You’ve been the Executive Director at the Food Ethics Council since 2012. What sort of education background helped you get to this point?
Originally I did a geography degree, which reflects the fact that I’ve always been interested in people and the environment around us. After working for a few years, I was lucky enough to be able to do a full-time masters for a year at Imperial College, London. That was an MSc in ‘Environmental technology’, which was a fantastic course. I specialised in business and sustainability and wrote my thesis on the feasibility of a Local to London food label, which I really enjoyed. Since then I’ve been back working in the third sector, very much learning on the job!
So it’s been a straightforward path to the top ever since, right?
If it’s any consolation, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my career when I was at university. After my undergraduate degree I worked for KPMG, qualifying as a chartered accountant, which was a brilliant grounding in business and finance. I then moved to a food manufacturing company where I worked in strategy and finance roles for a couple of years. After doing a masters I went on to work for Forum for the Future, a sustainable development not-for-profit, for 6.5 years, going on to lead their work on sustainable food. I left at the end of 2012 and moved to Food Ethics Council, where I’m lucky to be able to combine my passions for food, fairness and sustainability! Our mission here is to accelerate the shift to fair food systems that respect people, animals and the planet.
What’s the most challenging part of what you do? And what’s the most exciting?
I used to find it hard to talk every day about current and impending crises all the time, whether that be people struggling to be able to afford to eat, climate change or obesity. It’s not just about reducing harm – even though that’s vitally important. What gets me out of bed in the morning now is the belief that every interaction with the food system has the potential to do something positive! If we can make a few people realise that, and act on that, then I see my job as being worthwhile.
We’re an organisation made up of a small (but brilliant) team of staff plus an amazing set of Trustees and Council members so every day is genuinely different – which I love. Of the different hats I have to wear, the one I find hardest is being in ‘selling’ mode, i.e. fundraising, as I’m not a natural born salesperson. I’m (hopefully) improving, but I still have a way to go and that’s a challenge that sometimes hangs over me.
What words of wisdom or lessons learned would you share with someone who is aiming for a director role?
Do something that you believe in and feel passionate about!
Certain qualities and characteristics also help if you’re in a role like mine. Consensus building, analytical skills, team management, questioning, positivity, determination, sales skills…. I definitely don’t claim to have all those in abundance though. I’m learning lots of skills everyday.
I’d thoroughly recommend a career in the sustainable food world. Everyone needs to eat, so food will always be an important sector. The power to create positive change in society and the world around us through the lens of food is immense. I firmly believe there will be lots of exciting roles in this space in the years ahead, so my overall message is to get involved!
Find out more about The Food Ethics Council at www.foodethicscouncil.org, or on Twitter @foodethicsnews
Do you have a burning question about a good food job? Dying to know how to get into a particular sustainable food career? Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.