What makes a sustainability leader? Meet Rising Star Steve Burgess

With the 2021 Sustainability Leaders Awards entry deadline approaching, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2020 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: The winner of our Rising Sustainability Star Award, Selfridges' environment manager Steve Burgess.

What makes a sustainability leader? Meet Rising Star Steve Burgess

Rachel Woolliscroft

Steve began his sustainability career a little over seven years ago and our panel of judges was impressed by his ability to move up the tanks from operational environmental management to strategy level.

He began his sustainability career while studying for his master’s degree, completing consultancy projects for the likes of Marriott, Marwell Zoo, Hammerson and Southampton Hospital on a part-time basis. With this experience under his belt, he was given the opportunity to coordinate sustainability activities for one of Hammerson’s most popular and recognisable buildings – Birmingham’s Bullring. Steve decided in early 2015 that he was ready for the challenge of a more strategic role, stepping into Network Rail’s sustainable development team. There, he helped to develop and integrate the firm’s sustainability strategy across its workforce of more than 25,000 people; played a key role in Network Rail achieving ISO 14001 certification; and drove the implementation of better environmental data monitoring and reporting.

The latter half of 2015 saw Steve moving to the BBC, where he worked for more than four years as sustainability manager within the property team.  In this role, he was responsible for improving environmental performance and embedding sustainability across BBC’s diverse UK estate, predominantly through projects in the facilities management and catering operations spaces.

Steve’s former colleagues at the BBC have praised the way he was able to progress from supporting to leading several key initiatives. After leading an employee engagement initiative called “sustainability season” across BBC North in February 2018, whereby plastics were removed from the staff restaurant and new recycling infrastructure was rolled out, Steve took responsibility for eradicating single-use plastic items from the BBC’s entire catering operations. Since sustainability season, the use of more than two million pieces of single-use plastic by the BBC has been mitigated.

Away from catering and facilities management, Steve has demonstrated commitment to the broader sustainability agenda. He was instrumental in the BBC’s work to achieve BREEAM’s “Outstanding” rating for its Central Square development, encouraging colleagues to consider environmental impacts when procuring equipment and within all aspects of the building lifecycle. The development is fitted with several built-in sustainability features including solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system, a rooftop garden and charging points for electric vehicles (EVs). Steve has also kept one foot in the strategic side of sustainability, contributing to the development and implementation of the BBC’s new “Greener Broadcasting” strategy. Unveiled in 2018, the strategy includes headline ambitions to achieve zero-waste-to-landfill and to source 100% renewable energy for all major sites.

Our panel of judges was impressed by Steve’s passion for engaging in the broader corporate sustainability conversation beyond the remit of his roles. He regularly participates in roundtable discussions and conferences; was a vocal member of edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2019 and the Institute of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS); and has taken it upon himself to lead by example, discussing his journey to a more environmentally friendly personal life openly.

Overall, Steve’s passion, dedication, resilience and leadership skills made him a stand-out entrant for this category. Since winning the Award, he has accepted the position of Environment Manager at Selfridges. The department store recently revealed plans to ‘reinvent retail’ with sustainability at its heart post-lockdown.

What edie’s judges said: “Steve has continually demonstrated his commitment to sustainability, delivering impactful programmes through a diverse array of roles. He’s actively engaged in supporting the industry more widely. His continued passion and commitment will undoubtedly enable him to shape the future of the sustainable business agenda.”

Are you our next winner?

Now entering their 14th year for 2021, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are a unique opportunity to shout about the achievements you and your company have made during this challenging year. 

In a digital event on 3 February 2021, entrants will get the chance to celebrate virtually with leaders from across the sustainability, CSR and energy space. Some exciting new categories have been added for 2021 to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business. 

The 2021 Sustainability Leaders are now OPEN for entries. The entry deadline is Friday 30 October 2020, so don’t miss your chance to get the recognition you deserve. The Awards will then take place virtually on the night of Wednesday 3 February 2021.


edie Staff

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