Meet edie's 30 Under 30 class of 2019: Steve Burgess, BBC
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: Steve Burgess, sustainability manager at the BBC.
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 Steve Burgess, sustainability manager at the BBC, who sits within the broadcaster's property team.
How I got to where I am now:
“I was always passionate about geography at school and have enjoyed learning about the environment from a very young age – particularly the impact that humans were having.
“So I studied geography as my undergrad and then completed my masters in environmental management at the University of Southampton. While I was there, I did various pieces of related work experience to get a feel for what kind of opportunities were out there, and my masters gave me the opportunity to get involved in several real-life, consultancy-style projects for clients such as Marriott, Marwell Zoo, Southampton Hospital and Hammerson.
“The latter of these projects helped me land my first full-time role, as an environmental coordinator for Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre. I absolutely loved working for Hammerson, but, after a few years, I felt it was time to move to a more strategic role. I took a role at Network Rail, project managing the implementation of an environmental management system for network operations. I think that gave me a really valuable introduction to developing strategies, embedding strategies and managing projects across a large, complex organisation.
“Following that, I took my current role as sustainability manager within the BBC’s property team. I’m responsible for improving environmental performance and embedding sustainability across the BBC’s diverse estate, primarily focusing on facilities management and catering operations. I’d say that contracts and supply chain management have become a key part of my role, as well as monitoring and reporting.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“I feel particularly proud to do a job that I’m passionate about at a large, high-profile organisation in general; the reach and potential is absolutely huge.
“A more specific example which stands out is launching several of our workplace initiatives during BBC North’s sustainability season last February. These included a single-use-plastic-free staff restaurant; a roll-out of new waste bins and visuals to encourage recycling; and the introduction of food waste and coffee cup recycling points on each floor.
“We also introduced a waste-sorting table to better understand where contamination was happening across our three buildings and worked with our catering suppliers to achieve a sustainable restaurant certification for all staff restaurants.
“For me, this was really exciting – not just because we launched so many initiatives in a short period of time, but because many of them were ‘firsts’ for the BBC. It required a real team effort and involved several key BBC suppliers, and, ultimately, has helped to shape our approach going forward in other locations.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Unintended consequences. People often want to do the right thing environmentally but aren’t sure what that is.
“What we’ve seen, in practice, is that everything has an environmental impact in one way or another. Decisions often result in a trade-off. It’s important, therefore, to use a life-cycle perspective and to take long-term approaches that consider sustainability from economic and societal perspectives too.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:
“The BBC achieving BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ for our new BBC Central Square development. This is the new home for BBC Wales and will incorporate solar generation, rainwater harvesting, electric vehicle charging points, a rooftop garden and locally sourced raw materials.
“I also think it’s important that the design of this building considers neurodiversity, which will help to create an inclusive workplace.
“Outside of that project, it’ll be important to continue expanding sustainability initiatives in other buildings across the estate, building on the lessons learned so far. I’ll personally be focusing a lot more on food waste from catering operations, plant-based food and single-use-plastics in the food supply chain.”
In five years’ time, I would like to be:
“Stepping into a leadership position where I can lead a sustainability strategy and the roll-out of its initiatives.
“I’d also like to be more active in the industry, collaborating to go beyond work within my own company.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Travelling the world and experiencing different cultures. Doing this has really changed my perspective on lots of different things.
“For anyone, travel will open your eyes and make you realise that the shocking effects of global warming and pollution aren’t just something you read about in the news. Being there makes it real and brings it close to home.
“I also love running, because it’s a chance for me to push myself but also to enjoy some downtime.”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Sustainability is no longer about being ‘less bad’ and should not be classed as a ‘nice-to-have’. It’s an expectation now, from staff, customers and the general public alike.
“Now is the time to engage and collaborate with staff, with suppliers, and externally within the industry. There needs to be a lot more sharing – not just of successes, but of failures, too – if key issues are to be solved collectively.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Take responsibility for your own learning and development by building a strong network around yourself and keeping up-to-date with industry developments.”
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.