Meet edie's 30 Under 30 class of 2019: Ankita Patel, Harrods
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. Next up: Ankita Patel, corporate responsibility manager at Harrods.
The future of business leadership starts right here. Earlier this year, edie unveiled the inaugural members of its brand new 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 Ankita Patel, corporate responsibility manager at luxury retailer Harrods.
How I got to where I am now:
“I studied a joint honours degree in business and journalism with news media, because I love reading and writing stories; my parents had a newsagent, so when I was little I was reading every single child-appropriate magazine I could get my hands on and had dreams of becoming an editor.
“During my degree, I worked part-time at Brent Cross shopping centre and it just so happened that they had a job opening as I was finishing my studies. The role was as a PA and business administrator, which gave me the chance to work across a number of departments. Of those, I really enjoyed looking after internal communications and CSR.
“Following that, I was fortunate enough to secure a CR assistant role at Asos, and, within three months, I was promoted to their CR coordinator, looking after its community and environmental strategy work. This role allowed me to develop several key skills needed for my current role, where I manage progress on Harrods’ three pillars; our community, our business and our products.
“No two days are the same and I love the variety of work within my role. I’ve never looked back.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“I’m more of a doer than a planner and love getting involved with hands-on projects. At Asos, I was giving the opportunity to turn a vision into reality and organise the first international volunteering and fundraising trip to visit one of the company’s charity partners Udayan Care, in Delhi.
“I started off by pulling together a schedule and rough budget for the trip and once signed off I began by creating the communications materials and an application form for recruiting volunteers. Once the volunteers were recruited, I asked each volunteer to set up their fundraising page and plan a creative workshop they could run with the children.
“When we arrived in India - whilst the children were at school - we re-decorated their living spaces and once they returned each volunteer had the opportunity to run their workshop. Over the course of the week, the volunteers really bonded with the children - it’s fair to say the trip ended with a few emotional goodbyes.
“The fundraising for this trip allowed Asos to donate additional homes to Udayan Care and set the foundations to ensure that these trips continue. A piece of my heart will always remain in India.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Linking CR to business strategy and encouraging behaviour change.
“Collaboration is a huge part of my role and a driver of the projects I deliver, but it’s sometimes hard when you know you don’t have all the answers.
“That said, I love working with individuals from across all of our key business areas and from outside of Harrods, because it’s so rewarding when that collaborative change is implemented.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
“Conscious and empowered consumers."
A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:
“Implementing some of the closed-loop initiatives set out in our updated CR strategy and backing them up with better reporting and monitoring.
“For example, although we’ve been sending zero waste to landfill, this has previously involved sending some waste streams for energy-from-waste incineration. We’ve spent a lot of time working with our facilities team to address this, closing the loop on things such as food waste and cigarette butts.
“Over the next year, consumers will also see lots of changes around our supply chain sustainability. Last year, we launched new requirements around fish and around animal welfare in our British meats. This year, working with our food teams, those learnings will be applied to other areas of the food supply chain."
In five years’ time, I would like to be:
“Seen as a real influencer in the CR space. I’m involved in so many different areas of CR that I would love to have a forum to share my learnings.
“Additionally, I would love to build my team within my current organisation, because the sky’s the limit when it comes to CR.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Traveling and experiencing what the world has to offer; spending time with my family; dancing; and yoga.”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Take lots of risks.
“Sometimes, we let the unknown hold us back because we forget that everything we do is a huge learning opportunity. Even if you fail – which, typically, is very rare, you’ll have learned a huge deal along the way. That’s the message I give to my team.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“I get emails all the time asking what experience you need to get into this field and what qualifications are best – but the most important thing is passion, combined with and a willingness to take a chance and a willingness to learn.
“Of course, when it comes to more technical projects around areas like energy, water and waste, it’s great to have training or experience.
“However, you’ll definitely be learning new things every day, so learning along the way is an option if you stay motivated and determined. Doing this is also really important for helping to overcome setbacks.”
The full Class of 2019 series can be viewed here.
To stay in the loop for 2020 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email firstname.lastname@example.org.