Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Hannah Scott, Oxfordshire Greentech

This series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Up next, Oxfordshire Greentech's chief executive Hannah Scott.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Hannah Scott, Oxfordshire Greentech

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 Hannah Scott, chief executive of Oxfordshire Greentech.

How I got to where I am now…

I first studied music as an undergraduate, a far cry from where I am today. I mostly loved my degree and wouldn’t have exchanged the experiences I had for anything, but at the end of it, I didn’t know what to do. Nothing in the industry seemed inspiring enough.

“During my degree, I’d been reading more and more about climate change and getting involved with various sustainability clubs. I took a year out after my undergrad to do some work at my local church, wrote articles for the ecology section of the parish newspaper, and volunteered at Tearfund in the Advocacy department. I decided then that I wanted to go into sustainability.

“I knew from searching jobs online that I wouldn’t have the necessary skills and knowledge to get into paid employment in the sustainability sector so it was back to university for a master’s in environment, development and policy. I remember so vividly sitting in the first lecture and thinking, ‘I’ve come home. This is what I was meant to do.’

“After graduating, I started working for Bioregional, an amazing sustainability charity and consultancy which gave me a taste for systems thinking and collaborative projects. I played a small role in helping launch the Oxfordshire Greentech network as part of an ERDF programme, which existed to convene and accelerate innovative climate solutions. While still at Bioregional, I helped deliver Oxfordshire Greentech’s activities.

“During lockdown, I was furloughed, got restless, and decided to volunteer all my time to Oxfordshire Greentech. I fell in love with the membership and exciting innovation, and saw how business could be a force for good.

“Fast-forward a few years, and in April 2023 I executed the risky but exciting decision to move across to Oxfordshire Greentech full-time, becoming its first CEO and employee.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been…

“Probably becoming CEO of my organisation. It was a leap of faith to go from a stable job at my previous company to head up an organisation and take on ownership of absolutely everything, without knowing whether I’d still have a job in a year’s time.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d sink or swim, but a year on, I’ve expanded my workforce, moved the company to a new co-working space, co-founded a new venture for accelerating the development and deployment of climate tech across northern Europe, and been filmed for a Sky Digital documentary.

“I love meeting people for the first time when they say they have heard of Oxfordshire Greentech – it’s a great validation of our hard work to be more visible.

“I still have many moments of imposter syndrome but I’m learning to better trust my capacity for resilience and adaptability, no matter what happens.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been…

“Engaging SMEs on decarbonisation. There just aren’t the policy or funding incentives for them to take action and they’re fire-fighting a load of other problems which are prioritised.

“How do you develop a programme of support that targets SMEs’ lack of time, money and appropriate knowledge/skills? And who pays for it if sustainability is currently seen as unaffordable for many?

“If you design an incredible programme but no one wants it, marketing know-how says you shouldn’t be offering that product. But the physics of climate change don’t care about market demand, so whether business leaders want it or not, they will have to engage at some point. How do we accelerate them towards that engagement point without overwhelming them? It’s something I’m currently working on with key institutions across Oxfordshire.”

If I had to describe my generation in a phrase, I would say…

“Powerfully breaking generational trauma by putting in the work to unlearn outdated narratives about the ways the world should work, and creating kinder, deeper, more beautiful narratives.”

A successful 2024 for me looks like…

“Scaling the Climate Tech Supercluster is a big priority. I co-founded this cluster development organisation with Cambridge Cleantech and We Are Liminal last year toaccelerate the development and deployment of climate tech across the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, where 50% of Europe’s innovation output comes from.

“We’re exploring a few corporate partnership opportunities to boost impact at the moment, and success would look like bringing on board some large organisations interested in supporting the climate tech ecosystem, and collaborating across borders to create systemic change quicker than we could manage alone.

“Oxfordshire Greentech is also in charge of stakeholder engagement and activities as part of the DESNZ-funded Oxford Industrial Decarbonisation Project, which will wrap up in December with the creation of a roadmap and action plan for industrial organisations hitting net zero by 2040. The report launch event at the BMW MINI Plant is definitely going to be a highlight.

“Additionally, I’m in the process of building a strategy advisory board, bringing in senior leaders across business, government and academia who can guide us to higher heights and get us a foot in the door with key decision-makers. Having already started building out my team, I also hope to add to the ranks and get more changemakers on board!”

Outside of my career, I enjoy…

“Ultimate frisbee. It’s my second love after sustainability. It’s a 7-a-side game when played outdoors, with endzones at opposite ends of the pitch you need to catch the disc in to score. It’s non-contact and you can’t hold the disc for more than 10 seconds.

“I compete internationally with a team based in London, and have even been to the club World Championships back in 2022 in the States where my team came 8th. Playing ultimate is the one time my brain stops focusing on everything that’s wrong in the world and just focuses on the game.

“My other interests include walking, reading, cooking and baking, and occasional music-making.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business leaders is…

“You could view the climate crisis as a doom-laden, inconvenient expense for your business. Or you could see this as one of the greatest opportunities of all time for innovation, problem-solving, collaboration, and creating a lasting legacy of positive impact.

“The winners will be those who choose optimism. And they will find a way to not only do right by planet and people but also to benefit financially in a future green economy.”

My key piece of advice to young people entering my profession today is…

“It is partly true that it’s not about what you know, but who you know. Obviously, in a field as complex as sustainability, knowing your stuff is important. But if you’re hungry and ambitious, make sure to prioritise relationship- and network-building, too. You have no idea where your connections might lead you in the future. Plus, building out your network is fun! It’ll broaden your mind and open doors.

“Even though networking can be really intimidating, just remember that every single person, regardless of their level of seniority or level of influence, is just another human being with their own flaws, dreams and weirdness. If you push yourself to talk to the ‘scary, impressive’ person, you’ll be pleasantly surprised where it can lead you.

“Be bold, curate curiosity, practice vulnerability, and see every challenge as a growth opportunity.”

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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