Awards spotlight: Samantha Carlsson

The senior sustainability consultant at engineering firm Hoare Lea, and winner of IEMA’s Future Sustainability Leader Award, talks about her career to date and the importance of perseverance

What first inspired you?
I have always been interested in the physical world and the impact we have on it – the fact that we can influence it for both the positive and negative hit me early on. I grew up in South Africa and Bahrain, and in the latter water was as cheap as oil, with both treated as an unlimited resource, which highlighted contrasting environmental issues.


How can working in the built environment have an impact?
We create the world that people are going to live, shop or work in, and the scope of influence is huge. One issue in sustainability discussion is that you can’t see carbon so people find it hard to relate to, but it is possible to see the materials that go into a building, which makes it more tangible. We can then discuss how to reduce those materials and the energy used, making decisions which will enhance the sustainability of that project.

What are the most important attributes for a leader?
It is about inspiring and encouraging others to take a leap of faith with you. But that is only possible by having the knowledge behind you, and by being approachable. It is about bringing people on that journey with you and working together to encourage collaboration.

"I am inspired by people on the ground who are trying to find solutions"


How does your IEMA award rank in your achievements to date?
I was just doing my job, a job I believe is making a difference, so it is wonderful to receive this for the five years of projects I have worked on, and it recognises the teams I have been lucky enough to work with too. We put in a lot of care and attention to make each project a success so this is a rewarding acknowledgement. 

What did you think of the awards?
It was a great day. It could have been awkward because of the climate strikes, but Tim Balcon summed it up well when he explained the need to recognise people and projects making an impact, even though we are in an emergency. All the projects were inspiring, and although it can be easy to get quite down about the state of the environment, there are many people doing many good things.

And where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time or beyond?
I want to continue on this journey, influencing each project so it is more sustainable than the last, and improving the social value in projects. I would also like to influence policy and those pioneering sustainable behaviour. Sometimes a little push from government or legislation really helps.


Do you have any role models?
Ashley Bateson, a partner in my firm, because he is a very good advocate for delivering sustainability – really knowledgeable, and open to having conversations about the different ways to achieve an outcome. More recently, people like Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old who, alone, started striking one day and has created a tsunami of protests around the world. I am inspired by people raising awareness, but also by people on the ground who are trying to find solutions.


What advice do you have for people starting out in the sustainability profession?
There can be challenges when trying to embed sustainable solutions, and people shouldn’t underestimate the passion that goes into those discussions. It is fortunate for people starting out now that there is a lot more awareness about climate change and much more pressure from the public.

There will always be people who say one person can’t make a difference, but I am an optimist and we can inspire one another. You just have to crack on and never give up because it is important to be part of the solution. 

Career Highlights

  • Started as a graduate sustainability consultant at Hoare Lea in 2014
  • Progressed to senior sustainability consultant in 2018
  • Shortlisted for CIBSE Graduate of the Year and EDIE Rising Star awards
  • Qualified as a BREEAM assessor and a BREEAM and WELL-accredited professional
  • Achieved BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ on 1 New Street Square, Deloitte’s new UK headquarters – a first in the workplace sector for Hoare Lea. Among its many accolades, the project became the highest scoring BREEAM 2014 refurbishment project in the world, and the largest WELL Certified Gold Commercial Interiors project globally.
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