With an expansive and varied career, we are delighted that Zoe will be lending her expertise to help mobilise the movement and achieve our vision. Enthused by our 2021-2030 strategy, Zoe accepted the role in the hopes to extend her passion for sustainability beyond her day job. Learn more about Zoe’s career to date, hopes for the future of the sector and advice for those looking to embed a global responsibility into their day to day practice.
Please could you give a brief overview of your career to date?
I was always very passionate about saving the planet so this has really been my compass throughout my career – my purpose. I completed a degree in environmental science at the University of Manchester, it was such a long time ago now that it was actually the first time universities were offering this kind of degree.
My early career days were fairly non-traditional. I worked for a very inspiring social entrepreneur – Colin Crooks MBE, these first few years were incredibly informative and a lot of fun. Helping him serve our environmental consulting but also running and growing the business, while also setting up not one, but two social enterprise charities focused on waste reuse and social mobility. It was a lot of responsibility early on but an unparalleled learning curve and growth opportunity. From there I went on to work for a UK facilities management company and UK Government Department, where my roles expanded beyond just environmental management to encompass the broader sustainability agenda.
In 2008, I was offered a role with Jacobs as a Technical Director for Sustainability. I was the sustainability lead on major infrastructure planning projects including the Blackfriars Station and Crossrail projects. I was then very fortunate to be offered an internal transfer to San Francisco to start up a new sustainability division for a subsidiary company of Jacobs. Five years in the US was a fantastic experience and I learned a lot working overseas.
I did leave Jacobs for a few years and joined a brand strategy agency that specialises in purposeful brands and communications. This was a bit of a side step from my sustainability career but on reflection served me very well. It taught me the power of great communications and story-telling in influencing and engaging people, which is such a critical part of a sustainability career.
It was nearly four years ago that I met a friend from Jacobs and he told me that they were creating a new Global Head of Sustainability role and would I be interested? I jumped at it… and here I am, in pretty much my dream role.
What do you think needs to change in the sector if we are to reach the tipping point where global responsibility is at the heart of all engineering?
Don’t leave sustainability to just the “sustainability” professionals. Everyone must take individual accountability to make it part of their day job and integrate it into how we deliver solutions. The business case for sustainability and global responsibly is abundantly clear. Now we need to get to a point where everyone is taking the onus of the responsibility and not leaving it to specific professionals.
What role do you see the Engineers Without Borders UK movement playing in achieving that change?
I think the movement is a critical part of reaching the tipping point for change. The Engineers Without Borders UK movement is providing awareness, education and a call to action rather than just point out what the problem is. It is making solutions mainstream and putting them into everyone’s day to day to create change on a mass scale.
How will you use your expertise and position on the Board of Trustees to drive this agenda forward?
In my role at Jacobs, I can observe our client’s challenges on the ground and consider the opportunities that we, as engineers, can create. I can bring these insights from an organisation of Jacobs’ scale to ensure there is a real-life perspective in the solutions that Engineers Without Borders UK are creating.
Finally, what advice would you give to somebody who wants to embed global responsibility in their day to day practice but doesn’t know where to start?
Make sure you’re informed on what the challenges are- that’s the challenges of the client or project and how those two elements play into the global challenges that we are trying to solve. Use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint for how we as a society are trying to secure a sustainable future.
Consider, in the work that you do, how you can drive progress toward any of the SDGs, and not at the expense of one or the other, but in a holistic way. How can you find the right balance, not only to achieve the desired outcome on your project but more broadly? I don’t think that is about a set of technical skills, it’s about being expansive in your thinking and problem-solving. Think beyond just the project in front of you and consider how that can contribute to a wider set of values and challenges.
We as individuals don’t have to have all the answers. Once you have a more holistic understanding of the challenges at hand, consider who are those partners and different stakeholders you can work with to create and drive change, in a way that is going to have more scale and more impact.
If you are interested in becoming a trustee, learn more about our current member-elected trustee vacancies.
Zoe Haseman, Global Head of Sustainability at Jacobs