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Meet the 100: David Symons, Future Ready Program Leader – WSP

The E+E 100 are the VPs, directors, managers and engineers who are making significant strides in driving our industry. See the complete list here or download the report for more detailed information about these leaders. And stay tuned for the Call for Submissions coming in the fall, when you can nominate your favorite sustainability or energy management professional!

Now, meet David Symons, Future Ready program leader with WSP. Global engineering and professional services firm WSP has a staff of around 48,000 and works on projects across 65 countries, including the California high-speed rail system and LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal B. Symons leads WSP’s Future Ready sustainability program, which challenges their experts to envision a future world and design with that in mind.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in the last year or two?

The biggest challenge I’ve had in the last year has been a really nice one. Future Ready has gone stratospheric in WSP. The argument is won. Our global board completely gets it. Now let’s execute on it — and how do we do it really fast?

How have you addressed that challenge?

I’ve learned a lot from our market chief operating officers, who have skills on process. That’s helped me set strong governance programs across the business. It’s helped mobilize and empower people so I now have a Future Ready leader in each country, with subject matter leaders for our service lines and teams that are all pointing in the same direction. We’ve got global leader learning programs. We’ve got great ways to capture case studies.

Then it’s actually letting go a bit, otherwise you just become a blocker in the process. Sometimes people talk about Future Ready, and that’s not quite how I’d describe it. But they’re talking about it. Future Ready is about the heart and the passion as much as the logic. I am an increasingly light touch on this.

What advice would you give other professionals as they try to accomplish their sustainability or energy management goals?

Get out of the present. We’ve been thinking about what does our world look like in 10 or 15 years. There’s the enormous area of climate change. Markets across the world are moving to zero-carbon economies. Three of our big markets — the UK, Sweden, and now New Zealand — have all committed to becoming zero-carbon economies in the last 12 months.

Think about the issues that your customers or your board or your supply chain are going to need to address. The role of a sustainable leader is to think about the future, not just the here and now.

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