Member Story: Steven Webb, ESG Consultant

1. How did you get into CR&S, and why did you choose this profession?

In one of life’s happy accidents, it feels like it chose me. 

I qualified as a solicitor in the late 1980’s and, by 2000, had moved from working in a law firm to being the in-house lawyer for a global electronics distribution business listed on the London Stock Exchange. The Chairman of the Board received a letter that had been sent to all of the top 350 listed companies by the Labour Minister for the Environment asking that they start reporting on their energy and water use and how much waste they produced. The Chairman passed this letter to me with the short instruction “deal with this”.

The acronym in fashion at that time was CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility and, rather than just looking at the narrow requirements of the Minister’s letter, I decided it would make sense to look at everything the business was doing that could be encapsulated in CSR. So began my interest in this area, and it remained one part of my responsibilities as an in-house lawyer for the following 22 years and in different businesses.

Having retired from legal work at the end of 2022, I have been able to devote more time to CR&S (or “ESG” to continue with acronym theme) and I am relishing the opportunity to add to my hands-on experience with more structured learning such as the events provided by ICRS, the Carbon Literacy Project and others.

For the last six years I have also been on the board of a not-for-profit organisation that provides specialist consultancy services to businesses on their social impact and I am now able to spend more time supporting their wonderful work.


2. What makes your sector unique from a CR&S perspective?

Having worked in paint manufacturing, the water industry, electronics distribution and video games I actually think there is more in common than unique between business sectors.  Many of the key challenges and opportunities will be the same, or at least have similar themes, and this applies equally to CR&S. While it was vital in my legal role to have good knowledge of the particular nuances of each industry in order to give sound advice, the high level understanding of legal and business issues remained the same. 

The same applies in CR&S, especially when a number of the most pressing challenges are on a macro scale - for example, the climate crisis is affecting the supply chain, employees and customers of every business in every sector, everywhere in the world to a greater or lesser extent and I can’t think of anything else that is so all-pervasive.


3. What advice would you give to others on getting into CR&S?

I feel fortunate to have experienced a number of industries and in a role that gave me a really broad exposure to all aspects of different businesses. I believe that CS&R should be seen as a fundamental requirement for business success and not as an add-on, a “nice to have”, or a burdensome regulatory requirement. 

In communicating why CS&R done properly is both a huge opportunity, and a mitigation of significant risk, it is important to be able to see and explain this in the context of everything the particular business is doing. 

So my advice would be to get as broad experience as possible of any organisation you work in. To do this might well require you to step outside the defined remit of your role, to volunteer to take part in projects being run in other departments or even to take sideways career steps to get exposure to other disciplines - in my time as an in-house lawyer I also ran business strategy development on a couple of occasions and had a period as interim CEO.  Adding to your broader business expertise will be beneficial in your ability to make a real difference in CR&S.