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How I turned my passion for the environment into a career in sustainability

Laura McGrath is the Director of Sustainability and Community at Shelborn Asset Management and looks after four business parks across England and Scotland. Her responsibilities include managing green travel fleets, rewilding strategies, community gardens and allotments, as well as overseeing renewable energy projects and other sustainable programmes.  

Here Laura talks about her passion for the environment, her path to working in sustainability, and the importance of using transferable skills and experiences when thinking about your future aspirations.  

How do you plan for a job that you didn’t know existed when you left school?  

Well, you can’t. But give a girl a good dose of autonomy and an ever-growing green economy and, frankly, the sky’s the limit.  

I have been obsessed with nature, animals, and the wild since I was little. My mum tells a story about me knowing the species of about 20 different whales when I was five.  

At age seven, I used to write letters to brands that tested on animals pleading them to stop. At age nine, I staged a one-girl protest in the school playground about freeing dolphins from captivity.  

My bedroom was littered with books, posters, and magazine subscriptions. The natural world held me entranced and I knew for certain that I was going to grow up to be a jungle explorer.  

From science to South America 

You can imagine my surprise as an 18-year-old school leaver considering my options for study at university when I discovered that ‘jungle explorer’ wasn’t a course. Also – if it had been – three A Levels in English Literature, History, and Business Studies weren’t going to cut it!  

Where younger me had harboured a passion for all things wild, teenage me was always much better at writing than science. The numbers, strict rules and structure confused me, so I’d dropped them the second I could.  

I don’t remember anyone ever asking me what I wanted to do when I made my subject choices – I just remember being glad I never had to look at the periodic table again.  

After university I began working in office jobs, not really thinking about what I wanted to do other than save up and travel the world. I worked to fund trips – not to carve a career path. I wish I’d known then that you really can do both!  

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