Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Aneesah Sarwar, Barclays

This 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, Aneesah Sarwar, Sustainability Propositions & Strategy Manager at Barclays.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Aneesah Sarwar, Barclays

More than just a list, edie’s annual 30 Under 30 initiative shines a spotlight on talented sustainability and net-zero professionals – aged under 30 – who are delivering on efforts to build a better future and showing fantastic promise for their future potential.

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the initiative has returned for 2023-4, with the new class having been announced last September.

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.

Our next profile interview is with Aneesah Sarwar, Sustainability Propositions & Strategy Manager at Barclays.

How I got to where I am now:

“I’m a sustainability professional with two years of experience in ESG and sustainability. I’m an active learner and have completed the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership Sustainable Finance course, achieving over 90%, and more recently completed The Conduit Academy Climate and Sustainability course.

“For my undergraduate degree, I studied Economics BSc at the University of Warwick. However, my interest in climate and sustainability stemmed way before this when I studied Geography at GCSE and A Level. I previously thought my contribution to the planet was sufficient through my personal life and my day-to-day sustainable habits. However, I soon realised this wasn’t the case and I could make a much bigger impact through my professional career, especially in financial services.

“Prior to moving into sustainability, I held previous roles in banking across strategy, product, digital, data and colleague transformation.

“Whilst I have a strong interest in sustainability and climate, I have always been driven by impact and have previously led social impact initiatives. One of these was co-founding a podcast and community, Her Own Boss, which was designed to help women thrive in their careers and build confidence. I’m also currently a deputy co-chair of Barclays’ socioeconomic inclusion employee resource group. These experiences outside of my day job has given me the confidence and drive to keep creating meaningful change and impact.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“My biggest achievement has been being able to manage and lead various sustainability projects at a FTSE100 bank. I’m adaptable and have often thrown myself into new challenges which has allowed me to massively stretch my skillset and career experiences. From writing content for the TCFD reporting in the annual report to leading sustainability customer engagement programmes and innovating pilots and tests with partners; what I’m doing today in my day job is different to six, 12, 18 and 24 months ago! It definitely keeps the job interesting which is probably why it’s the longest job I’ve ever had in my career so far.

“The ever-changing nature and requirements when working in sustainability provides lots of new opportunities and I’m proud of how I’ve grown over the years as a sustainability professional.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been:

“Personally, the biggest challenge as a sustainability professional has been the emotional toll of working in sustainability. When you’re so passionate about protecting the planet we all deeply depend on, it can be easy to get weighed down by global setbacks in the journey to net-zero. Some people describe this as climate anxiety. I overcome it by remembering that I’m playing my part as much as possible to drive the systems change required to transition to a low carbon economy.”

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

“Ambitious changemakers.”

What do you hope to achieve in your role in the next 12 months?

“I hope to drive more impact this year and next year, particularly through my role at a large financial services organisation.

“Personally, I’m keen to connect with more sustainability professionals across different organisations and industries. Also, I’m excited to attend more events this year where I can meet new people and learn about new topics, particularly through my membership at The Conduit, a collaborative community of people committed to creating a just, prosperous and sustainable future.

“I’ve always had a strong interest and passion in DE&I and over the next 12 months, I’m particularly interested in exploring how we support and ensure a Just and Inclusive Transition.”

What are your interests outside of your day job?

“I spend a lot of time with family and friends and enjoy new experiences, travelling to new cities and countries.

“I love the buzz of big, vibrant and culture-filled cities and could never get bored exploring them. Having said that, I balance this with the calmness I feel whilst being in nature and enjoy being active outdoors or at the gym.

“One of my latest interests has been also been making my own dark chocolate.”

What would be your sustainability call to action for business leaders?

Be brave! We’re often fearful because we strive for perfection. However, I believe perfection is the enemy of good so we must move past this so that we can start taking the necessary steps towards the transition to net zero.

“I would also encourage collaboration within your industry and with other industries. I find it important to learn from others and join forces where appropriate. The transition to net-zero requires change across all industries so that we can rewire the economy – collaboration is a must!”

What advice would you give a young person entering your profession?

“Always keep learning! The sustainability space is moving so quickly – there’s always new innovations, new research and new global policies. In order to react accordingly, it’s important to keep learning and adapting. For me, that includes listening to podcasts, reading articles, completing professional courses, learning from others and going to events or conferences.”

The full 30 Under 30 Class of 2023 membership is detailed here

To stay in the loop for the next round of annual nominations for the 30 Under 30, email [email protected]. Nominations will open this summer.

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