EVENTS & INSIGHTS / INSIGHT

8 Sustainability Skills for Jobseekers from Mike Barry – M&S Plan A

by Shannon Houde

One of the most distinctive traits of great leadership is the desire to empower the leaders of the future.

At a recent Net Impact sustainability careers event in London, I was thrilled to host a panel with one of the most inspirational sustainability leaders in the business: Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business at Marks and Spencer PLC, who played a central role in setting up M&S’s game-changing agenda, Plan A.

In his speech, Mike walked the walk by setting out his own hiring agenda and outlining the key eight skills he looks for in a prospective sustainability professional’s CV.

DON'T MISS OUT
ON MORE FREE TIPS

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up

As he put it on the night, “We need people to lead us from an unsustainable model to something completely different for the future, and I want you to be part of that”.

So if you’re a jobseeker looking to break into the industry or a professional wondering how the best in the business affect change, listen up!

1 – People skills

“This is the number one skill. You’ve got to be able to get alongside people who are under tremendous pressure in a very difficult working environment and say, ‘we’ve gotta change, guys’. Negotiation, influence, the ability to put an arm around somebody’s shoulder and say ‘Come on a journey with me’ – these things are critical.”

2 – Ability to lead change

“Sustainability is ambiguous and it’s uncertain. What is it? Where are we going with it? What does government want from us? Are consumers up for it? You’ve got to be able to turn these grey areas into a clear and compelling message about why we need to change: to spell out how we’re going to do it, where we’re going with it, and why that’ll be a better place.”

3 – Personal integrity

“Many people will frown the moment I walk into a room, but none of them will doubt my integrity. I believe in what I stand for. You need that too.”

4 – Business knowledge

“Get to know the business. Learn how it does its marketing, how it runs IT systems, how it buys, sells, builds up margin. Then come and see me for a job in sustainability to try to change it all. Before you can do that, you have to know the business side of things.”

5 – Build partnerships

“The ability to connect is so powerful. The future of a truly sustainable business model is a series of overlapping alliances – some with NGOs, civil society, governments, competitors, and peers – to the extent that a business will literally be managed with a series of integrated partnerships that create genuine mutual value. This is enormously important.”

6 – An innovative mind

“Sustainability leaders need to be able to take an unsustainable business model and create a series of overlapping 5-year programmes that will take it to a sustainable future in a manageable way so that a business can continue selling products and gradually shift to where it needs to go.”

7 – Sustainability itself

“I look for translators of science, not science experts. Your job is to translate the outside world into something meaningful for Marks and Spencer PLC. That broad vision is more important to me than specific expertise.”

8 – Courage

“If you believe that you can change an organisation, you will get through the bad days. It’s tough. Sometimes, it’s like pushing water up a hill. But stick with it and keep driving, keep the passion and you’ll get there. It takes courage.”

This week, I’m heading to Maryland, USA for another Net Impact sustainability event, so if you want more career advice from the cream of the sustainability world, bookmark, add or follow me through the social media links above.

comments

You may also like...

A Deep Dive Into Sustainability Careers

Careers in sustainability are increasing in demand but how do you break into this highly competitive market? What are companies looking for in employees and how do you set yourself apart? Whether you are new to sustainability, a recent graduate, looking to make a career change, or looking to advance your current career in sustainability, this discussion hosted by Net Impact Amsterdam is for you.  DON’T MISS OUTON MORE FREE TIPS Sign Up For Our Newsletter Sign up  

By Shannon Houde
Six secrets to landing your dream job in the impact sector

There’s never any shortage of advice on how to get that next big career break. But the people you really want to hear from? Those that are standing exactly where you want to be. We asked former Walk of Life clients “What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to land a top job in the impact sector?”. Here is what they said: Find someone to look up to. Then work out how they got there.

By Shannon Houde
12 of the best courses to bolster your sustainability credentials

Sustainability is always evolving. As are the expectations of organisations. The only way to stay ahead of the curve is to regularly set aside time for professional development. But with an abundance of courses to pick from, which ones deserve your time?   As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”   DON’T MISS OUTON MORE FREE TIPS Sign Up For Our Newsletter Sign up The success of any career or company depends on a willingness

By Shannon Houde
6 reasons why it’s ok to hate networking

It might be billed as one of the best ways to get ahead but in reality, relentless networkers end up making more enemies than friends. Is there anything worse than that person who LOVES networking? We’ve all met them. There you are standing at a conference minding your own business when they barrel in, reel off their resume, drop a few high powered names and thrust a business card (“it’s new, embossed, cost a fortune”) into your hand. DON’T MISS

By Shannon Houde

NEED SOME SUPPORT?

Book a 30-minute trial session with Shannon

BOOK A TRIAL