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Introducing Alex Hyde, our new Principal Sustainability Consultant

We are delighted to be expanding our sustainability offering across the industries we serve – and here, our new Principal Sustainability Consultant, Alex Hyde, provides an overview of his experience and what to expect 

 

I’ve worked in recruitment and search for over 20 years. During this time, I’ve built teams covering specialist markets and led leadership searches across a range of functions at board level. Most recently, I have partnered with organisations looking to identify the talent required to drive complex strategic transformation, both at an enterprise and functional level. In the last five years I’ve increasingly seen the leaders in my network become more focused on sustainability as it has more of an impact on their role. 

 

This is more pronounced in high emission industries, and those looking to provide solutions to achieving net-zero but is now also affecting those in sectors with lower levels of emissions. Increasingly stringent regulatory requirements, and more importantly, the strategic imperative for sustainability, has led to a growth in demand for leaders with ‘green skills’.  This only looks set to continue given the global momentum that the sustainable movement has generated, and the pace of progress in the past few years has been staggering.  I’m delighted to have joined Venari Partners’ Sustainability practice and look forward to assisting clients and candidates alike in this space to reach their goals. 

 

Transformation and sustainability 

 

The word ‘transformation’ is traditionally associated with changes to operating models, ERP implementation, and Shared Services/BPO – but if we look further ahead, the most significant strategic transformation organisations will need to make will be driven by the need to be more sustainable. 

 

Transformation and programme management are about delivering change across complex organisations on demanding issues. For me, being able to work with clients to find the talent they need to realise these transformations has been highly motivating. In the last 18 months I’ve worked on several searches that were focused on sustainable transformation. These have been hugely energising and made me realise this is an area I want to focus my efforts on. 

 

The brief that got me excited about the growing sustainability market, and in particular the net-zero transition, was working with a client in the energy sector that owns and manages the infrastructure for natural gas supply to much of the UK. By 2050, the business needs to be carbon neutral, which requires a total transformation of the business to enable them to move to a more sustainable business model, one most likely based on hydrogen. 

 

The mandate was to hire the transformation leadership expertise required to deliver the programmes that could make this happen. One of the biggest challenges clients face with sustainability stems from the need for organisations to do things that they, and their competitors, haven’t done before. The second big challenge is that many of the solutions to sustainability issues often don’t yet exist, and given the pace of technological development, almost certainly don’t exist in their final form. 

 

Inevitably, this creates a skills gap and the need to spend time with a broad range of potential candidates to identify those with the transferable skills that will make them successful. The candidate pool then also needs to be comfortable with ambiguity, to thrive in environments that are focused on innovation and to be able to operate as a leader who’s capable of shaping the future strategic direction of the business. 

 

There is no shortage of people who believe they have the capability to develop the necessary technical skills and feel they would be able to work with such ambiguity – but finding those who really can, and are the right fit for the client, is challenging. Successfully delivering on these mandates has been a great experience. 

 

That the purpose of the roles themselves and the business objectives are focused on delivering meaningful and positive change made the opportunity to join Venari Partners and focus on this space exclusively too good to turn down. 

 

Chief Sustainability Officer: an important, and increasingly common role 

 

Having a dedicated chief sustainability officer (CSO) in-house to lead an organisation’s efforts to become more sustainable has become increasingly important and we’ve seen opportunities in this sector boom in the recent past. As many CSOs were hired between 2020-22 as in the entire previous decade, so companies are alert to the importance of recruiting for this position. To make a CSO successful in this often newly created role, it’s important that they’re given the appropriate opportunity to enact meaningful change. 

 

Giving CSOs what they need is key 

 

To date, and unsurprisingly given the position is in its infancy as a corporate leadership role, CSOs have often been internal hires – frequently, someone interested in green policy and sustainability but not always with a regulatory and/or environmental background. In recent years, we’ve seen companies hire candidates with a more scientific formation and/or broader strategic corporate experience. This marks a shift from a reactive to proactive response to sustainability.

 

However, increasingly it seems that it is no longer enough for an organisation to hire an effective CSO without giving them a seat on the exec board. ‘Once in position, many CSOs find they do not report directly to the chief executive,’ writes Robert Van Egghen for the Financial Times’ boardroom news service, Agenda; he notes  that ‘they ‘also struggle to secure time with the board.’ By contrast, a PwC study indicates that organisations with a CSO on the board were significantly more likely to achieve a higher rating on their ESG scores.  When green issues are increasingly at the forefront of consumers’ priorities – and with companies in various sectors at risk of receiving fines for non-compliance on emissions– this is an area to which companies can simply no longer afford to pay lip service, much less ignore. Still, with CSOs frequently isolated internally, faced with dizzying change and maybe even having to establish best practices themselves, it’s crucial that they are effectively positioned for success as a key member of the leadership team.

 

Our vision

 

With Venari Partners’ Sustainability practice, we propose to build a network of dedicated sustainability professionals working across the industries in which we operate. These industries typically have significant challenges for implementing sustainable operating models but given the scale of progress and investment in these markets we are excited about the opportunity to partner with clients as they develop, and deliver, innovative solutions. As the outcomes of COP 28 in Dubai at the end of 2023 demonstrated, the international momentum needed to make sustainability goals a reality is growing to the extent required for them to feel like they are achievable, but the scale of the challenge ahead is huge.

 

To turn this momentum into reality, companies will need to build leadership teams able to develop the solutions required and to make the transformation to more sustainable business models feasible.  Recent examples of organisations’ innovation include Virgin successfully completing the first transatlantic flight powered by sustainable aviation fuel and Los Angeles Metro’s mission to provide zero-emission public transport by 2030. These underline the kind of ambitious initiatives currently on the agenda, and that Venari Partners is well positioned to support, by helping businesses identify the leadership talent capable of turning strategy and innovation into BAU.  

 

We look forward to discussing topics such as these in further detail with our senior leadership network in sustainability, both in the context of written pieces and interviews on the Venari Podcast, as well as at client events – stay tuned for further news on these fronts.

 

Venari Partners offers a more bespoke service than competitors, with a unique emphasis on our customer service proposition and providing unrivalled experiences to candidates and clients alike. I’m looking forward to applying these principles across the industries in which we already specialise. ‘We’re always listening to our clients and trying to provide them with a world-class service,’ says Venari Partners Director, James Parker:

 

"We understand that sustainability is a specific niche requiring a specialism that we didn’t previously have in our sector-agnostic company. To remedy this, we decided to hire a very experienced search consultant to lead our efforts in this space, and we’re delighted to have Alex on board. He’s been well known to the company for many years now, and we are very excited about the value he will add to our existing client base – and future new clients – as we continue striving to provide world-class search solutions in the sustainability space."

 

 

If you would like help with executive talent solutions in sustainability – or if you are a sustainability professional contemplating a career move – please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

 

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