Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Stephanie Taviner, IHG Hotels & Resorts

Stephanie has combined her passions for - and experience in - sustainability and travel at IHG

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 Stephanie Taviner, global ESG manager, reporting and engagement, at IHG Hotels & Resorts.

How I got to where I am now…

“Growing up in the Somerset countryside instilled my passion for nature and the environment. Later, I deepened this passion beyond the UK by studying overseas in Hong Kong, working in China and volunteering in developing economies such as Uganda and Sri Lanka. Spending time in rural communities directly exposed me to the issues of climate change, inequalities, and poverty.

“I always knew that I wanted a career with purpose. Undertaking a placement year in the technology industry at SAP during my undergraduate degree was a pivotal moment for me. I spotted a gap in the UK CSR team led me to become CSR Lead. During my time there, I developed a UK strategy and managed NGO partnerships and corporate volunteering programmes while heightening the agenda in the business. I remained in the role on a part-time basis during my final year of university which meant I had two years’ industry experience under my belt before graduating in 2020.

“Whilst graduating during Covid-19 was a challenge, during this time it put the spotlight on sustainability, shortly followed by COP26 in Glasgow.

“A career in sustainability felt like a natural step, but I was eager to explore working with an environmental focus in mind, so I became a sustainability consultant. In 2021, I combined my passion for travel and sustainability by joining IHG Hotels & Resorts which has more than 6,300 hotels in over 100 countries. I initially worked for IHG in responsible procurement (focused on ESG in the supply chain) and in 2023 I took on a new role as global ESG manager, reporting and engagement which combines the breadth of my ESG experiences. I’ve also completed an MSc in sustainability & management and the University of Exeter’s Circular Economy course.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been…

“After nearly 18 months at IHG, in February 2023 I started my current role as aged 24. This was a big step in my career, with IHG being a FTSE 100 Plc, and the role has since given me the opportunity to work with senior leaders across the business. This achievement felt like a testament to the hard work I put into building my skillset of gaining both in-house and consultancy experience, and the completion of my Masters while working full-time.

“In addition, I sat on the board and ran a start-up charity which I still do to date. A few months later, I attained  a fellowship to the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS) and was recognised on edie’s ‘30 under 30’ list, so 2023 felt like a big year!

“While certainly a collective effort, I was also proud to take the lead this year in project managing IHG’s Responsible Business Report which communicates progress against IHG’s 2030 Journey to Tomorrow strategy – balancing transparency and range of stakeholder needs.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been…

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have had a single biggest challenge; but a recurring theme, particularly in my earlier roles when presenting to C-level executives, was the need to show a broader benefit to the business – whether that be for implementing new community programmes, or advising clients on setting science-based targets and going further with their environmental strategies.

“I do feel that challenges can be seen as opportunities, or learning curves, and from these experiences I went further to broaden my thinking in ‘developing the business case’, as that is critical to gaining buy-in and implementing more impactful programmes. Additionally, I feel it’s important to have an appreciation and empathy for differing stakeholder needs around the sustainability agenda (across all levels of business, different functions or geographical locations) and how to articulate this carefully when managing change.”

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

“Changemakers that are not willing to accept the status quo.“

A successful 2024 for me looks like…

“Being in an ESG reporting role, the alphabet soup of acronyms and regulations has certainly proliferated in recent years. Balancing incoming and developments of regulations is high on the agenda, including the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). Whilst there is uncertainty for businesses in terms of the practicalities to implement, I do feel it supports our agenda as sustainability professionals in the longer term to ensure sustainability is at the forefront of businesses and considered like financial metrics.

“I also get energised by supporting others and developing stakeholders’ understanding of the broader context and business benefit for sustainability. I believe that while sustainability teams can drive the agenda, it’s a collective effort to ensure initiatives are embedded across the business which is important for translating external requirements, like regulation, into driving meaningful impact and change.

“I am also looking forward to continuing my personal development as I am one of a handful of individuals about to participate in the Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure (WiHTL) Leadership Programme which will be a great opportunity to connect with peers in my industry, develop my leadership skills and use these learnings to drive more impact and change in my role.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy…

“Volunteering! I’m currently a board member for a start-up charity called Upendo Tena in Kenya which focuses on sensitisation within local communities, and runs hands-on workshops for young people on gender-based violence, healthy relationships and positive mental health – topics which are not usually taught in schools. It’s been a great learning experience since establishing with friends in 2019 to see the impact we’ve made and a big milestone was becoming a registered NGO in 2023. I’m also excited to be leading climate and environment-related workshops, particularly as many rural communities we work in are exposed to climate-related impacts, for instance, lack of access to clean water and regular flooding.

“I’m also a keen hiker and runner having recently climbed Kilimanjaro and Base Camp Everest as well as completing my first marathon! I also feel fortunate to have travelled to more than 60 countries and enjoy immersing myself into local cultures as you learn so much more.

“I’ve also found mentoring really beneficial throughout my career and I’m currently in my second cohort of mentoring someone through the ICRS programme. I am also a reverse mentor at IHG which offers a different perspective, and I would highly recommend it to anyone if you have the opportunity to embark on reverse mentoring as a young professional.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message to business leaders is…

“Coming from a Gen Z perspective, I would keep it simple. Leaders are stewards of a business for a period of time. Be bold and have a longer-term lens on the decisions made for the business, ensuring sustainability is embedded into this. Key to this is the governance structure established around the sustainability agenda.

“Lastly, don’t wait to invest in sustainability, who wants to be the last one to move?”

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

“Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and keep the momentum going to ensure sustainability remains at the forefront of businesses, policy and civil society. You are going to be the sustainability leaders in 2050 when the net-zero commitments should be achieved, and getting there means keeping the pressure on now.

“I also feel it’s important to capitalise on opportunities as they arise, even if it is a challenge

– there is so much to learn, and especially so in the evolving landscape of sustainability.”

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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