As part of our series of Global Sustainability Leader Interviews, ALLEN & YORK were delighted to interview, Paul Toyne, Group Head of Sustainability at Balfour Beatty - about how he became involved in sustainability and his advice for those entering their sustainability career.
Paul started his career with the WWF in 1996, moving into the construction industry as Head of Sustainability for Bovis Lend Lease in 2007. In 2010 he was appointed Group Sustainability Director for global engineering consultancy WSP and in 2014, he was appointed Group Head of Sustainability at Balfour Beatty.
Who or what inspired you to go into a career in sustainability?
Inspiration came from being fascinated with nature and how it interacts with man. I studied environmental science and ecology and through my early work I saw how all forms of development need to carefully consider social and environmental impacts, balanced with economics.
What key advice would you give to someone looking to enter a career in sustainability now?
Gain a diverse background of relevant experience, an understanding of human psychology and first rate communication skills.
What are going to be the biggest challenges for sustainability in the next 5-10 years?
Making the business case for the rapid changes required to support a growing population, with declining resources and a changing climate. In many cases we need clients and their investors to be more accepting of the nascent technology that is required to solve today's built environment problems.
Maintaining a risk aversion position and not embracing innovation will not help us, sustainability professionals need to challenge the status quo.
What skills will be in most demand in the sustainability sector in the next 5-10 years?
People skills are most important: understanding people's perspective and being able to negotiate and influence from an evidence based approach. Of course technical skills will still be important and their application in practical, affordable interventions is key.
Thank you to Paul for his thoughts and career tips.