Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Julia Knight, B Lab

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, Julia Knight, senior business sustainability analyst at B Lab.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Julia Knight, B Lab

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 Julia Knight, senior business sustainability analyst at B Lab. B Lab is the global nonprofit network overseeing the B Corp certification scheme.

How I got to where I am now…

“I have always had a keen interest in sustainability in both my professional and private life, but it could be argued that I took an unconventional path.

“My background is in design, and I have a degree in fashion from Kingston University. While studying, I identified that I did not want to go into the fast fashion industry due to the detrimental impact it has on people and the planet. It was at university that my interest in heritage and craft really came into focus.

“After graduation I joined Bamford, a fashion lifestyle brand, as a design room assistant. This gave me the opportunity to shadow the department and identify where I could slot in. Working for a brand such as Bamford with a whole legacy of sustainable practices gave me the opportunity to continue educating myself further on the subject. I attended global conferences, analysed our supply chain and organised presentations to the company.

“Bamford created a nurturing atmosphere that helped me grow into a role leading sustainability in the team. I moved to B Corp in 2022 working as a sustainability analyst, taking companies through the B Corp certification process. I expanded my approach, working not just with companies in the fashion sector but all types of industries. My knowledge of sustainability continues to grow day by day through the incredible variety of industries I get the chance to work with. It has really helped shape my view of sustainability as a holistic practice.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been…

“Working at Bamford gave me the chance to work on projects I could have only dreamed of. The Homegrown Merino Project launched in November 2021 and was two years in the making. I am proud to have set up a supply chain where the product never leaves British soil! Bamford’s merino wool is now grown, sheared, spun and knitted in the UK. It is a super low-carbon project that champions the UK textile industry, with all wool sourced from the merino sheep on Daylesford Organic Farm. The average merino wool supply chain can span three continents and 18,000 miles. The Bamford supply chain is just 639 miles.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been…

“Navigating a challenging policy landscape.I feel the biggest challenge we are collectively facing at the moment is policymakers not committing to solve the climate crisis. The power of the individual is small, but the impact a change in legislation has is immense.

“I would like to see bolder moves from large multinational companies to influence governments to make these changes. I am excited to see the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) taking shape and seeing the ripple effects this has globally for other similar reforms, but we need to see this happening at a larger scale.”

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

“We have the potential to transform business-as-usual.”

A successful 2024 for me looks like…

“Continuing to expand my sustainability knowledge. I recently took part in the OPF Academy Sustainability Consulting Accelerator programme and really enjoyed broadening my knowledge of topics such as carbon accounting, lifecycle assessments and materiality assessments.

“It was inspiring to meet like-minded classmates from all over the world. I’d love to continue my growth in this ever-evolving subject, meeting inspiring people along the way.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy…

“Travelling! I have had the opportunity to travel with work this year to France, the US and China. It is great to see how different cultures are approaching sustainability topics, and seeing global movements like B Corp gain more traction is exciting.

“Whilst away on a trip, in my spare time, I love to be in nature, be active and explore new places. Tobogganing down the Great Wall was a particular highlight from the past year.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business leaders is…

“Companies have a unique opportunity to use business as a force for good, not just benefiting shareholders but all stakeholders involved.

“I am inspired by the change-making companies who are challenging business-as-usual and dedicating time and resources to this topic. These are the types of organisations that young people want to work at, and these are the types of businesses consumers want to support. Being a B Corp is sending a credible signal that this is a company that is trying to do better and has a mission for the greater good. I would encourage more business leaders to embed these core values into the company’s DNA.”

My key piece of advice for any young people entering my profession would be…

“Get started in any way that you can. Maybe it’s gaining exposure working with like-minded team members at your current business – you can build from there. Don’t get put off by not having a formal qualification.

“A lot of the time I believe a career in sustainability grows from an innate sense of responsibility, and personal interest in the topic. So don’t be put off by not having a formal Environmental Science degree. Start small and dream big!”

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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