As director of our Sustainable Development group in the UK and Ireland, I’m more practitioner than scientist. I’m passionate about my work and the environment, and dedicated to building capacity and increasing the understanding of climate change and resilience — through the projects we deliver and the relationships we build.
Growing up on a farm, I was surrounded by nature, watching the seasons change and helping with chores — everything from harvesting sweetcorn and raspberries to feeding the cattle and working in the farm shop. I saw first-hand how humans and the environment interact. My parents farmed sustainably, and through that experience, I also became aware of the unsustainable agricultural practices that occur throughout the world.
While searching for agricultural courses, I stumbled upon environmental science, and later in London, I discovered environmental consultancy, which became my ultimate career path.
I joined AECOM after a brief stint at a firm where I worked on a project to design a hypothetical zero-carbon, zero-waste sustainable community in the Thames Gateway. The project captured my imagination and I was on a mission to find more projects of a similar type.
In addition to leading our sustainable development practice, I am the EMIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa) project director for AECOM’s work with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities. Our team is supporting five cities as they develop resilience strategies as part of the program, which aims to address physical, social and economic challenges, anticipating future scenarios and creating safe, equitable, healthy urban ecosystems.
Additionally, I’m working to update the UNISDR Disaster Resilience Scorecard for Cities, which serves as a tool for industry professionals and local governments to make a positive impact in cities around the world. The original scorecard was developed by AECOM and IBM in 2014, and we hope to launch the updated version at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico.
As a personal passion, I support the campaign to make London a National Park City. I’m convinced of the critical, beneficial role of nature in urban settings — for peace of mind, recreation, improved air quality, flood mitigation and many other benefits. For Earth Day, I plan to enjoy cycle rides with my family through Richmond Park. I’ll also be supporting the effort to raise awareness of environmental and climate issues by taking part on social media. Follow me at @Smithster76 to learn more!