Nick Brown , Head of Sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners in GB talks about how big business and respecting the environment need to go hand in hand, and why sustainability careers are important. See how you could pick a career that’s kind to the environment with Youth Friendly Employer Coca-Cola European Partners.
Hi, Nick. Say it loud for the people at the back… What is sustainability?
Sustainability is quite a simple idea really – it just means doing things in a way which is sustainable – or in other words can keep going!
For businesses to be sustainable they need to be successful but they also need to do things in a way which doesn’t over use things like water or energy, doesn’t pollute or damage the environment and continues to attract people to want to work for them.
Why should young people think about sustainability careers?
Our generation understands, more than any before us, how precious and fragile our world is and how our way of living is putting it under real pressure.
Many before have tried to do something about it but it’s now that we really need to change things as we still have a chance over the next few years to avoid some of the worst things happening.
Whatever careers young people choose they are going to have to understand these issues because customers, governments and the people who invest in these companies are all going to want to see that companies are doing the right things and being run in the right way.
As Head of Sustainability at the Coca-Cola Bottler in GB, what kinds of issues do you need to think about?
We’re always talking to experts to try and understand what the big challenges are going to be for drinks companies over the next 50 years and they help us make sure we are working on the right things.
- We spend a lot of our time working on reducing our climate change impact and planning for more unpredictable and extreme weather.
- We also work on making sure we are treating water responsibly – we just can’t make our products or grow our ingredients without it!
- One of our biggest priorities at the moment is how we use more recycled packaging and support better collection systems so more can be recycled and nothing ends up as litter.
We’re working towards a World Without Waste…
What are some of your biggest environmentally friendly achievements while working at CCEP?
A lot of people don’t know but we first started using recycled plastic in our bottles in the 1990’s. A problem was that even in 2010 there still wasn’t a factory that could reprocess old bottles in Britain so we decided to help build one! I managed the project to build the factory in Lincolnshire and it opened in 2012. Since then it’s recycled around 3 billion bottles for us to reuse in our new bottles.
You didn’t start off your career being Head of Sustainability! How do people get into sustainability careers?
A lot of people who work in Sustainability didn’t start their career there! There are such a lot of different things you need to understand to be a good sustainability manager and quite often it’s good to have had a few different jobs and done a few different things to give you the experiences you need. One of the great things about working in sustainability is that you get to work with lots of different types of people and you get some really interesting ideas because of that.
You did a degree in engineering. Do you need a degree for sustainability careers?
The things I learnt on my degree definitely helped me in the jobs I’ve done before I worked in Sustainability but it is more the problem solving, analytical skills and critical thinking than the specific engineering elements.
There are some very technical jobs in Sustainability, and sometimes a degree or at least some specialist training is required, but there are lots of other sustainability jobs which don’t need a degree.
In your past you’ve been an Explorer Scout Leader… and President of your uni’s skydiving club. How have your outside interests helped you in a sustainability career?
I get a lot from volunteering and my passions outside of work. I think it gives you a different perspective on things and connects you to all kinds of things you would miss if you only spoke to the people you study with or work with. I’ve learnt just as much about how to communicate Sustainability with my Scouts as I have on any training course!
What skills are important for sustainability careers in general?
There are so many roles in Sustainability, from the really technical science people who help others understand the issues and potential solutions through to people who can tell stories in a way that get people energised to act and those who can help manage the changes we need. So there is probably a role for anyone who wants to make a difference!
I think a real passion for change and the energy to do something about it are the most important things. Also let’s not forget that understanding sustainability issues is going to become more and more important for people, whatever career they go into.
What skills do you need for your job as Head of Sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners in GB?
As someone who is trying to help a large organisation do things in better ways I need to understand the technical global issues but also be able to work out why they are relevant for our business and then find the right way of inspiring our wonderful people to come up with all the great ideas and programmes we need to do.
So a technical basis is important in my job and then working out how to excite and engage people is really important.
What would you say to a young person thinking about a sustainability career?
I guess the advice would be the same to anyone starting out in their career – try and find out what your passions are and then try to work out what you are good at.
The careers which people tend to do well in are the ones where they really want to make a difference and where they find a way to make the most of the skills they have.
When it comes to sustainability specifically, I think one of the most important things is be insatiably curious. Try to find out how things work and why things are the way they are. It’s essential for anyone who wants to change and improve things.
If you always have your eyes and mind open you are always learning, and if you find and know your passions then it’s possible to build a really rewarding career in helping our society to become a better place for everyone.