Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2019: Tom Byrne, Asos
This series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of 30 hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Next up: Tom Byrne, senior sustainability manager at Asos.
The future of business leadership starts right here. Earlier this year, edie unveiled the inaugural members of its brand new 30 Under 30 initiative – a group of bright and ambitious rising sustainability and energy stars from across the UK.
After being nominated by their colleagues and impressing judges from Global Action Plan and the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS), this cohort of youthful visionaries now benefit from an unrivalled opportunity to connect with one another and co-develop solutions to some of the most pressing environmental and social challenges of our time.
In this weekly series, we will be sharing their stories and successes beyond the group, giving edie readers insight into the minds of those who will be leading the charge in creating the low-carbon, resource-efficient economies of the future.
This week, it's the turn of Tom Byrne, senior sustainability manager at online fashion retail giant Asos.
How I got to where I am now:
"My first real-world experience of sustainability probably came in between my second and third years of studying Geography at University, when I completed a summer internship at the Energy Saving Trust. I knew straight away it was something I wanted to do as a career.
"When I left uni, I went back to the Trust for my first ‘proper’ job, which I stayed in for a few years. The experience made me realise that business was a key driver for change in the world and that I wanted a more corporate role, and so I moved to Landsec. I spent a fantastic five years there and we achieved a lot in that time, including embedding sustainability throughout the business. I got to work on some amazing projects. Landsec also supported me through my Master’s in carbon and energy management and gave me countless other learning opportunities that have really helped my career.
"Last year, I decided that I wanted a change and to continue my career within a different industry, and I was lucky enough to join Asos as senior sustainability manager. I’ve been really impressed with how much sustainability means to everyone here and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the business and all the different teams with which I work."
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
"There have been a few highlights I’m lucky to look back on. At Landsec, I was given the chance to lead on carbon emission reporting and to lead the process of setting new carbon and energy targets. We ended up becoming the first property company globally to set science-based targets and many more have followed suit since. It certainly wasn’t easy at the time, but it was a great experience and hopefully sets the company up for long-term sustainability success in the future.
"Also at Landsec, I had my 30 seconds of fame when I was interviewed by Helen Skelton on ITV about some of our recycling initiatives – it was quite nerve-wracking but a lot of fun.
"I’ve not been at ASOS that long, but already there are things that I’m proud of – particularly working with other great teams in the business to set and announce our ambitious new targets on plastic packaging."
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
"I think when you’re trying to grow and support sustainability at a company, understanding what sustainability really means to people and why they care about it is extremely important. More and more people are becoming switched-on to sustainability issues, so it’s important to understand what matters most to each group and why. Otherwise, it can be very hard to deliver for them and collaborate on finding solutions.
"The way to overcome these challenges is to listen to who you’re working with or trying to influence and be clear in how you communicate sustainability and its multiple benefits."
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:
"Continuing to settle into ASOS and working with other teams across the business to deliver our corporate responsibility programme, Fashion with Integrity. It touches every aspect of the business, from our products, to how we operate, our customers and our communities, and I’m looking forward to learning more from my new colleagues and supporting them however I can.
"Our team focusses on how the business operates and this year we’re looking to set new long-term carbon emission targets. Our current strategy finishes this year and we’ve had some great success, reducing our emissions per order by 30% since 2015 and cutting emissions intensity every year since 2015. I look forward to continuing this great work and looking ahead to the next 10 years.
"Another amazing partnership I get to work on is with ParalympicsGB, as ASOS provides all of the GB athletes with their formal and ceremony-wear. It’s the Tokyo Games this August and we’re all very excited to support the team and cheer them on."
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
"Catching up with friends and family, listening to music and exercising.
"I recently got into running and ran the London marathon last year. I find it a really good way to get away from the world and get fit both mentally and physically. Working on issues like the climate crisis can weigh on you sometimes, so it’s good to be able to get away and recharge.
"I also love going to gigs and festivals, I sadly missed out on Glastonbury tickets this year though so I’m looking out for an alternative."
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
"Stay positive and keep up the belief. The world is constantly reminding us of the issues which surround us and yes, they should be a reminder of the urgent action that’s required but don’t let it overwhelm you – there is also so much fantastic work being done which should be celebrated.
"We're not where we need to be yet, but we will need a positive mindset to continue the journey."
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
"Be brave and don’t be scared to say yes to things.
"We are a young industry and the chances are that what you need to do or have been asked to do has never been done before. Don't let this stop you going for it."
The full Class of 2019 series can be viewed here.
Want to join edie's 30 Under 30 for the Class of 2020?
The hugely popular 30 Under 30 initiative is returning for 2020 and we are now welcoming free nominations from and on behalf of talented sustainability and energy professionals – aged under 30 and based in the UK – to form our all-new ‘Class of 2020’.