How did you get into your field of work?
I volunteered with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers after graduating whilst looking for work and became more engaged with environmental issues as a result. My first post was as a compliance officer with a local authority in Devon overseeing Part B air pollution authorisations under the EPA for local businesses. Recycling was also beginning to be adopted as a national policy for waste management and I saw this as a growth area I secured a job as a Recycling and Waste Management Officer for a local authority in Cheshire.
From there I progressed to a contracts management role. It was during this time that I became more interested in environmental management and assessment (such as carbon footprinting and environmental performance metrics) and decided that it was time to change direction I took the plunge and set up an independent environmental consultant. My consultancy work included helping businesses gain environmental management accreditations, such as ISO14001, and LCM was one of my clients. It was after a few years of working with the company that I was very pleased to accept the role of Quality and Environmental Manager, and I have been in the post since 2020.
What are your main responsibilities at LCM?
My role includes responsibility for the continuing accreditation of the company to the international quality and environmental standards, ISO9001 and ISO14001, as well as ensuring our ongoing compliance with environmental legislation such as REACH, COSHH and environmental permitting requirements. I also manage our in-house laboratory which is the key quality control function for our alloy products. The laboratory is currently working towards ISO 17025, the quality management accreditation specifically for testing and calibration laboratories. This will provide our customers with additional assurance that the certificates of analysis we issue for our products are supported by results produced by accredited methods of analysis.
Why is your job important to this industry?
On the quality side, quality management is vital to any industry that provides goods and services to customers. Competitiveness depends upon having good control over your product, together with an awareness of the changing needs of customers and the market in general. Equally, environmental compliance presents significant challenges, especially to small and medium-sized businesses, as environmental legislation is complex and ever-changing. Still, at the same time, it is vital to ensure we are minimising the impact on the environment with what we do.
LCM’s products are a critical part of the European supply chain for hi-tech magnets that power green technologies e.g. wind turbines and electric vehicles, it competes with cheap supplies from abroad where environmental and ethical standards can be a lot lower, and so it is important for LCM to maintain its market position by supplying alloys produced to the highest environmental and quality standards. This is why it is so important not just to maintain good environmental management on site but also to ensure that our raw materials are sourced responsibly.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Probably the most challenging aspect is keeping up to date with ever-changing environmental legislation that covers what we do, and ensuring that our products fully comply e.g. keeping track of our raw material imports to ensure we have necessary UK and European chemicals registrations in place.
Other jurisdictions have differing legal requirements so this needs to be reflected in the Materials Safety Data Sheets that we provide to customers alongside our alloys. Effective quality and environmental management revolve around risk management. So a lot of it is anticipating problems before they arise, by making sure adequate controls are in place e.g. that we have emergency response procedures in place or putting in place preventive measures when non-conformances arise.
What is the most enjoyable?
There are many things that I enjoy about my role, certainly, the variety in my job is great. There is no typical day, it can involve anything from internal audits to ensure our waste is properly segregated, to liaising with the regulators, such as the Environment Agency and the water authority, over changes to our processes on site. Secondly, I feel privileged to be working in a sector that is a key contributor to the greening of our economy; it is certainly an exciting time to be working in this expanding sector.
And finally, I work with a fantastic team! We may be a small company, but it consists of a big family of people who are committed, supportive, and motivated, and we occasionally find time to have fun too.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow a similar career path?
Try and gain experience from a variety of different business sectors, this is especially invaluable in terms of environmental management – different processes have vastly different environmental impacts and regulatory aspects to them. My 10 years working as an environmental consultant to a whole variety of business and public sector organisations provided me with valuable insight and experience in a range of different processes.
If you could instantly learn a new talent, what would it be?
To be multi-lingual! I have always had the utmost admiration for people who are proficient in more than one language. As the majority of our customers are outside the UK it would be fabulous to be able to communicate fluently with them in their native language. I have been learning Italian for about 18 months but I’m afraid it doesn’t come easily to me.
What do you do outside work to unwind?
I find running and working out to be the best way to chill out and focus on the present moment, but also just being outside (whatever the weather) either gardening or going for long walks (I want to complete the ‘Wainwrights’ before hanging up my walking boots) and, of course, continuing my struggles with the Italian language!