Behind the job - Abdul Hussain, Sustainability Manager

  • 11th January 2022

Tell us about you and your job
After a varied early career, working in the automotive industry and retail, I took a break due to health issues. When I returned to work I realised there was an opportunity to switch careers and join the rapidly growing renewables sector. Initially, I worked as a freelance non-domestic energy assessor before becoming a Sustainability Manager.

During my time as Sustainability Manager, I worked in both the public and private sector with councils and landlords to reduce their carbon footprint. Today I lead EQUANS UK’s North West Sustainability team. I support and advise a variety of departments across the business, lead sustainability projects as well as deliver internal and external sustainability educational projects.

What key skills do you need as a Sustainability Manager?
Curiosity. You need to have a passion for learning. Sustainability is a vast role that’s ever-changing. On top of that, you need an in-depth understanding of your chosen sector whether that’s construction or transport. You can have an environmental science degree but it’s the wider knowledge that is key. It enables you to turn theory into practical and efficient advice and action. 

Within sustainability, you can help shape the future. However, to make real change it takes tenacity, patience, and courage. You need to be bold, adventurous, and committed to your work, research, taking others along the journey with you and seeing projects through to the end.

What does your typical day look like?
Every day is varied. I can be working on multiple projects at any one time, from internal sustainability surveys to working with local colleges, to working towards Net Zero, as well as advising clients. It’s all in a day's work. 

Typically, I start at 8am with emails. It’s normal for me to attend several webinars with suppliers and manufacturers to understand the latest renewable products. I advise on projects, so I have regular check-ins with colleagues and clients about retrofitting existing buildings to planning new schools or leisure centres.

Research is key. I’m always checking the latest legislation and processes and staying up to date. Currently, I am studying for a BA Environmental Science degree to expand my knowledge.

Why did you choose a career within sustainability?
Sustainability allows me to build and leave behind my own legacy. To inspire others to think and live sustainably to create a better future for everyone. It can feel daunting when faced with the facts and the challenges. However, knowing I can make a difference drives me.

Why is sustainability so important in the built environment?
The built environment accounts for 70% of the world’s carbon output. In both commercial and private construction, it’s now about building positivity. Leaving behind the building blocks for a better future. It’s essential that we strike a balance between reducing our carbon footprint and building the infrastructure we need to live and work.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about a career within the sustainability sector?
Do your research into which sector you want to work in. Ask yourself what do you enjoy? You don’t want to invest several years of studying and experience in an area you don’t feel passionate about. There’s a variety of sectors to choose from so take your time to weigh up your options.

Getting on the job experience is also essential. If there’s an opportunity to work within different areas of sustainability in your current company, ask if it’s possible. Don’t forget to ask questions, actively listen, and learn from everyone around you. Then, be bold and present new ways of working and your own innovative solutions.

How did you find working with the team at Coleman James?
Transparent and supportive. That’s how I would sum up working with Charlotte Smart, a Consultant within the Construction division at Coleman James. She was instrumental in energising talks with EQUANS UK. She guided me throughout the entire process seamlessly. She kept me updated, checked in with me and was very personable. She still rings me today just to ask how I’m doing. Often, I ask for support to expand my own team. Thank you, Charlotte, for your continued support.