Meet edie's 30 Under 30 class of 2019: Olivia Murphy, Whitbread

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: Olivia Murphy, sustainability manager at hospitality giant Whitbread.

Olivia started at Fashion Lab before joining Whitbread

Olivia started at Fashion Lab before joining Whitbread

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 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 Olivia Murphy, sustainability manager at Whitbread, the owner of brands such as Premier Inn and Beefeater.

How I got to where I am now:

“I took geography at university and, even though I always knew I wanted to do something in the global supply chain field, I wasn’t sure exactly what.

“Because I was also quite interested in fashion, I went and interned at Fashion Lab in the ethical trade department – and I loved it from day one. It was the first time I got an in-depth look at supplier relationships and how that global network can be used to make a difference on people’s lives locally.

“I left that internship feeling really empowered, so I focused on ethical trade for the rest of my degree and my dissertation – but I was still left wondering how to properly get into it as a profession. I sent an email to Whitbread’s head of sustainable sourcing on the off chance she would meet me for a coffee, where I picked her brains about career routes and what the company was doing in this space.

“About six months later, this role came up in the sustainability team, and I was lucky enough to be interviewed.

“Although I did make a jump from fashion to hospitality, I’ve never really seen that as a challenge, because my passion isn’t really for a specific sector, but for being involved with a company that is committed to making a difference at scale.

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

 “I’m particularly proud of my work with our procurement team on our palm oil supply chain. When I joined, I was given the opportunity to map our entire palm oil supply chain, which was an exciting project and has given us all a better understanding of where that commodity is from, where it goes and where it sits within the business.

“More recently, I’ve been leading our work with not-for-profit Stop the Traffik. This partnership has enabled us to risk asses all of our supply chain to understand how, and where, we can make the most meaningful differences to people’s lives. That, for me, was extremely fulfilling; it brought our whole programme to life and proved that we have opportunities to make a huge positive difference.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:

“Positive tensions between teams.

“Even within large corporates that have really committed to sustainable business, different opinions will always arise when developing and implementing any strategy or project.

“Whether it’s about how best to communicate a programme or the best way to fundraise, these conversations can be challenging. But I find it equally to work through those opinions, taking in voices from across the business, to make sure we reach the best possible outcome. Doing this is so important because everyone has different strengths and we need to make sure we’re doing right by all of our people.”

If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:

“Empowered to make a difference.”

A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:

“We always look at the difference we can make for people, covering team members, suppliers and guests alike – so, when I look back of the year, success won’t necessarily be about what I’ve done as an individual.

“It’ll be more about being part of something bigger, which has a huge positive difference in as many people as possible.

“I think that, at a time when we’re all being pushed to go further and faster, it’s really important to look back and appreciate the difference you’ve made.”

In five years’ time, I would like to be:

“Seeing, in person, how supply chain programmes are making a difference on the ground, which inevitably means spending more time working abroad. To me, that’s an important part of responsible sourcing.

“I’m also fascinated by human rights law and would like to be furthering my academic qualifications in that space.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

“Being active and being outside. I spend a lot of time running, playing netball and going to the gym. It’s important to me to keep my mind and body active.

“I also love travelling and am always planning the next place to visit, because travel gives you the chance to understand other cultures, places and people.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:

“You can’t do everything at once, so don’t think that trying to be a force for good in a specific space won’t make a huge difference.

“You have to start somewhere and not be afraid to make commitments or speak up about an opportunity that you find exciting because, more often than not, someone else will share that passion.”

My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:

“Talk. Being brave and approaching people for discussions is something that’s hugely benefitted me.

“Talking to professionals already in the industry is the best thing you can do, because you’ll continually be learning so much and surrounding yourself with people who are passionate not just about your area of sustainability, but the whole spectrum of how broad it is.

“You’ll also be able to seek advice and understand the paths which others have taken – which is particularly important when you’re just entering a career.”

The full Class of 2019 series can be viewed here.

To stay in the loop for 2020 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email edieleaders@fav-house.com.

edie staff



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