Freya has written us this blog about her summer sustainability internship.
I took part in the Catalyse Change Summit in summer 2020. At the time of signing up I didn’t realise how many doors this would open for me. Looking back, many of the opportunities I have had to volunteer and work in the sustainability industry since then have stemmed from the contacts I made there.
This summer I was lucky enough to complete an internship with Twelve Futures having met Jessica during the summit and reaching out on Linked In. This was my first proper job in the sustainability industry! Twelve is a climate consultancy which helps small and medium sized consumer brands respond to the climate and ecological crisis. The industries we worked with ranged from heat decarbonisation to liquor distilling, sustainable mattresses to pet food – no one day was the same.
Working remotely there was never any chance that I would be rushing around grabbing coffee and running errands anyway (thank you COVID?), but from the beginning I have been trusted with important client work and meaningful tasks. I have been encouraged to learn and try things for myself but within a supportive and non-judgmental environment. I also have never felt isolated despite being at least 170 miles from Jessica and Ellie, who were the best managers you could ask for. I was supplied with plenty of kitten pictures and even a care package when I was unlucky enough to catch COVID.
Before this internship I had limited experience with stakeholder management and consumer research and it turns out the best way to learn really is by doing. I am now able to create stakeholder insight reports, identify nuance and add value to raw data like survey results. After a rookie first attempt of regurgitating numbers and percentages and a quick check in with Ellie, I was able to go away and refine my analytical skills to produce a much better second attempt. I also really valued that Ellie and Jessica wanted me to succeed and get the most out of the internship. I was able to work on so many different projects and give feedback about what I liked and what I didn’t.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed working with corporate clients; pushing business-types out of their comfort zones to understand what climate change means in real terms. Businesses are uniquely placed to make a difference and communicate the importance of not continuing with business as usual to the public. This really made my work feel meaningful and fulfilling.
It wasn’t all perfect however. It’s challenging to be knowledgeable about multiple industries at once, and even more challenging to know what sustainability means for that industry and each client. At times I felt like my brain had far too many tabs open. Looking back, these challenges helped me become better at managing my time and organising my work.
Overall, the challenges of this internship were outweighed ten times by the skills and experiences I have gained. I feel much more equipped for a career in the sustainability industry then I did ten weeks ago. I am extremely grateful to Catalyse Change, Jessica and Ellie for the opportunities they have given me, and for their commitment to uplifting young women and supporting them to make positive change in the world.