Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Sam McCarthy, Nando’s

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: Nando UK&I's sustainability manager Sam McCarthy.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2020:  Sam McCarthy, Nando’s

Sam joined the Nando's team in 2018 after working in professional services and the higher education sector

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 Sam McCarthy, who works for Nando’s UK & Ireland as part of the restaurant chain’s in-house sustainability team. 

How I got to where I am now:

“After studying geography at undergrad, my first in-house sustainability role was interning at the University of Leeds, which was brilliant; it completely opened my eyes to the joys and challenges of working internally. I stayed within that team for a further two years after the one-year internship, overseeing things ranging from engagement programmes to carbon reporting.

“After finishing my master’s in environmental consultancy and sustainability, I wanted a change from living and working on campus. I moved to London to work for KPMG, overseeing environmental management. That was a maternity cover position, but I really enjoyed that kind of work, so I moved to EY, to look at how climate change will affect finance.

“I moved to Nando’s a little under three years ago. Currently, I look after our carbon reduction and supply chain strategies, working in partnership with our restaurants, staff and suppliers.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“Developing our science-based targets last year and achieving board support, along with the rest of the team.

“This really changed how the business perceives sustainability; we’ve completely got behind the need to tackle climate change as an urgent priority and I’ve learned so much more about the business.

“There has always been a purpose and a vision to do good at Nando’s, but signing up to these targets has opened so many new doors and ensured that we work more closely with our value chain to tackle Scope 3 emissions.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:

“Realising that it is a marathon; not a sprint.

“There are days when it’s hard not to see wins and when you get frustrated with the pace of change around you. But, equally, there are days where everything moves.

“It is the same with behaviour change. You have to know exactly what makes people tick to get it right – and exactly when and how to repeat your messages. It does not happen overnight.”

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

“Aware, and opening doors for the next generation.”

A successful 2020-21 for me looks like:

“Working in more detail with suppliers; crafting new relationships, building existing relationships, collecting data and delivering change on the ground. I’d love to understand all the details of our carbon on a menu item basis, as this would be a great way to engage customers in the long-term.

“Also, exploring more low-carbon menu items. We’ve just launched our first plant-based protein and we’re getting a lot of good feedback. It’s really exciting to imagine that someday, we could be known more for our peri-peri seasonings and South African heritage than for chicken.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

“Pre-lockdown, I was part of a tag rugby team and I’d also be swimming and training a lot. If I wasn’t working or exercising, I was probably enjoying food with family and friends.

“I also sit on the board of Hiver, which is a small brewer based in Bermondsey. It has a mission to become a B-Corp and works with the City of London Corporation’s Heart of the City to help other SMEs do the same.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:

“We can do this, but we need everyone to play their part. Look at what sustainability means for your business specifically and don’t shy away from the things that are going to be hard to change. This is essential and worthwhile.

“Also, don’t do sustainability in secret. Transparency and honesty is important in bringing everyone on board and overcoming challenges.”

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

“Building relationships is super important at all stages of your career. As well as networking, form genuine relationships with your internal team and with any consultants you work with.

“Resilience is also key. It will be challenging at times, enjoyable at others and a mix of both most of the time. Being prepared to be a generalist will serve you well; if you’re prepared to talk to the board sometimes, staff at other times, and to sit down for carbon modelling at other times, you’ll enjoy every project.”

The full Class of 2020 membership is detailed here

To stay in the loop for 2021 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email

edie Staff

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