Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Ciarán Tragheim, 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, Ciarán Tragheim, sustainable sourcing lead at Nando’s.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Ciarán Tragheim, Nando’s

Before moving to Nando's in 2022, Ciaran helped to shape KPMG UK's overarching sustainability strategy

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 Ciarán Tragheim, sustainable sourcing lead at casual dining restaurant Nando’s.

How I got to where I am now:

“I’ve always loved nature and valued time outdoors. During my study abroad year in Canada, I took environment-focused courses that strengthened my appreciation for the environment and also served to showcase the issues with our current relationship to it. Focusing both on the changing dynamic over the past century and the current crises we face, these studies and time in the Canadian outdoors cemented for me that I wanted to be involved in attempting to rectify this imbalance.

“I chose my Master’s in Climate Change at King’s College London because the course centered on the social side of the issue. It has always been important through my studies and career to focus on the cultural and human side of climate change to affect behavioural change, be it individual, sectoral or legislative.

“After my studies, I wanted to learn as much as possible from different sectors and their interplay with the environmental crises. I’ve been fortunate to work in the agricultural, built environment, professional service and now hospitality sectors. All of these industries have their own priorities, as well as unique engagements with and exposure to the natural world. The challenges are often the same though; establishing sustainability as foundational alongside other key pillars, senior buy-in, longer-term thinking and accuracy of costs or data to make decisions.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“It is tricky to name just one thing, given that I’ve worked on a range of different topics and still feel that I’m in the early stages of career.

“Whether I’ve been leading employee engagement campaigns, conducting environmental audits, penning sustainability reports or writing policy, my focus was gaining experience through delivering projects and embedding sustainability within both business and value chain.

“In more recent years, looking at tangibly reducing impact through direct engagement with suppliers and internal stakeholders – keeping the passion that got me here initially – has been extremely rewarding.

“On that passion, I would have to say presenting to 700 colleagues at Nando’s most recent summit. It was a huge moment for me – not just as a career achievement, but being given the opportunity and the pride of speaking en masse with colleagues about a topic I deeply care about, seeing it resonate with them.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been:

“A lack of familiarity with sustainability among business decision-makers, which means having to take time to justify its place and priority within a business.

“This makes it difficult for sustainability to become truly embedded within a business’ culture and identity, whilst also serving to delay projects that will have material impact. Wanting to manage risk is understandable, but it’s a cross-sector challenge where short-term risk can be valued more greatly than longer-term mitigation of significant risks. Ideally TCFD, TNFD and similar will move forwards quantifying this risk, assigning value to natural capital and making sustainability relevant to decision makers across the business.

“Equally, with the current demand around reporting and the push for ‘perfect’ data, it feels the industry gets in its own way pursuing these as outcomes rather than in service of getting on with ‘the doing’. Reporting and data of course have potential to drive change themselves, but they can also drive significant business inertia and do little to engage wider society.”

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

“Engaged and knowledgeable, with huge potential but much resting on us – the concern is we need to be the generation that closes the say vs. action gap, and I’m not 100% sure we’re there yet.”

A successful 2024 for me looks like:

“Continuing to deliver projects that significantly reduce Nando’s’ impact on the natural world which we are so reliant on. This of course needs to be done whilst avoiding bettering one aspect of the environment whilst harming another, contributing to broader social issues, or undermining commercial performance. It’s a challenging three-legged stool to keep upright alongside external reputation, but it’s doable and I strongly believe one supports the other if implemented correctly.

“Specifically for our business, there’s a lot of opportunity both in the world of food and non-food which is incredibly exciting. This includes innovations within our supply chain and cross-sectoral initiatives, which will make a significant difference to our approach and impact going forwards. On the latter, I’m keen to see results from more cross-industry engagement and advocacy within this space. Cross-sectoral collaboration holds real potential to drive change, provided they do not become talking shops.

“Moving forwards together and working consistently with suppliers, landlords and our supply chains can be reformative, whether direct between businesses or through great organisations such as the Zero Carbon Forum, the Sustainable Restaurant Association and the Soil Association Exchange.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

There is a really special place in my heart for cricket, which I discovered at a young age and grew up watching alongside my grandad, so there’s a lot of meaning woven in there for me. I’m also a keen runner, and as a Type 1 diabetic it has provided me an avenue to raise awareness and funds towards continued advancements for those faced with its challenge.

“That said, at the moment, my fiancée and I are renovating our new flat which is taking up most of my physical and mental energy away from work – I’m not the most natural DIY individual, so it’s been a steep learning curve!

“Otherwise, I am never truly happier than when I’m out in the nature, either with my camera or hiking along a trail with my fiancée, family or friends and of course our ever-reliable golden retriever, Frodo.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business leaders is:

See sustainability as an opportunity, not a nice-to-have – or, even worse, a reluctant obligation to appease stakeholders.

“Sustainability is inherently relevant to every business decision, so work to ensure it’s embedded at the heart of business’ short and long-term ambitions. Introducing accountability for action will showcase the potential sustainability has to drive reputation, mitigate risk and ensure greater financial resilience in the future.

“It also isn’t as painful as sometimes presented; absorbing slight initial inconvenience enables significant benefit for a far greater purpose.

“For those already on board, never let perfect get in the way of good. It can be easy to get caught in a spiral of chasing perfect data, responding to external reports or going through endless rounds of sign-off. These will ultimately serve little, if you do not take tangible action to reduce your impact and advocate for both industry and government to do the same.”

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

“The world of work is convoluted and takes time to get the measure of. Give yourself that time to learn, but know your perspective does matter and holds weight.

“Critically, avoid sustainability being siloed off from the business. Demonstrate how sustainability interlinks with every business unit – commercial, brand, people – and highlight sustainability benefits alongside these, showing equal importance.

“Sustainability benefits hugely from individuals of different expertise and backgrounds. That’s not detracting from career-long sustainability professionals – I am one! – but different perspectives from finance, to procurement, to marketing are invaluable. From choosing to enter the profession, you are a sustainability professional.

“Owning this, using your knowledge to make rounded business cases and advocating real change will see people listen, even if it feels a slog. The right decision-makers will listen to and back the expert to make a difference. If those types of leaders are not in your company, they can be found elsewhere.”

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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