Simon Mills - Head of Sustainable Development (City of London)
Simon is an environmentalist who commenced his career by working as a field-botanist on Cloud and Elfin rainforest in Northern Costa Rica.
On his return to the UK he worked as a lecturer in Aberystwyth University until he moved on to become the county ecologist and environmental planner at a number of Welsh Local Authorities, where he developed a professional interest in sustainable development.
In 1996 Simon moved back to England to become the environmental coordinator for Crawley Borough Council and in 2000 he joined the City of London as Head of Sustainable Development. He was asked to develop part of the UK’s submission to the Johannesburg Earth summit in 2002, and was invited to attend the summit negotiations.
Industry: Public Sector
Breadth of role: Sustainability, responsible procurement, socially responsible investment, employee engagement, environment.
What do you do?
I am the head of sustainable development for the City of London, I also head up the corporate policy team.
How long have you been in your role?
I have been at the City of London Corporation since 2000, though I was seconded to Defra for six months back in 2010 in order to set up a multi-agency climate change adaptation partnership for England.
What has your journey been to get there?
After graduation in 1990 I worked for a year as a botanist in the cloud forests of Northern Costa Rica. On my return to the UK I taught briefly at Aberystwyth University, before working as an ecologist and environmental planner for a number of Welsh Local Authorities. In the mid nineties I became the environmental co-ordinator for Crawley Borough Council, before taking my current post in 2000.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a BSc in Environmental Sciences, MSc in Environmental Impact Assessment and a Masters in Public Administration
What is the best part about your job?
The “missionary work” which involves getting out there and engaging a wide variety of stakeholders- from the Government to NGOs and businesses in partnership projects and programmes.
What do you actually do on a daily basis?
I like to start early, so unless I have a breakfast meeting I usually am at my desk for 7.45 - that gives me a good hour uninterrupted to deal with e-mails and outstanding issues and prepare for the coming day - which will involve three or four meetings with internal or external stakeholders to discuss new projects or track progress with existing schemes. Interspersed with this will be phone calls, discussions with my team on policy issues, report writing and housekeeping tasks such as budget management. If I am lucky I can leave at five, but I generally have one or two events a week that I need to attend in the evening.
What was the most pressing issue you face?
Climate change- the threat cannot be understated and its impacts will be more subtle than we are prepared for. From dealing with rising energy prices to emergency planning and business resilience we can’t start taking action too soon.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have a number of achievements I am proud of leading the UK submission on financial services at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, developing the world’s first climate change adaptation strategy or achieving fair-trade status for the Square Mile. But if I were to point to a single one it would be the establishment of the London Accord (www.london-accord.co.uk).
What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying?
The variety - it is great to learn new things every day.
What do you think CR will look like in your organisation in 10 years' time?
I think that CR will rise in importance and become an integrated part of business planning and service delivery.
What particular skills or talents are most essential to be effective in your job?
- Communication - particularly the ability to enthuse people about new projects or programmes.
- Negotiation - particularly the ability to see other people's point of view.
- A broad knowledge base and the ability to analyse and assimilate new facts.
How big is the team?
I line manage a team of 7 - though only one is directly engaged in Sustainable Development activities.
Where do you report to in the organisation? (HR, Central Management etc.)
I report to the Deputy Town Clerk- the equivalent of our VP.
What one thing would you recommend to other wanting to get into a role in CR/sustainability?
A post graduate or professional qualification is pretty much essential - as is some form of experience, even if it is voluntary. But above all persevere - it is difficult to break in to the field, but once you are in you will find it to be one of the most interesting and rewarding careers out there.
Who would you most like to get stuck in a lift with?
I am tempted to say a lift engineer, but failing that Jonathan Porritt who is charming, witty and a thoroughly good egg!
What's your favourite quote and who said it?
“If you don’t like something change it, if you can’t change it change your attitude” – Maya Anjelou