Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Stephanie Palmer, Wienerberger UK

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: Stephanie Palmer, sustainability manager at Wienerberger UK.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2020: Stephanie Palmer,  Wienerberger UK

Stephanie has played a key role in developing

The future of business leadership starts right here. Last 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 benefits 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 Stephanie Palmer, who has been the sustainability manager at building materials firm Wienerberger UK since 2015.

How I got to where I am now:

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fourth and fifth assessment reports punctuated my secondary school studies. I was already preparing for an environmental science degree at that stage, and the stark warnings of these reports validated my career choice.

“The multi-disciplinary degree course at the University of East Anglia provided an excellent foundation to understand complex interactions between humans and the environment: covering politics, economics and mathematics alongside the natural sciences.

“I worked as an environmental consultant during the placement year, which helped me secure an internship at the British Ceramic Confederation following graduation. Whilst working for the trade association, I participated in energy and climate policy discussions with MPs and civil servants and joined the steering committee for the ceramic sector’s Industrial Decarbonisation and Energy Efficiency Roadmap to 2050.

“Then, in 2015, I joined Wienerberger Limited in a dedicated sustainability role, which provided the opportunity to drive the implementation of the company’s sustainability strategy. I enjoy working at the sharp end: successful strategy execution remains one of the most challenging tasks for business leaders. Successfully implementing a sustainability strategy is inherently rewarding as the outcomes have the potential to improve people’s lives.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“Developing a comprehensive decarbonisation strategy for Wienerberger’s UK operations, during the turbulence of 2020.

“Despite remote working, the project engaged Wienerberger’s senior leaders on climate risks and possible responses, which provided the opportunity to involve colleagues who had previously considered themselves on the fringes of the company’s effort to reduce carbon emissions. I am extremely grateful to fellow MBA students at the University of Manchester who jointly developed the decarbonisation strategy for our degree thesis.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:

“Balancing the sustainability project portfolio, because there are so many topics that fall under the umbrella of sustainability and they all deserve attention.

“It is a constant challenge to maintain focus on the projects that will deliver the most impact, especially when there are many ‘business-as-usual’ demands on the sustainability professional.”

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

“The generation of transition.”

A successful 2021 for me looks like:

“Having lost much of 2020 to the pandemic, 2021 requires increased momentum to tackle climate change, resource depletion and biodiversity loss. At Wienerberger, we are moving into the second phase of our sustainability strategy which is both more comprehensive and more ambitious than the first phase, so 2021 will be an exciting year for the company.

“More broadly, in 2021 and beyond I would like to see leaders from all backgrounds come together to reform our governance systems to recognise the inherent value of goods and services, both natural and man-made, that do not typically appear on organisations’ balance sheets but are essential for human health and wellbeing.

“Value attribution and its relationship to human wellbeing have been extensively discussed by leaders such as Ernst F. Schumacher, Kate Raworth and more recently by Mark Carney in the 2020 Reith Lectures and Professor Dasgupta in the Dasgupta Review. Success in 2021 would be putting these ideas into practice.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

“A broad range of hobbies, however practising yoga and rock climbing are my favourites.

“Yoga keeps me grounded, whilst rock climbing has increased my resilience in stressful situations. Climbing has led me to some beautiful places that I would never have explored, had it not been for a long hike in search of a rock face!”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:

“Corporate strategy and sustainability strategy need to be one and the same to provide the best chances of success. Sustainability professionals create value when we increase alignment and eliminate conflicts between these two agendas.”

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

“Make an early commitment to lifelong learning, because truly sustainable decision-making is grounded in a very broad knowledge base. As sustainability professionals, our learning is never truly finished.

“Every year, we improve our understanding of the natural world and human’s relationship with it. For example, this year I am looking forward to reading Suzanne Simard’s first book Finding the Mother Tree which will be released in May and exploring the possible applications for land management at Wienerberger.”

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

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