As our cities continue to grow, there is an ever-increasing need to design our infrastructure, transport, and built environment with the future in mind. We spoke to David Symons after he picked up his Leader of the Year award at this year’s BusinessGreen Awards. At WSP, he has helped spearhead the Future Ready programme which promises to embed sustainability companies’ long-term strategies.
Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about WSP – what’s your mission?
To see the future more clearly and design our infrastructure projects for this future as well as for today.
What drives you?
Making progress, making a difference, seeing our business grow and perhaps most of all, trying to be a great husband and dad.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I’ve loved seeing our Future Ready programme grow from an initial idea four years ago to a major way that WSP competes, attracts and retains staff and approaches its projects.
What are the challenges you face?
As a company operating international, one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is just the sheer scale of embedding a programme across 43,000 staff in 40 countries. We’ll do it, but it certainly is a challenge!
What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
The Future Ready programme really gets me excited and it’s an honour to be working on such an innovative scheme but I also love helping our many executive clients see the future more clearly and embed this thinking into their long-term strategies.
Where do you want to take WSP next?
There’s still lots to do to really embed Future Ready deeply across all of our 43,000 staff. Having fired our teams up with the programme, we especially need to help them with the technical skills to apply its thinking across all our projects.
What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
Get beyond the intellectual discussion and actually do something different. The impact of Future Ready comes from challenging our staff to design differently for the long term – not just have a discussion about it and then design the same road, rail, building as we’ve done before.
How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?
Engineers love a challenge. And asking our 43,000 staff how they can integrate Future Ready thinking into their projects puts all our staff at the heart of creating resilient, sustainable, prosperous cities and societies.
Can you recommend a life or game-changing book for our readers?
Matthew Syed’s “You are Awesome” – this book promises to help you find your confidence and dare to be brilliant at anything. It’s been a real source of inspiration for me.
What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?
Whenever I can, I like to chat to my family while we cook. If they’re not around, it’s Radio 4 for me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t talk about it – do it.
Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?
My grandfather. In one of the best examples of circular economy I know, he singlehanded dismantled a bombed-out church in Peckham after the War and used the materials to build a new church at his parish in Biggin Hill. Not so many of us are churchgoers now, but his passion and action were inspiring.
At Greenhouse, we support a wide variety of organisations pioneering new standards of sustainability across multiple sectors. Whether it’s fashion, finance or farming, we’re always on the look-out for new opportunities to reach our clients’ target audiences. If you’ve got a great story and need our help to tell it, we’d love to hear from you.