I was born/grew up in: I was born in Leeds in the UK & grew up in Yorkshire, England
I now live in: I now live in Toronto, ON
I completed my training/education at: I completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science at the University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, & a post-graduate certificate in Occupational health and safety and am a Canadian Registered Safety Professional.
What I do at work
I work on many different projects so no two days are the same. Sustainability is the tread that ties everything together in my job but I work mostly outside of HP today. As we work to meet our aggressive sustainability goals like 75% products and packaging circularity we need to help Canada move to a more circular economy. We have also helped our suppliers move in this direction too.
At HP Canada, I work to bring people to the table to explore how we can do things differently. Everyone has their own strengths and knowledge. I try to get them to look at the issue using their strengths. For example, some people are experts on plastics, others on carbon, and others on finance. By getting them to look at the issue using their strength area, I help them see the issue in a different way. By working together, we develop an understanding of the issue or concept in a way we would not have been able to do individually. That is one of the superpowers of sustainability.
One thing I have learned is that there is no recipe for doing sustainability. Communication and collaboration are key. Brainstorming a solution is one thing. Making the solution work is a totally different thing! For example, when it comes to using plastics, we have set a goal of using 30% post-consumer plastic (recycled) in all of our products by 2025. That’s one of the many sustainability goals we are working towards. To do this as a huge company is difficult. We need to know we can get enough recycled materials. We need to develop our supply chain. We need to make sure we can make a product that is as good as using virgin plastic. We need to get people onboard to do what needs to be done. That includes Customers like you too.
I spend a lot of time explaining sustainability concepts like carbon footprints or digital equity to people. I work to educate HP employees, our partners, and customers both consumers and businesses about things like the circular economy. You don’t need a science background to do this job but it helps when talking with engineers and scientists. I take the “science talk” and put it in a form the public understands.
I engage in many public speaking events and run several volunteer programs. These activities aim to help the public understand their role in the circular economy. For example, using recycled materials (i.e., plastics) is more expensive than using virgin materials. Some people don’t like the idea of paying more for products made from “used materials”. They feel it should be cheaper if it is reused. It won’t solve our problems if people don’t buy products that are made from recycled materials and with other sustainability features like the ability to be repaired. So we need to have buy-in from all customers as well as the manufacturers if we are to achieve sustainability.
My career path is
I have always been interested in the environment but never thought I would be leading sustainability programs for HP Canada! After high school, I got a job testing water quality in a lab setting. I studied at night to keep up with the chemistry. When one of the people who took the water sample went on holiday, I got to fill in. I got to go to the water reservoir and see what led to poor water quality. This gave me the desire to do something to improve the quality of water in the area. I went to university and completed a four-year degree in Environmental Science. I was lucky that this degree program had a full year co-op program. I spent eight months working in a steel plant. Then I got to go to Canada where I worked in a paint factory.
My co-op program helped me realize that I did not want to work in a lab setting. I took a job working for the British government as a Ministry of Labour inspector. There were new chemical hygiene laws in England. These laws regulated the amount of chemicals that were acceptable in the workplace. My job was to check workplaces to make sure it was safe for the workers.
I moved to Canada where I got a job in the pharmaceutical industry working in environmental health and safety and eventually ended up working for HP Canada. I’ve been here for over 20 years now and I oversee our sustainability programs in Canada. Today my job deals more with communicating science concepts than it does with lab work.
I am motivated by
I am motivated because we cannot continue doing things the way we have in the past. I know we have the tools and abilities to combat climate change. We just have to figure out how to mobilize them. Everyone needs to lean in and do their part. My part is to help others realize what they can do, and then do it.
How I affect people’s lives
The IPCC (the experts world body of scientists) estimates, we have nine years to solve the climate change crisis. Too few companies in Canada have set a science based target for carbon reduction. One way to describe my job is that I am a technical resource person who is trying to help people change the way they buy things. Consumers and businesses want to buy things as cheaply as possible. Often it is cheaper to replace a broken item than it is to repair it. It’s more expensive to purchase products made from recycled materials or that are more repairable. I’m trying to help them see that, when it comes to the climate, cheap in the short term is very expensive in the longer term. I’m trying to help them see that, in a climate emergency, you have to see and do things differently! One easy way to get started is to but printing or computing as a service.
Outside of work I
I am a keen cyclist sailor & hiker and enjoy building a native species garden both at home and at work! I do lots of volunteering – I am on the board of Learning for a Sustainable Future that helps get resources to teachers who want to teach more about sustainability- I do fundraising for them. I also work on many charities to bridge the digital divide in Canada.
My advice to others
Go for it! Don’t take no for an answer. When it comes to sustainability, there is a lot of good information available. You can build sustainability into any career. It just requires a bit of thought.