Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Amy Oroko, Matthew Algie

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. Up next: Matthew Algie's sustainability manager Amy Oroko.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Amy Oroko, Matthew Algie

Amy became Matthew Algie's first in-house sustainability professional in 2014 and was promoted to her current role in 2016

The future of business leadership starts right here. Earlier this year, edie unveiled the second cohort of members of its 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 Amy Oroko, who heads up sustainability work at independent coffee roaster Matthew Algie. 

How I got to where I am now:

“Early in studying for my undergraduate degree at the University of Bath, I was most interested in pursuing a career in the charitable sector. To gain some relevant experience in a developing country I sought out a placement year in Malawi, working as an intern for a development consulting company. It was a fantastic starting point because I was able to work on a wide variety of projects, and it opened my eyes to the role that the private sector can play in driving sustainable development. Following on from this I was keen to pursue a career in the food and drink industry, hoping to draw on my experience of working with smallholder farmers.

“I began working at Matthew Algie, a coffee roaster in Glasgow, in the summer of 2014, a year after leaving University. At this stage I had a BSc in Economics and International Development, experience working in Malawi and a further year in a graduate consulting role. I was incredibly excited to assume the role of sustainability project officer at Matthew Algie – the first position that the company had created which focused solely to sustainability. To reflect the expansion of the role to encompass broader strategy development and implementation, I was promoted to sustainability manager in 2016.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“Managing the development and implementation of Matthew Algie’s first strategic sustainability plan. This has formalised the way that we pursue economic, social and environmental sustainability objectives across our approach to sourcing, reducing our environmental impact, investing in our employees, and, engaging with our community. As well as challenging us to be more ambitious, it has transformed the way that we evaluate our impact and communicate our progress with stakeholders.

“I’m also proud to have contributed to our award-winning supply chain collaborations, such as our programme with M&S and Taylors of Harrogate in partnership with two Peruvian coffee farming cooperatives.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:

“Helping to define and shape the role and responsibility of the internal sustainability resource at Matthew Algie. Whilst this has been extremely exciting it has also presented challenges. For example, I have needed confidence to make my voice heard, and to affect change, in parts of the business where they have not historically had a strong direct input or influence from a sustainability angle.

“Furthermore, I have needed to recognise and defend where the boundaries of the role need to be set, to ensure that we can continue to make tangible impact in the areas that are most material to our business.”

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

“Willing to challenge the status quo.”

A successful 2020-21 for me looks like:

“Matthew Algie primarily services the out of home hospitality industry in the UK and Ireland, and so, in common with many other businesses, 2020 has been extremely challenging due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. My expectations have had to change to reflect this, but we are working hard to make further progress towards our strategic goals and bring fresh momentum to the initiatives that have been delayed.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

“Getting outdoors with friends and family. My happy place is being on the water, so I particularly love an excuse to travel back to the west coast of Scotland and jump on a kayak or paddleboard.

“But travel restrictions have meant that I have spent far more time enjoying the nature that’s closer to home, getting to know our local country parks inside out, which has had its own charm.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:

“Don’t be tempted to opt for the quick wins which you think will tick the ‘sustainability box’ and mollify consumers who are increasingly clamouring for more sustainable products and services.

“Besides the fact that this is a dangerous tactic since customers and other stakeholders are increasingly engaged and knowledgeable about sustainability, there is so much more to be gleaned from a considered, properly resourced and integrated sustainability strategy. It is really worth seeking out those all-important sweet spots where the mutual benefits for your company and for people and planet can be maximised.”

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

“For those who are specifically interested in working on sustainability in agricultural supply chains similar to coffee, experience working at origin is invaluable if you’re able to find an opportunity to do so.

“Also, I think most young sustainability professionals will likely be incredibly passionate individuals who are excited about affecting change, and so they may be particularly susceptible to feeling frustrated by the seemingly opaque career path towards their dream job, or by the pace of change in their organisation if it doesn’t live up to their expectations. But it’s really important to keep nurturing that enthusiasm for driving positive change, and to take time to reflect and be encouraged by the progress that you make along the way.”

The full Class of 2020 membership is detailed here

To stay in the loop for 2021 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email [email protected].

edie Staff

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie