Environment, ESG, INWED24, People Spotlight, Sustainability

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a graduate sustainability consultant from our Carbon & ESG practice in the United Kingdom, providing an insight into their inspiration and work. 

Meegan Worcester joined AECOM in 2023 as a graduate sustainability consultant. Prior to joining, she completed her undergraduate degree in Sustainability and Environmental Management at the University of Leeds, and then pursued a master’s degree in Sustainability and Consultancy. Since joining us, Meegan has worked on a range of projects across the practice service areas such as carbon management, sustainable infrastructure and climate resilience. 

What inspired you to join the industry? 

My interest in the environment stems from being born and raised in Saudi Arabia. I remember, as a teenager, being in a private car on a large motorway going to and from school every week just thinking about how this affected the environment and our health. Public transport was not the norm, so seeing the over-reliance of cars and limited public walking spaces, made me more concerned about the environment.  

When I moved to the UK in 2015 and started my A Level Geography course, I became heavily interested in climate resilience and adaptation, because after studying each topic, there would always be a discussion about sustainability and what challenges needed to be addressed in the future. In the classroom, we would explore challenges associated with the physical landscape such as more frequent extreme weather events increasing erosion along the UK east coast. We would also discuss challenges linked to economic and political pressures, such as resource exploitation of global commons, like oceans and forests.  

Prior to joining AECOM, I studied sustainability for five years at university. I was incredibly interested in the complexity of the field and how the issues we face due to climate change cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach. I wanted to be part of the industry actively and collaboratively solving these challenges and be able to put all the knowledge I had learnt into practice. 

I remember, as a teenager, being in a private car on a large motorway going to and from school every week just thinking about how this affected the environment and our health. When I moved to the UK in 2015, I became heavily interested in climate resilience and adaptation. Prior to joining AECOM, I studied sustainability for five years at university. I was incredibly interested in the complexity of the field and how the issues we face due to climate change cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach.”

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why?  

One of my favourite projects by far has been assisting a global FTSE 250 company with setting science-based targets for nature (SBTNs). The Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) builds on the momentum of the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). It provides a structure and approach for organisations to assess environmental impacts and set targets to reduce potential negative impacts and amplify potential positive impacts for nature and society.  

The first release of the SBTN target setting method in May 2023 includes integrated guidance for companies to assess and prioritize their material impacts on the environment. This includes freshwater quality and quantity, as well as inter-related land targets to protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems, alongside climate through the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). To ensure our client fully understood the five-step methodology and what would be required to set science-based targets for nature, we conducted a high-level review comprised of the latest information, resources and tools available from SBTN.   

This was my first project where I could listen to what the client thought of our deliverable and how it could be adapted to their wider business plan. During this process, I learnt that many of the sustainability frameworks, standards and methodologies out there can overlap with one another, which can be overly confusing and complicated for the client if they manage many of these at once already. It is important that we communicate this understanding to the client and identify where they have already gathered appropriate information that can be used elsewhere, as this will help prevent duplicating work, and help to build on any gaps they have to meet the new criteria, such as SBTN. Overall, it was interesting to see the interface of sustainability and business up close, which was one of my favourite modules that I studied during my undergraduate degree.

One of my favourite projects by far has been assisting a global FTSE 250 company with setting science-based targets for nature (SBTNs). To ensure our client fully understood the five-step methodology and what would be required to set science-based targets for nature, we conducted a high-level review comprised of the latest information, resources and tools available from SBTN.  

This was my first project where I could listen to what the client thought of our deliverable and how it could be adapted to their wider business plan.”

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community. 

As part of the work for the client I mentioned above, I have contributed to writing their deforestation policy. This has involved a desk-top review of key policy, legislation, guidance and frameworks. The review encompassed a global remit, including the latest European Union (EU) regulations such as EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDDD) and EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), as well as relevant guidance and frameworks such as the Accountability Framework Initiative (AFi), High Conservation Approach (HCA), and High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA).  

The purpose of this desk-top review was to ensure the client develops a deforestation policy that aligns with current and forthcoming requirements and best practices. This will hopefully have a long-term positive impact on the client’s farmers and suppliers, as well as the local communities who depend on global forests and their ecosystems services. The policy will hopefully encourage farmers to adopt environment-friendly practices, enable suppliers to identify and address risks related to their supply chains to ensure long-term viability, and protect local livelihoods by preserving forests and ecosystems. 

I have contributed to writing the deforestation policy for the client I mentioned above. This has involved a desk-top review of key policy, legislation, guidance and frameworks. The purpose of this desk-top review was to ensure the client develops a deforestation policy that aligns with current and forthcoming requirements and best practices. This will hopefully have a long-term positive impact on the client’s farmers and suppliers, as well as the local communities who depend on global forests and their ecosystems services.”

Share a piece of career advice. 

If, like me, you are a recent graduate and you don’t know where to start, say “yes” to everything – even if the task sounds daunting and out of your comfort zone. As a graduate, you aren’t expected to be perfect, but you are expected to show interest in the work your team does and enthusiasm to get involved where you can. Also, be kind to yourself. You won’t know everything, and you will go through a steep learning curve to get where you want to be. Not every opportunity will come to you right away and sometimes you will need to be proactive and identify where you want to improve and how this can be done to align with your interests and career ambitions.  

Another tip is to think about what you want to build over the next however many months or years in this new role. One thing that has helped me visualise where I want to be in five years from now is looking at my team and identifying those with interests that aligns with mine and the types of projects they have worked on. It is only natural to look at others who lead by example – this has helped me recognise where I can develop my skills over the long-term. I also make note of how they conduct themselves on client calls or how they approach project management, and then identify where I can improve. 

Originally published Jun 10, 2024

Author: Meegan Worcester