Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Sam Lux, Department for BEIS
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: Sam Lux, policy advisor at BEIS.
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 Sam Lux, who recently joined BEIS as a policy advisor on public engagement with net-zero.
How I got to where I am now:
“For me, it all started when a substitute geography teacher called Mr Green showed us an Inconvenient Truth in year nine. It totally changed my world.
“I became a very committed environment prefect at my secondary school and then chose to study physical geography at Durham to get a good grip of climate science.
“After graduating, I sent lots of speculative emails to different organisations asking if they’d give me a short-term role and, amazingly, Nottingham City Council got back to me and I ended up kick-starting their broad sustainability strategy, which is how I came to fall in love with policy and partnership work.
“After doing some recycling engagement work in London, I returned to join Nottingham City Council’s grad scheme, working on behaviour change. My two big projects to start with were working on an EU-funded energy efficiency app and developing an energy-saving competition in our leisure centres.
“In 2019 something quite magical happened – I was awarded a Nottingham Roosevelt scholarship which funds young professionals to go to the US with a research project related to their work. Over three months, I studied the sustainability journeys of 11 US cities from DC to Honolulu, drawing inspiration to support Nottingham’s progress towards carbon neutrality. To say that trip was transformative would be a complete understatement; the learnings have underpinned so much of my work since.
“Not long after I returned, the pandemic began which turned everything upside down, but luckily the constraints bred creativity and probably the most ambitious and successful work to date. Most recently I’ve moved to a public engagement and policy role in central government which really is my dream job.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“Designing and delivering Nottingham’s 28-Day Challenge last summer, a month-long virtual sustainability campaign, presenting a broad range of activities to citizens via city-wide organisations.
“This simultaneously engaged external partners who aren’t normally part of the conversation, like our local football clubs and art galleries, and their audiences who, again, we wouldn’t normally reach.
"On a next to zero budget, the campaign managed to increase awareness of the city’s 2028 carbon-neutral goal massively, establish it as a city-wide initiative and create a really broad range of things to actually ‘do’, all free and safe in terms of social distancing. This content is ever-lasting and could be reused, for example in schools.
“At the same time, asking for short videos from local businesses and charities provided opportunities for them to promote themselves, but also opened the door to future collaborations on emissions reductions.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Often, when trying to get a project or campaign off the ground, there are a lot of competing priorities, usually with a degree of risk-aversion thrown in.
“This can make it difficult to maintain momentum and to take advantage of opportune moments.
"My advice here would be to welcome criticism, listen carefully and then exercise empathy wherever possible. In my experience, if I’m able to put myself in my opponent’s shoes, I can start to solve those problems pre-emptively, identify compromises and build trust, all of which ultimately strengthens my work. But all of this is definitely easier said than done!”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
A successful 2021 for me looks like:
“Driving unprecedented engagement, collaboration and commitment in the run-up to, and during, COP26 in November.
“I hope that COP26 will reflect the most momentous year of sustainability progress in the world’s history and that all involved can finish the conference feeling even more optimistic and determined.“
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Learning about philosophy and brain science.
“A couple of years ago, I started a project called the calendar of introspection, with a different theme each month for examining my own thought processes, and that’s now evolved into a monthly discussion with a group of pensive friends – it’s fascinating!”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Whatever your capacity, you can be a part of the UK’s journey to net-zero and the world needs you to be a part of it. It’s more than ok to start small, as long as you start soon, or ideally now.
“Secondly, the joy of sustainability work is that it’s about something much bigger than us; there’s no point in having one net-zero business, everyone is in it together, which means there’s endless support out there, including support tailored perfectly for your kind of business. There’s no need to be a pioneer because other businesses have already taken risks to find out what works, so reach out if you need to.
“Finally, I’d also encourage you to celebrate this movement for the incredible moment in history that it is. Not only are you a part of something ground-breaking and of unparalleled importance, but you’ll also be greeted with so many benefits, like saving money over time, generating attractive PR and improving your workforce’s wellbeing and motivation.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Don’t wait around to get sign-off on a perfectly formulated idea. Trust your instincts, get started and embrace an iterative process where you learn and build as you go along.
“A critical part of that development is collaboration - the best resource you have is the minds of others. Your colleagues and contacts represent whole lifetimes of knowledge and experience you can tap into, so ask loads of questions and co-create where possible. Not only will you build support for your projects but they will be better for being informed by diverse brainpower.”
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.