Cathie Mackay (she/her)
Director, CoSpring and Non-Executive Director, IEMA
I started my career by taking a degree in Environmental Science. I didn’t know what that was initially, and then I looked it up and realised the subject embraced all the different components of what were important to me in life. I had a great time. I had a placement year in industry, which enabled me to realise that’s where I wanted to be – working in environmental related aspects with industry to try and improve things.
Once I’d had a lot of experience and opportunities leading teams in multinational organisations, I wanted to look for a new challenge and decide how could I continue to support what was important to me in terms of sustainability and people and planet. So, I formed CoSpring, an organisation focused on how to develop and support the growth of leaders and professionals, particularly those in environment, health, safety and sustainability, and maximise the impact I can have through them.
“Whether it’s the people in procurement, those with financial control, the lawyers who control work, the manufacturing team, or the research and development team – all those roles need greening.”
When I started, it was hard to get your voice heard in terms of environmental issues, and now they’re front and centre stage. It’s very rewarding to think of the progress society has made in that context, but it’s also very much more demanding. It’s like the double-edged sword. Be careful what you wish for. And now sustainability professionals do have the stage. They do have the ear of influential people, politicians, those that set agendas in policy through to decision makers in large organisations. But it also means sustainability professionals must be fully equipped to deal with that and to be effective. So, the stakes are higher, but the opportunities are greater too.
Progress in sustainability can’t be confined to sustainability professionals. In terms of creating a full movement and significant progress, unless and until we have elements of greenness in far more jobs, then products and services are not going to become fundamentally greener. Whether it’s the people in procurement, those with financial control, the lawyers who control work, the manufacturing team, or the research and development team – all those roles need greening.
Follow your passion and your interests. There’s no point doing it just because you think it’s popular or flavour of the month, or you think you might progress highly if you’re not passionate about it. We do our best around things we believe in and that we’re passionate about.
IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals