Managing director of sustainability specialist Verco reflects on the events, issues, and trends that have shaped his career
Name: Dave Worthington
Job Title: Managing Director
What was your first job?
Website development at IBM. That was in 1995 when websites were still a bit of a novelty. Whilst it was exciting to be part of what was clearly going to be a very important and fast growing area and I liked the technical challenge of software development, I felt the need for a stronger connection with the environment and physical projects.
What was your first job in sustainability?
When working as a Building Services Engineer, I was quickly drawn towards the various sustainability measures we could incorporate into buildings and the challenge of minimising resource consumption through passive design techniques rather than the easier option of energy consuming systems.
Was there a single moment that made you want to work in the sustainability field?
I remember listening to Sir David King discussing climate change on the radio when he was chief scientific advisor to the government and realising how big a threat this represented to the planet and our way of living. I had recently completed a general engineering degree and saw the link between the skills and knowledge that I had developed and the technical challenges associated with climate change mitigation.
What is your proudest career achievement?
I have worked on some amazing and pioneering projects over the years including the world's first zero carbon dairy, an eco-resort in Malaysia and a community wind project in Berwick, but my proudest achievement is taking Verco into employee-ownership, achieving B-Corp status and seeing the company flourish with year-on-year improvements in employee engagement and satisfaction and multiple awards for our industry leadership and the outcomes we have achieved with our clients.
And what is your biggest career regret?
My biggest career regret is the momentum that was lost on the low carbon agenda after the global financial crisis in 2009. The subsequent unwinding of low carbon policies and programmes was a significant setback and resulted in the loss of a lot of valuable skills and knowledge from the environmental sector. This has been more than rebuilt since but it was time that we didn't have to lose and we are now having to revisit questions that were answered almost a decade ago, such as how to design and build zero carbon homes.
What are your professional priorities for the year ahead?
2020 has been a big year for net zero pathway development work so the focus for the year ahead is implementing the strategies and delivering some early wins to build confidence and momentum.
What is the best thing about your current role?
Working with an exceptionally talented and passionate team who are all committed to helping our clients achieve net zero targets as soon as possible. I am constantly amazed by the team's ability to come up with great ideas for new products or to enhance our company culture.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting out working in sustainability what would it be?
Try to regularly step back and consider what the important long term trends and material issues are amongst the hype of new initiatives and hot topics.
What is your biggest fear?
That we have left things too late and our emission reduction efforts are overwhelmed by accelerating deforestation and the release of methane from melting permafrost.
If you had $100m to invest in one clean technology which would you choose?
Solar paint. A future where every surface of a building can generate energy is an exciting prospect.
If you could introduce one green policy which would you choose?
We need a much stronger incentive for consumers to shift away from carbon intensive fuels and products. There are a number of policies that could help with this but if I had to choose only one then it would have to be a carbon tax with receipts recycled into low carbon infrastructure. If designed carefully, this has the potential to reduce everyone's living costs as well accelerating the transition to a zero carbon society.
Do you think the world will meet the goals of the Paris Agreement?
I am an optimist by nature and have faith in our ability to innovate and develop the solutions required to achieve net zero emissions by the end of the century. I am less confident that this can be done quickly enough to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C or even 2C but it still looks just about possible.
What would your green superpower be?
To internalise environmental externalities.
Where would you like to be in 10 years' time?
Living in a community which has fully embraced the economic, environmental and social potential of low carbon and resource efficiency initiatives to be largely self-sufficient on energy, food and water with great air quality, societal health and well-being, and much greater levels of equality.
What's your green guilty secret?
Coffee. I don't think I would be able to save as much carbon on our projects without it, so it still generates a net benefit.
How do you unwind after a long day helping to save the planet?
On my bike, in the lanes of Kent in the summer or the virtual roads of Zwift's Watopia Island on a home trainer in the winter.
Verco is a partner of the Net Zero Festival