In her role as Divisional Sustainability Manager, Sarah is both challenged and empowered to make a real impact to sustainability both for Johnson Matthey and its customers

Sarah Watt, BA in History and Psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and B.Eng Engineering from the Open University; joined Johnson Matthey in 2007 as a Quality Specialist

What did you study and how did you join Johnson Matthey?

I have taken a slightly different path into Johnson Matthey. I studied Psychology and Apartheid History at university but have always held a passion for the environment. While working on contract in South Korea for a year, it became clear to me that I wanted to work in the area of sustainability and environmental management.

Once my South Korea contract ended, I got a job at a London rail consultancy firm managing quality systems. I approached several universities looking for part time study that would allow me to move my career in the direction of sustainability. This wasn't a subject that was particularly well covered at the time but I found a Bachelor of Engineering through the Open University that allowed me to focus on renewable energy and climate science.

In 2007 a position was advertised at Johnson Matthey, to work within the European Regional Quality team. I was fortunate enough to get the position and the role gave me the opportunity to work with multiple stakeholders, and to further develop my analytical skills. In 2012 I completed my Bachelor of Engineering.

“Johnson Matthey has an empowering culture, where ideas and suggestions for improvement are considered"

With the support of the company I have recently completed a Masters in Sustainability and Leadership. This program has broadened my horizons and has helped me think of different ways to deliver our sustainability programme.

How did you move into the Sustainability Manager role?

When a role for a Sustainability Co-Ordinator was advertised for the Emission Control Technologies Division (ECT) I was immediately interested, as it was the perfect opportunity to apply my passion for sustainability to my work. The interview process was both robust and exciting, during which I had to present a plan of how I would move the division's sustainability goals forward.

Over a period of time the scope of the role increased to focus on four areas: sustainability within Johnson Matthey, sustainability within our supply chain, meeting our customers' sustainability requirements and more recently risk management. In 2016/17 my responsibilities have been extended to the Precious Metal Products Division (PMP). I am delighted to have the opportunity to help both PMP and ECT meet our sustainability goals.

I also have a fantastic team of professionals who are passionate about sustainability. It is a real joint effort to move this program forward.

What do you enjoy most about the role?

Sustainability is such a fast moving area and there is always something new to learn. Part of the role is about managing business risks but what I really enjoy is feeling like I am making a positive contribution to Johnson Matthey, and also in the wider context of sustainability.

I love the challenges of the role: solving problems, speaking to stakeholders, suppliers and communities. I gain a lot of insight from speaking to our customers and to our new recruits, who have great ideas on how to develop our sustainability program in the future. I walk away from these conversations challenged, but also really motivated to continue developing our programme.

Any final words on Johnson Matthey?

Johnson Matthey has an empowering culture, where ideas and suggestions for improvement are considered. I have found that Johnson Matthey has allowed me to work creatively but also as part of a team. It is a really good place to learn and grow.