Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2019: Agnes Altmets, Auto Trader
This brand-new editorial 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. First up: Agnes Altmets, digital analyst at online car marketplace Auto Trader.
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.
Kicking us off, it’s the turn of Agnes Altmets, digital analyst at online car marketplace Auto Trader.
How I got to where I am now:
“I grew up in Estonia – a small, Northern European country with lots of forests and a population of 1.3 million. I lived in the capital, Tallinn, but I spent most of my school holidays on an island in a rural area of Estonia with my grandparents. We were surrounded by fields and forest and you could see the sea from our kitchen window.
“Because we were in a rural area, we didn’t have sewage. We got water from the well, we had a composting toilet and a sauna house. We finally got running water in the farm when I was 15 but, even then, anything we poured down the drain went to the septic tank behind the house, next to the raspberry bed. So, the circularity of water was rather obvious.
“Until I went to university to study sociology, I didn’t realise someone could be classed as ‘environmentally aware’ and, more importantly, I realised that not everyone understands where natural resources come from. That made me think about what impact a person’s background and experiences has on their values and behaviours. As I became more interested in why some people are ‘greener’ than others, I focused my research on environmental friendliness throughout my studies.
“When I moved to the UK, I ended up putting my passion on hold by starting work as a data analyst. As a sociologist, I’d done a lot of qualitative and quantitative analysis, so it was a rather logical job to do – it just didn’t have anything to do with the environment.
“After a couple of years, I was feeling more comfortable with the culture and my job. In other words, once I knew I was adding value, something clicked. I thought that I should do something with my passion for sustainability. My first step was a cautious one: I decided to do more public speaking, which increased my confidence.
“I also reached out to a colleague who does our company’s environmental reporting. A few months later, she mentioned another colleague had reached out to her regarding sustainability. All of us met and I agreed to put in a kick-off meeting for a sustainability working group. The first meeting had more 10 attendees – well beyond my initial hopes – and that was the start of a very impressive sustainability journey. There are now 20 of us actively taking part in the group and, to spread the word, I’ve hosted numerous internal talks and events, as well as sharing information on our intranet.
“In summary, my school days spending holidays in nature sparked my interest in the environment; my academic background in sociology equipped me to understand how people and societies behave; and my roles as a data analyst have given me an excellent understanding of data and the power of insight. Combining those developments has created a unique and powerful way to put my sustainability passion into good use and make the world a little bit better.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“Starting a sustainability movement at Auto Trader from scratch. I think that’s my biggest career achievement as I took a leap, followed my passion and didn’t pay much attention what my actual job title said!
“Outside of Auto Trader, I’m also proud of being one of the founders of the Sustainability 1st: First Street sustainability steering group in Manchester, which aims to create an actionable sustainability framework for streets.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered so far is:
“My need to move things along quickly and feeling like I’m the odd one out.
“People have different values and haven’t been on the same journey as me, which is absolutely fine – I just need to remind myself of that. Also, I’m now learning to take pride in being the odd one out and I’ve learnt that it is much easier to be your authentic self.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
“Making a difference.”
A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:
“Inspiring other organisations and individuals to be more sustainable, and to continue reducing my own personal environmental impact. I’m still figuring out how to have the biggest impact, but it will certainly include sharing learnings and coming up with new ideas with the inspiring edie 30 Under 30 Class of 2019.
“I think that training people in Carbon Literacy – a scheme which aims to give people, communities and organisations an awareness around the CO2 costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions – would be another great way to make an impact.
“On a personal level, I’m currently working on reducing the amount I fly and on increasing the amount of vegan and vegetarian food I eat. To share my learnings, I’ll be contuining with my blog, called The Sustainable Estonian.”
In five years’ time, I would like to be:
“Known for helping to make the world more sustainable by inspiring people. I want to make the most of my mix of analytical, social and cultural skills to help drive individuals’ and business’ behaviour in a more sustainable direction.
“Again, on a personal note, I’d like to be growing enough vegetables to be almost self-sufficient. So, any urban gardeners reading this: I am keen to learn, please do reach out!”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Dancing. I tend to perform at a dance show or two every year, usually with the Advanced Contemporary and the Advanced Jazz group.
“I also love gardening and am currently growing my own fruit, vegetables and bee-friendly wildflowers.
“Swimming is another passion of mine, particularly in the Baltic sea, which gets nice and warm during summer.”
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Realise that sustainability is great for business. I believe that sustainable business creates more motivated and efficient employees – which is not to mention the wider long-term benefits for stakeholders, shareholders and the community. Leadership in this area encourages people to take pride in, and support, the business.
“Currently, being a sustainable business means you’re ahead of the curve. But soon, it will become the norm, so it makes business sense to make your Mission Possible Pledge now. Plus, it’s simply the right thing to do.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Just go for it and don’t pay too much attention what your job title says or what your initial remit is.
“Ask that question, go to that event, schedule that meeting, invite that person for a coffee, perhaps even ask that person to be your mentor. You’ll get the odd rejection, but the yes’s will very quickly snowball and generate more and better opportunities. I scheduled Auto Trader’s first sustainability meeting in October 2017 and, by March 2019, I was on edie’s 30 Under 30 list.”
The full Class of 2019 series can be viewed here.
To stay in the loop for 2020 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email email@example.com.