Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Jonathan Ayton, Willmott Dixon
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: Jonathan Ayton, sustainable development manager at Willmott Dixon.
The future of business leadership starts right here. Earlier this 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 Jonathan Ayton, sustainable development manager at construction and property services giant Willmott Dixon.
How I got to where I am now:
“When I came out of university after studying geography and oceanography, I didn’t have a clue what to do. I worked in ecology briefly and that experience helped me get an internship at Willmott Dixon.
“That was back in 2015 and I’ve quickly worked my way up the ranks to my current role, where I lead on some of our most exciting projects, like our sustainable transport group.
“Day-to-day, I help with sustainable procurement and carbon, energy and waste management. To that last point, one of my biggest pieces of work has been building waste prediction and power planning tools for the company, which are now mandatory on all projects.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“Presenting my work to the main holding's board, including Jonathan Porritt, is always a highlight.
“I’d have to also say building the waste prediction tool. It took me more than half a year and ultimately helped us achieve our 2020 target of reducing waste by 60%, against a 2012 baseline. I used data from historic projects to build the tool and I’m already seeing how it’s helping new projects build a targeted approach and manage waste before it happens.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Probably, as corny as it sounds, not using the word ‘sustainability’.
“I’ve found that the best way of engaging departments across the construction industry is by using financial figures rather than using the energy and carbon piece. People are always keen to get on-board with this agenda, as long as I can show them the savings and the returns on investment.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
“Ready to seize the opportunity and leave a legacy.”
A successful 2020-21 for me looks like:
“We have just launched our new sustainability strategy with a series of ambitious targets to achieve by 2030. I’m leading on sustainable transport under that strategy, which will include a net-zero target and 100% electric vehicles target. We’re also working towards a 65% reduction in mileage. This year and next, I’ll be doing a lot of work to set out the key themes and interventions to ensure this is successful.
“Scope 3 and embodied carbon will also be taking up a lot of my time and I look forward to close collaboration with our supply chain partners and helping them achieve net-zero operational carbon.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Playing hockey, travelling, hosting barbecues, and drinking wine. Not all at the same time.”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“It’s now or never.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“We’ve got to appreciate that we’re facing a big challenge at the moment, and that we’re all working towards a common goal of net-zero.
“Aside from that, I’d say to always use the data you have - track trends and insights and use them to build the right message from the numbers. And don’t underestimate the importance of collaboration. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from your friends and colleagues, and vice versa.”
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.