Emily Davies is Senior Environment & Sustainability Advisor, Group HSEA, Amey plc. Having completed a Gap Year Commission with 42 Geographic Engineer Regiment in 2003–4, Emily went on to study physical geography at Durham University, with an interest in natural hazards. She then joined the Amey Leadership Graduate programme which involved a number of placements throughout the public services company. Project involvement included managing Amey’s input to the UK’s first Climate Change Festival, organising company involvement at the political party conferences, operational environmental management, creating carbon procedures and writing business cases for environmental campaigns. She began her current role at Amey within the Consultancy (Environment & Sustainability) branch of the company and am currently pulling together the Environmental Impact Assessment and Planning Application for Allerton Waste Recovery Park – North Yorkshire and the City of York’s waste PFI.
Why did you choose to study for a Master's in Sustainability Leadership?
I began working at my company 4.5 years ago, straight out of university with a degree in geography. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but thought I should give the corporate sector a whirl. I was keen to join a graduate programme titled the ‘Leadership Scheme’ having learnt about leadership during my gap year in the army – also promising 6-monthly rotations, which might help me focus my career. Two years went by and I found myself drawn to wanting to work in the CR team and trying to better understand corporate impacts on community, predominantly from an environmental view. Having finished the graduate programme and with no one leading on CR and sustainability I joined the Environment and Sustainability team in our Consulting division. In reality this was more of the former and I found myself working on a project delivering a waste solution for a local authority. With the sustainability buzz still in my head and a want to learn more (both what we could be doing better in my company, and what was going on out there in the wider world) I went searching for a sustainability Master's programme.
What role have you been undertaking in your company recently? How does this connect to the sustainability agenda?
I’ve recently moved jobs and now find myself working in our HQ reviewing and coordinating the company's approach to sustainability. This is a position I’ve been waiting for, so was extremely glad when it came about. We’ve taken a back to basics review – right back to looking at definitions and what sustainability means to us, our clients, our competitors etc. which is something which the company had never done before. It’s exciting because I can put my learning into practice – however it’s much more practical than academic/theoretical at the moment – and in some cases still about convincing/influencing people for change.
How do you think the MSt assists your work?
The Mst has been great for embedding that systemic thinking into my head – everything is people/planet/profit, people/plant/profit, and I really try hard to take as broad an approach as possible. The Mst has given me examples to drawn on and fellow students to learn from.
What have you found to be the most valuable aspect of the MSt?
I find the people I’m taking the course with to be one of the most valuable aspects – theories and literature I can find, but talking them through with like-minded people and people that will challenge comments or opinions which others wouldn’t is great. With the vast amount of information available, the course has given me focus to concentrate on core elements – some I find more exciting than others, but I suppose this was the point of me doing the course – to work out what it is I want to do! For me, I suppose the course is about finding the questions that I want to ask, not necessarily about those that I want to answer. Conversations with many of my course mates have concluded that this MSt isn’t about another notch on the belt, but about putting it into practice and ultimately aspiring to be a leader in sustainability (or an aspect of it).
What impressed you about the Cambridge MSt as opposed to other courses on offer elsewhere?
This was the only course that I found that had a flexible structure that allowed me to continue working, the part-time element was real pull for me. The clear benefits of the Cambridge Mst are the international intake, the Cambridge University resources and the vast CPSL network of information and people to draw knowledge from. I also think I was particularly fortunate with my tutor in the first year – he was a great support to both my individual and group assignments.