Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Laura McCullough, City of London Corporation

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, Laura McCullough, climate action stakeholder engagement lead at the City of London Corporation.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Laura McCullough, City of London Corporation

Laura joined the City of London Corporation after more than 4 years at The Heart of the City

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 current 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 Laura McCullough, climate action stakeholder engagement lead at the City of London Corporation – the governing body of the Square Mile.

How I got to where I am now…

“I’ve always had a keen interest in sustainability, My earliest memory of this was when I was about seven years old and started an unofficial waste and reuse service on holiday – I was following the waste hierarchy before I even knew what it was! I couldn’t understand why anyone would throw away working items when they could be reused by others. Although waste is still a core interest, I’ve expanded since then through studying geography at both school and university.

“After graduating, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, all I knew was that I wanted to pursue a career that makes a positive impact on the planet. I rotated through roles in the construction sector to narrow down the search, and eventually learnt about careers in corporate social responsibility (CSR).

“At that time it was hard to secure an entry-level job in CSR, generally they were more senior roles and often recruited in-house. Therefore, I looked for roles which could expose me to the world of CSR and use it as a learning opportunity. I did exactly that when I joined Heart of the City, a responsible business charity, as their operations officer.

“I quickly learned that environmental sustainability was my passion. I upskilled myself on corporate net-zero through attending conferences, webinars, and networking events. I then jumped at the opportunity to become Heart of the City’s Net Zero Programme Manager which involved supporting SMEs in the Square Mile to reach net-zero, combining my passions and empowering others to take sustainable action.

“After supporting hundreds of SMEs, I wanted a new challenge and to work on climate action in a larger organisation. Earlier this year, I joined the City of London Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy team as Stakeholder Engagement Lead, supporting their ambitious net-zero commitments.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been…

“Leading more than 250 small and medium-sized businesses towards net zero and facilitating deep-rooted, long-lasting change. But it’s not something I could achieve alone; it was only possible in collaboration with the dedicated and ambitious individuals leading the charge for their business.

“Witnessing their journey from not knowing what net-zero is to becoming in-house practitioners has been incredibly rewarding. These individuals have transformed their business operations and services they offer to embed sustainability at the core.

“The most gratifying thing was witnessing their ‘lightbulb’ moments when the overcomplicated net-zero space suddenly made sense. Seeing them experience this realisation is truly priceless, knowing that they’re now on a more sustainable path with the knowledge and tools to make significant, lasting changes.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been…

“Staying positive despite increasing negative climate news and balancing my passion for sustainability with the need to switch off.

“It’s incredibly fulfilling when your passion becomes your job, but it also means you never really stop thinking about it. Working in sustainability is both a blessing and a curse – you love the impact you can have, but there’s always more to do, especially as climate change becomes an increasingly mainstream topic. It’s a constant cycle of wanting to push for more progress and realising the importance of taking breaks to recharge. I’ve found it crucial to switch off regularly, get outside, and take time for myself. “

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

“Inquisitive challengers.”

A successful 2024 for me looks like…

“I’ve recently joined the City of London Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy team as Stakeholder Engagement Lead. They’ve already made impressive progress towards their net zero targets, but there’s a lot more to do.

“Over the next year, my aim is to amplify our achievements and current climate initiatives to a larger audience to increase awareness of our work, promote collaboration, and so others can use our experience and leadership to inform their own sustainability initiatives. There’s nothing like starting now; you can learn about the City Corporation’s climate commitment and progress here.

“I’m also looking forward to collaborating with colleagues and gaining a deeper understanding of climate issues across a number of topics including energy, procurement, financial investments and climate resilience.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy…

“Being outdoors! I’ll have a go at anything you can do outside. I enjoy tennis, frisbee and long walks – especially if they finish in a pub garden.

“A more rogue activity I enjoy is magnet fishing; after picking up a rope and magnet from a car boot sale I’ve been helping to clean up the canal waterways – but there’s no treasure to report as yet.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message to business leaders is…

Be a sustainability leader. Equip every individual, that includes you, with sustainability and net-zero knowledge. Empower your entire organisation to champion sustainability and make it everyone’s responsibility.

“Listen, really listen, to diverse perspectives within your business. You never know who will provide solutions.

“Challenge yourselves to exceed mere compliance and reporting; embrace innovation and experimentation, knowing that meaningful progress often requires brave leadership and calculated risks.

“Embrace sustainability not just as a goal, but as a catalyst for business transformation to ensure that it becomes ingrained at the core.”

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

“It is ok to not know everything. Although others will come to you with every sustainability question under the sun, you don’t need to have the answer, and don’t feel bad about it!

“More generally, find a role that you enjoy. Sustainability intersects across all roles and industries, so find a skill and job that you enjoy, and then bring sustainability into it.”

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

Nominations for the next edie 30 Under 30 class will open in July 2024. Subscribe to our daily email newsletters to make sure you don’t miss your chance to apply.

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