Winner Spotlight – David Symons CEnv, 2020 Environmental Professional of the Year
12 June 2020
Posted by: Phil Underwood
For the first time in the history of the award, the Environmental Professional of the Year award for 2020 was presented to two individuals. One of these well deserving winners was Chartered Environmentalist, David Symons.
A prominent figure in the environmental services sector, David is the UK Director of Sustainability at WSP, Director of Aldersgate Group and a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) registered with IEMA.
Dr Emma Wilcox, judging panel member and Chief Executive of SocEnv, said: "David is a top-level driving force for sustainable change who shows exemplar leadership abilities. He continues to develop and lead on impactful projects including the recent launch of Pledge to Net Zero and the Environmental Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship. His passion is unquestionable as it shines through in his work and his engagement with peers and the global media. An outstanding environmental professional and an inspiration to aspiring professionals."
Following the announcement by Chair of SocEnv, Prof. Will Pope HonFSE CEnv, David said: "To all at SocEnv, thank you. I am really touched and honoured. [The awards are] tremendous for all of the shortlisted finalists, and especially congratulations to Mandhy and Chris – it’s an honour to be alongside you."
The list of successful, influential programmes developed by David is impressive to put it lightly. Here are some recent examples:
David created and now leads WSP’s award-winning Future Ready TM programme, helping WSP’s 50,000 staff globally see the future more clearly. With project design lives typically between 25 and 100 years, it challenges the firm’s experts to design for the future as well as today. Future Ready is now the golden thread through WSP’s 2019 global strategy and it is central to the firm’s work with clients and communities to develop resilient, net zero, prosperous cities and infrastructure.
He also conceived and led the establishment of the environment industry’s Pledge To Net Zero initiative. Ahead of COP26, P2NZ was established with support from SocEnv and a panel of leaders to demonstrate leadership and to raise the bar for the sector’s own greenhouse gas performance. It’s now been signed by 47 companies.
The nomination submission for this award stated: "David is a passionate, effective and “can do” communicator. He uses this to regularly champion sustainability when helping to inform Government policy as a Director of Aldersgate Group.
He has featured on national and international news channels – in 2019 on BBC News as part of the UN climate summit and Sky News to discuss the need for stronger air quality regulation.
From Future Ready to Pledge to Net Zero. From working with government on strong ambitions for COP26 to our industry’s degree level apprenticeship. David has been a tower of strength in delivering strong outcomes for the environment, for clients and for our industry."
As part of the live Winner’s Q&A during the virtual awards event, David was asked what advice he would give to aspiring environmental professionals: "In a business context, this is about top line growth, not just responsibility. For example, with Future Ready, I can now say, "why wouldn’t we integrate future trends like net zero and future society into our advice?" Because I can show you that this has won us £65m of work this year.
Secondly, you don’t need to ask for permission. When I wanted to launch Future Ready within WSP, I frankly just got on with it. We didn’t let perfect be the enemy of the good, we just followed it and got on with it."
As a response to winning the award and to conclude the virtual 2020 SocEnv Awards, David said: "It’s a tremendous honour. If nothing else, for me I hope that these awards inspire the 10,000 CEnv registrants to date, it will certainly help to inspire the 7,000 environmental and sustainability professionals who work for WSP, and it will certainly inspire me to keep cracking on with so much work that we’ve still got to do to deliver a net zero sustainable economy."
The two other winners at the virtual event were Mandhy Senewiratne CEnv – Director at Fyrefly Global Sustainability Ltd – who also won the 2020 Environmental Professional of the Year award and Chris Landsburgh CEnv - Environmental & Sustainability Manager at Wills Bros Civil Engineering Ltd – winner of the first Registrant Newcomer of the Year award. Find out more about Chris and Mandhy in their Winner Spotlights by clicking on the appropriate name.
The Highly Commended Finalists for the Environmental Professional of the Year award were Claire Wansbury CEnv - Associate Director of Ecology at Atkins – and Professor Daniel B. Oerther CEnv – Professor of Environmental Health Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology.