Beds' group energy manager Jessica Foster.
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 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 Jessica Foster, who heads up energy management at Britain's largest bedroom furniture retailer, Bensons for Beds.
How I got to where I am now:
“My journey started when I was looking for University courses. Like most people at that age, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and chose my favourite subject, geography. When looking for related courses, came across the University of York’s environment, economics and ecology degree which really sparked my interest. My passion for sustainability was nurtured throughout my degree and within my friendship group, I was soon considered the sustainability nerd as I religiously recycled and used a reusable water bottle. While these small actions are important, I now know it wasn’t nearly enough.
“While I’d say my degree helped me get through the first sift of CV’s in my initial job, it was my volunteering and internships within the sector that helped secure my first role as energy and utilities Analyst at DW Fitness First. As a Green Impact volunteer, I helped university departments adopt more sustainable actions and I interned in consultancies where I used GIS to find suitable areas for wind farms and helped assess new builds for BREEAM status such as Manchester City’s football training ground.
“I developed so much in my first role. Fresh-faced out of university I was the only energy person within the business. With no one there to mentor me and learn from, I adapted to learn on the job. While it certainly wasn’t all plain sailing, I’m immensely grateful for that time as I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
“I’m still learning now, more than ever, within my current role at Bensons for Beds as I move from an energy-focused role to covering sustainability for the business. I’m lucky to be in a company that is driving and supporting me to do so.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“I’m so lucky to have won Energy Live News’ ‘Energy Rising Star’ award in 2017 and now to be a part of edie’s 30 under 30 2020 cohort among so many talented individuals, but I have to say that my biggest career achievement has to be driving our commitment that Bensons for Beds will be net-zero across our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2040. It’s a huge step for us and one I’m extremely proud of.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“This is probably a different one, but confidence in my ability to make a change. We’re in an industry where everything is constantly developing, we’re pushing boundaries and frequently entering the unknown.
“In business, it’s pushing to do the first this and the first that at such early stages of our career. The world as we know it today has been built on capitalism, whereas we’re trying to change that to run in harmony with the environment. It can be daunting. We’re fighting a battle that is much bigger than any one person or business can solve but every action matters, no matter how small.
“Even those more experienced will always have their moments of doubt or ‘imposter syndrome’ which helps to know. I’ve learned to harness any self-doubt to propel myself forwards.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
“Catalysts for change.”
A successful 2020-21 for me looks like:
“Creating our sustainability strategy and driving momentum in working towards our net-zero targets. I plan to do this by further developing the foundations and links within the business to drive the change required to meet our targets; cascading the embedding of sustainability through our business until it weaves through it like a thread.
“I also want to pass my Level 3 Advanced Energy Manager course with the Energy Institute.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Spending time outdoors, like most of this year’s 30 Under 30 cohort. Experiencing new places really gets me excited. Like everyone else this year, I’ve been forced to get this excitement by exploring locally which I’ve really loved.
“I’m also always on the lookout as to how I can be more sustainable in my personal life. Currently, I’m into upcycling second-hand Christmas décor for my first Christmas in my new house. Think Santa’s grotto vibes but with minimal environmental impact!”
“When I can, I also enjoy helping out at my local night shelter.”
My Mission Possible message for business is:
“Just start. There’s no one right way to go about the business sustainability journey, the most important thing is that we act now. Time is ticking.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Be confident and open-minded.
“It’s a really exciting industry to be a part of and you’re going to be pushing boundaries. The phrase ‘perfection is the enemy of the good’ has been used a lot lately but it couldn’t be more apt for our industry where urgency requires us to act now and refine later.”
The full Class of 2020 membership is detailed here.
To stay in the loop for 2021 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email email@example.com.