Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Miriam Webb, University of Gloucestershire
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: Miriam Webb, sustainability engagement manager at the University of Gloucestershire.
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 Miriam Webb, who has been the sustainability engagement manager at the University of Gloucestershire since 2017.
How I got to where I am now:
“I studied geography for my undergraduate degree and, when I graduated, I wasn’t completely sure of what I wanted to do. But I knew I wanted to help people and the planet, and I was lucky to get a ten-month internship at London-based NGO Christian Aid, driving some of their engagement work with students and young people.
“After the fixed term came to an end, my next building block was a behaviour change role at the University of Sheffield. This role was predominantly about leading their NUS Green Impact campaign, helping staff to make simple changes with sizeable environmental impact.
“While I was there, I completed a City & Guild’s Professional Development Award and my mentor was the chief executive of a small not-for-profit, Change Agents UK. This organisation happened to have a role opening up as my University contract came to an end. I started out as their education projects co-ordinator and worked my way up to being their recruitment and development manager – managing the team proving not-for-profit recruitment and training services placing; graduates into ethical and sustainable jobs and organisations.
“My current role came up around two-and-a-half years after I joined Change Agents UK and I love it because it helps me to join up my professional interests. The University’s sustainability team has a two-fold mission – reducing the footprint of the university and increasing the ‘brainprint’. I sit mainly within this second part. Greening the campus is important but we would be failing our core mission as an education provider if the graduates of the future aren’t equipped with the skills and ways of thinking needed to create sustainable change – whatever their subject background or career ambition.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“There have been many but, in my current role, I’d say creating a joined-up approach to student learning and sustainability across the whole student journey. We work in partnership with students to create change and develop skills.
“As an example, within our informal learning programme, we have a scheme called ‘Live Smart’. This draws connections between the immediate, day-to-day concerns of your typical student, like wellbeing, money and community, with bigger picture global issues. There are events, employability challenges, and communications campaigns that move away from sustainability stereotypes and connect with mainstream students.
“Our university is number one in the UK for sustainability and I’m proud to work for an organisation that has made sustainability an embedded, core part of everything we do, including the student journey.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Responding to changing expectations with a small team and a finite amount of resources.
“There’s been a big gear-shift when it comes to increasing interest in sustainability; Gen Z is the Greta generation and, in general, they expect to see more rapid change and are willing to change their personal decisions in line with big global issues.
“They expect to see sustainability front-and-centre at their University and in other places. I’ve seen SOS UK research stating that 91% of students are fairly or very concerned about the environment, and 91% of our own students want sustainability as a core part of their experience.
“This is, of course, good news. But there is still a perception gap – when change happens, not everyone sees it. There’s still work to do there."
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
A successful 2021 for me looks like:
“Making the programmes we are already running as successful as they can be in the context of Covid-19. For example, I work with academic course teams to help them change curriculums to give students the chance to develop and use sustainability skills in a professional environment. Also, a lot of curriculum changes and informal learning is co-created with students, so continuing this work is important.
“On the other side of things, working with our comms team to make sustainability a core part of our identity and a USP for student recruitment.
“Then, there’s the future planning side of things. Our five-year sustainability strategy is coming later this year and responds to changing student demands, placing a greater focus on employability needs, net-zero and future skills. Overall, my mission is embedding sustainability further and deeper across our portfolio”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Walking! Gloucestershire has beautiful countryside and, while I’ve walked more since the start of 2020 than ever before, it’s always been something I enjoy.
“Also, gardening – particularly, growing my own food. In a way, the pandemic has made us all take time to appreciate the little things.
“Like everyone else, I also just love getting out and meeting friends for some good food, especially tea and cake. I’m looking forward to doing that in the next few weeks.”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Make sustainability part of your core business. For us, education is our core business, so it’s all well and good for us to ‘green’ our campus and reduce carbon, but if we don’t address development, learning and skills, we will have missed the point.
“Additionally, think about the future of the workforce in all areas. It’s statistically proven that students now want to work for businesses that are sustainable and will stay at their post longer if their organisation has strong ambitions and transparent reporting on environmental performance.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Be strategic. Focus on the big picture as well as the immediate priorities and take time to get your head around systems thinking, so you know how to best influence those systems from your position and using your network. “
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.