What’s it like to be a… head of sustainability?
We caught up with Jessica Sansom, head of sustainability at innocent drinks and the person responsible for the company’s commitment to become a model of sustainable capitalism. With that on a CV, alongside a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science and a Masters in Environmental Law, and as one of Ethical Corporation’s Ethical Leaders of 2008 (alongside Barack Obama and Bill Gates), we wanted to know more about her life…
What time does your alarm go off?
Ever since having kids I rarely need to use an alarm… They reliably wake me at around 6.30am every day.
Do you snooze or get up immediately?
No choice, it’s immediate.
What is it that makes you get up?
Before I had kids it used to be getting up to go for a run. I love the freshness of the air in the morning and it’s such a great way to start the day.
Describe your routine before you leave the house?
It’s all about getting the kids ready for school and trying to squeeze in a five minute shower. I am now an expert at getting myself showered and dressed in ten or less.
When’s your first caffeine of the day and how much coffee do you end up drinking on average?
It’s all about the tea. One cup as soon as I get out of bed and at least three after that. Earl Grey, weak, no milk or sugar. A good cup of tea really does make the world feel better.
What’s your working day like?
Varied. Sustainability covers such a broad range of topics and it takes me in multiple directions each day. It can be innovations in packaging, an industry forum on water management, a scientific presentation on carbon management or a meeting with a grower to talk about workers’ rights or sustainable agriculture. Each topic varies enormously, as does the work that we do, to make sure that we are leaving things better than we find them. We also spend a lot of time with our employees to engage them on sustainability and embed our sustainability goals into their individual work plans.
And when does it end?
At innocent we’re encouraged to make sure we have a balance between work and home life. Most of the time I finish around 5.30pm and get home to spend time with my family. Sometimes I am travelling to meet with suppliers or attend industry events which involves longer days, but other times I can leave early and pick the kids up from school.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your day?
Weirdly they are one and the same: getting into conference calls or having ‘catch up’ calls. I often work remotely so I spend a lot of time on the phone and I always get a sinking feeling when I have to get onto a call. It takes me away from what I was doing and interrupts that bubble of focus with the task at hand. But then I’ll speak to my team or other people inside and outside the business, find out how projects are progressing and come up with a new ideas. I get great engagement from the interaction and it leaves me feeling really energised.
What made you want to go into that job, and is it what you expected?
Working for innocent, where sustainability is key to everything we do, has been brilliant. I always wanted to do a job where I would feel like I had achieved something useful at the end of every day. I grew up watching nature documentaries and being outside so it was an easy step to study environmental science. It’s great to see how far our awareness around sustainability has developed in the last 20 years. It has moved from being something that businesses did to ‘feel good’, to an integral aspect of business strategy and planning. And here at innocent we’re always setting more challenging goals and doing everything we can to not only improve our own performance but also to inspire wider change.
How do you spend your evenings?
It’s a mix but the ideal evening is a glass of wine, chatting to my husband and watching the Great British Bake Off.
How and when do you relax?
The most peaceful time of the day is once the kids are in bed, the phone and computer are away, and I try to do as little as possible. Exercise is always a great way to unwind and swimming is a form of meditation.
And when do you get to bed?
Early… I love my sleep.