Joss Tantram – Partner, Corporate Sustainability, Terrafiniti LLP
Joss Tantram, ICRS Fellow, is a recognised thought leader with more than 20 years’ experience in sustainability. Joss has worked in both private sector and non-profits and is the author of the 'Towards 9 Billion' book series, which provides "big, hopeful, playful ideas" for a sustainable future.
ICRS Membership level: Fellow
How did you get into CRS, and why?
I am afraid there wasn’t ever anything else I wanted to do! From an early age, I was lucky enough to grow up on the edge of the countryside and spend many days exploring, climbing trees and hitting my brother with a stick (or being hit). When it came to a degree I wanted to study something environmental and chose Human Ecology – which is pretty much a pre-cursor to today’s multi-disciplinary sustainability degrees. On graduating, the early 90’s recession meant that there weren’t many jobs so I set up business with my brother and we have worked on and off together since then and haven’t hit each other with sticks even once. During my career, I have had the chance to work in environmental audit and management consulting and spent five years with WWF UK, where I was lucky enough to found a new unit driving innovation in corporate sustainability. Since 2004 I have been back in consultancy working with international companies and leading NGOs.
What's a typical day like in your current role?
Each day can vary hugely, but the majority are in the office conducting client work, researching new ideas, writing and undertaking business development. Some days can be delivering workshops, attending meetings or traveling for client visits.
Why did you join the ICRS?
I joined because, after all these years of being in the profession, there was finally an organisation focused on the same area that I was! Whilst there are other professional organisations in sustainability, I didn’t feel that they were as focussed on corporate sustainability as ICRS.
If you didn't work in CRS, what would you do?
I would be a moderately successful (this is fantasy after all) singer-songwriter that people knew of but didn’t hound on social media. Alternatively (or, perhaps, as well), I would be a sci-fi author.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your role?
I love doing the job, working with ambitious clients and exploring new thinking in how we might build a sustainable, equitable world. I am much less keen on sales and need to stop being so bashful about how we can help people solve their sustainability problems.
Which professional project or achievement are you most proud of?
There are a couple of things I am most proud of. Firstly, I am proud of the “To Whose Profit?” reports which were published whilst I was at WWF-UK. They pioneered the notion on sustainability and value creation, and defined the strategic value of sustainability perhaps 10 years before the market. In addition, I am also very proud of “Towards 9 Billion” – our big, hopeful, playful ideas for a sustainable future.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
Unlike many professions, sustainability practitioners often have to both make the market and sell to it. This means that you can still find yourself justifying why sustainability is an issue in the first place as well as selling your solutions. In addition to this, unlike many corporate functions, sustainability sometime has little or no assigned budget!
What makes your sector unique from a CRS perspective?
Its creative, remarkably collaborative (even amongst competitors) and there is a lot of mutual respect.
What do you think are the most important skills for working in CRS?
Flexibility, resilience, openness and empathy.
What advice would you give to others on getting into CRS?
Be passionate, be focussed, and don’t give up! It's a great profession to choose because, at the end of your life, you should be able to be proud that you dedicated your life to achieving a sustainable, equitable future.
Who or where do you look to for inspiration on CRS topics?
Sources of innovation and inspiration for me range from Science Fiction to writers and other practitioners. The futurist and sci-fi author David Brin’s “Earth” probably set me on my career path more than any other book I have read. In addition, I very much admire the work of Kate Raworth (Doughnut Economics) and the collaborative approach of the Reporting 3.0 initiative.
What one question would you like to pose to the ICRS community?
Do you really know whether the companies you work for understand that sustainability is vital to their future or is it simply a nice to have that comes second to business as usual?