Confessions of a Sustainability Consultant

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James Edney
Consultant-Upstream Sustainability Services

The excuse I reach for most often when I am being particularly unsustainable is that I have never flown. Anywhere. Ever. If I need more excuses I typically choose being a vegetarian for twelve years. These are rock-solid sustainable lifestyle choices and surely worth Lots of Points.

What’s more, I am a sustainability consultant. Bulletproof, right?

Because I do a lot of big good things it is easier to justify doing lots of small bad things. Unfortunately, it is typically those small bad things that colleagues see and their impression is understandably ‘if he isn’t doing x, what’s the point of me doing it’?

Admittedly, I like to think I stack up pretty well – despite discovering I need 1.5 planets to sustain my lifestyle – because I also recycle everything, love nature, don’t drive, am a bit of sustainability zealot and in lots of other ways I am pretty well behaved. But expectations of a sustainability professional are high, because we have to live it and not just sell it.

So this blog is a call to arms for sustainability professionals – remember the impact of our actions is amplified in the eyes of others. When you add up all of the bad habits people see, like using plastic cups, not turning off monitors and not using the recycling bins properly, they far outweigh all of the big good things that no one sees. Therefore, we are setting a pretty poor example.

We all have a responsibility to be sustainable, but sustainability professionals have a responsibility to set an example. We should be embarrassed if we can’t do the small, easy things as an absolute minimum.

No flying, driving or eating meat are tough sells, and probably aren’t the sort of things we should be selling. But energy and water efficiency, and managing waste all translate very well into the advice we give our clients, and the standards we should set ourselves.

To the non-sustainability professionals reading this, remember we aren’t perfect but we are committed and if we misbehave there is nothing like shame to prompt us into action. Embarrass us, because of everyone you meet, we should know better. And if you get to know us you might learn a bit more about what we do and how we can help you sell it a bit better and live it a little more.

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