Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2019: Harry Ashman, Capgemini

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: Harry Ashman, sustainability manager at consultancy Capgemini.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2019: Harry Ashman, Capgemini

Harry has been at Capgemini for five years - the past two of which he has spent helping steer its sustainability approach

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 Harry Ashman, sustainability manager at global consultancy Capgemini

How I got to where I am now:

“Having started my career as a management consultant at Capgemini, I started to see the commercial risks of not acting upon sustainability trends affecting the world, but also the opportunities they provide. During this time, I set up a Sustainability Ambassadors network to raise awareness and support Capgemini’s CSR programmes, which brought me into contact with our CSR team.

I was offered a secondment to apply my consulting skills to work on two short internal projects, firstly building a climate change risk assessment for the Group, and secondly to be part of the new Group Chief CSR Office’s small team developing and accelerating a new Group CSR strategy. As a Geography student I already understood environmental and social issues, but now I had a chance to get involved in tackling them, and I’ve not looked back since.

I now deliver our client-facing programme, with a target to save our clients 10 million tonnes of CO2e emissions by 2030. My role involves helping clients tackle sustainability challenges through delivering sustainability consulting projects, and working across the Capgemini Group embedding sustainability into our operations and portfolio.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“Redeveloping the Group’s CSR strategy was a great project and saw me working with our Board to identify the most material risks we face and the greatest positive impacts we could have on social and environmental issues.

“We proposed an ambitious programme that takes much of our CSR work in a new direction, starting two global programmes from scratch and requiring buy-in from stakeholders, employees and investors across the world. I have helped not only to develop the strategy but embed it into the business and last year I delivered training to more then 1700 key business leaders.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:

“The case for business to act ambitiously on climate change has never been clearer – but moving beyond being ‘less bad’ to actively starting to restore the planet and transforming business models can be a leap too far for some.

“Most business leaders see the value of sustainability and very few still view it as just a compliance issue, but we must move to the next level of understanding of the need to go beyond existing efforts if we are to drive the funding and engagement needed for more extensive business transformation.”

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

“We are well aware of the global challenges facing us, from sovereign debt and climate change to the rise of robotics and population growth.

“I can’t help hoping this bodes well for the future as our influence on society, economics and politics grows.”

A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:

“Spreading and embedding our programme, ensuring that sustainability is fully entrenched within our portfolio. I would love for all our employees to understand the role they can play and feel empowered and inspired to do their bit for our sustainability programme. 

“On a personal note, I’m keen to use edie’s 30 Under 30 group as a platform for us to make a difference. There are a great range of organisations represented by the group, with ambitious young leaders from across the country. We’ve already had some exciting conversations on how the group can use its voice and the opportunity to add value to the sustainability community and wider society and we’re all keen to ensure that happens.” 

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

“Continuing to influence and enable organisations’ sustainability strategies and agendas, helping them to understand their risks and opportunities and transform accordingly.

“I believe that fundamental changes to business models and economies are required to combat many of the global challenges we face, with climate change chief among them, and there is a real commercial opportunity in this transformation too. I want to be at the heart of this transformation, helping to drive positive impact through direct engagement and innovation, as well as public speaking. I’m in the minority who enjoy talking to large audiences and I’m lucky to have had some great experiences so far, so I can hopefully continue to improve my ability to inspire others in the future.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

“I’m a keen sprinter, training five times a week with a local club. Surprisingly, running in circles helps keep me sane, but I’m also an Arsenal fan, which probably has the opposite effect.

“Despite being brought up in London I also love being outside and getting away from civilisation.” 

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:

“Social and environmental megatrends, from inequality and the digital revolution to climate change and resource shortages, will leave no business unaffected. Broaden your horizons, understand the entire ecosystem within which you operate and understand how these risks and trends will affect you.

“Then, be bolder in the way you are reacting to them, going beyond being ‘less bad’, as I said before; whether that involves investment or divestment, changing processes or products, or finding entirely new partners to collaborate with.

“If you are not thinking bigger and being bolder, you can be sure someone else is, meaning that not only will you be hindering a sustainable future, you may not even be a part of it.” 

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

“Branch out and engage people beyond the sustainability industry. We have a tendency to only talk to our peers and preach to the choir, rather than engaging the real decision makers and power brokers in the world.

“Think about what makes people beyond our industry sit up and listen, then identify how you can tailor your message to demonstrate that acting sustainably is not just good for the planet, but also helps them to achieve their personal or business objectives too.

“If you can inspire action from a stressed executive with a stretched budget and no prior interest in sustainability, you can engage anyone.”

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 protected].

edie staff

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