Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: David Starley, Babcock

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, Babcock's group climate lead David Starley.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: David Starley, Babcock

David has worked at Babcock for almost five years, working his way up from a graduate placement

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 David Starley, group climate lead at multinational engineering services firm Babcock.

How I got to where I am now:

I grew up in Reading and attended Reading School before moving to the University of Bath. I studied there for a Masters in Chemical Engineering and, after graduating, I joined Babcock International Group, a FTSE250 engineering services company, as part of their process engineering graduate scheme.

“The scheme was based at Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth. During that time, I participated in the dockyard environmental working group, leading a successful campaign for World Environment Day and driving an initiative to switch from paper to digital payslips. In May 2021, having completed my two-year scheme, I had the opportunity to pivot into a sustainability role. I joined the new central ‘Group Environment Team’ as a low-carbon engineer, working directly for the Group’s head of environment with a primary aim to support development of the Group’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory and reduction roadmaps for key sites. An early highlight included producing a highly successful “Plan Zero 40 Podcast” series for COP26 to engage employees in climate change, including an interview with the company CEO.

“Since July last year, I have taken on more responsibility as the Group climate lead. In this role, I lead on the delivery of Babcock’s net-zero targets and approach to climate risk. I am currently working on a major re-baselining of Babcock’s emissions inventory for this year’s annual report and leading our ESOS (Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme) compliance.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“Development and subsequent roll out of an in-house, animated and gamified, climate literacy course released to all 26,000+ Babcock employees in May 2023, which has received excellent feedback from departments including the C-suite. It was a real challenge to get the level of content right for all backgrounds and knowledge but is very rewarding to see the impact it is having.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been:

Working within a global economic system where financial profit is prioritised over investing in reducing emissions. This model is clearly unsustainable and has brought us to where we are today. If we are to succeed in addressing the poly-crises of climate, nature and social injustice then we need to change our economic system.”

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


A successful 2024 for me looks like:

“We are currently working on Babcock’s Climate and Nature Transition Plan aligned to the Transition Plan Taskforce’s (TPT) framework, so, by the time 12 months have passed, I’d like to see climate and nature considerations embedded across key policies, processes and procedures within the business.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

“Running! I love getting out on the coast path or Dartmoor.

“And I can’t help but incorporate sustainability into everything I do, so I am a co-founder of The Green Runners CIC, a global community of runners on a mission to reduce running’s footprint through individual pledges and collective campaigns. We launched in April 2022 and have already surpassed 1,000 members, run high-profile campaigns like “DUtMB” and been featured in many press releases around the world.

“Last July I participated in the ‘climate relay;. I ran 260km over eight days and met some incredible people along the way. I even visited my school and gave a speech to Year 7 and 8, filmed for the local news by both BBC and ITV.

“Recently I’ve also adopted a rescue dog, Roxy, who keeps me on my toes and helps take my mind off the climate crisis.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business leaders is:

“We are living through a pivotal moment in human history. The science is unequivocal, the evidence of climate change is visible out the window. As leaders, you have great power to influence the path we take. What will you say when the next generation looks you in the eye and asks, ‘what did you do when you knew?’”

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

“You are not alone. When I spoke at my school I asked if they ever feel climate guilt, anxiety, or despair. Almost everyone in the room, including the teachers, put their hand up. Know that these emotions you inevitably feel are a totally rational response to a world in crisis.

“Entering the corporate sustainability world can be lonely, daunting and, at times, feel like pushing against a brick wall. Networks like the edie 30 under 30 and People, Planet, Pint events are great for connecting with other sustainability professionals.

“Other than that, I’d say that it is important to stay focused on your unique skillset and interest, and not to let others dampen your passion. Be courageous to challenge the status quo mentality and share your new ideas. Be relentless when faced with obstacles and always be mindful of the bigger picture and intersectionality.”

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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