“Remember why you wanted to enter this profession and use those reasons as a compass on days that seem more challenging than others”

Case Study: Samantha Young

We spoke to Samantha Young, a NEBOSH Best Candidate for the NEBOSH International Diploma in Environmental Management, about what sustainability is and why she is so passionate about it.

Samantha, you have worked at Sanlam since 2016. Can you tell us a little about the organisation?
Sanlam is a diversified financial services company headquartered in South Africa, with a strong presence in more than 30 countries on the African continent, India, Malaysia and selected developed markets. It is a purpose-led organisation whose efforts are centred on helping clients live with confidence. The organisation promotes financial inclusion, transformation and empowerment through a broad product and financial advice offering, inclusive culture and partnership approach. Sanlam has a proven track record of delivering superior value to clients, employees, shareholders and broader society.

Your role within the company is as a Sustainability Analyst. Can you tell us more about what this involves and the sort of things you do day-to-day?
At Sanlam, the Group Sustainability team manages the sustainability, climate and overall ESG performance of the group. This means we manage the environmental, social and governance factors that impact the Sanlam Group in its entirety, which can affect the longevity and resilience of the organisation. Our goal is to also ensure that employees at all levels recognise the importance of climate change and sustainability, as well ensuring that the organisation is striving to be in good standing with society as a corporate citizen and operating in accordance with regulatory legislation, frameworks and industry best practice.

As a Sustainability Analyst, my role contributes to the annual Sustainability, Climate and Carbon Footprint reports published publicly on behalf of the organisation. That work also forms part of the completion of annual disclosures that are shared with rating agencies, which affects how sustainability factors are perceived by our investors and prospective employees.

I also help to implement the ESG and sustainability strategy, conduct research and gap analysis as well as monitoring environmental targets and performance indicators for water, waste and energy. Another part of my job is to develop and manage position and policy statements pertaining to the environment, climate and human rights as well as providing an advisory and advocacy role to the various business units and strategic partners.

You completed your NEBOSH International Diploma in Environmental Management in 2022, for which you won a Best Candidate award at our recent 2022 Graduation – congratulations! Why did you take this qualification?
NEBOSH is an internationally known and well-respected institution. The qualification I chose is well-recognised and allowed me to gain knowledge that is applicable worldwide. In specialist fields such as sustainability I believe it is important for senior leaders in an organisation to be able to receive credible advice from the sustainability management team - who are seen as strategic advisers equipped with the necessary knowledge. This is one of the reasons I strive to acquire training that is recognised and applicable on an international level; it allows for a more global understanding of the subject as well as what is required on a broader level.

Did you enjoy the course?
Immeasurably…even during the stressful times! This course will test both your theoretical and practical knowledge. Although I had already obtained an environmental degree before pursuing my NEBOSH Environmental Diploma, the 12 modules still had the ability to not only hold but also reignite my interest in the field. The technicality of these modules provided both insight and the necessary intellectual challenge needed to develop certain competencies from a managerial perspective as well.

How has your qualification benefitted you since you completed it?
The knowledge I obtained through this course has increased my confidence in my day-to-day work and importantly also my credibility as a professional in an industry that is predominantly male. Being able to use the designation “IEnvDipNEBOSH” is a good way to demonstrate this to others too!

What made you choose a career in sustainability?
My career path in this profession started over 15 years ago as a result of my growing interest in understanding how planet Earth works, the relationship between humans and the physical earth, and the impacts they have on each other as well as the global warming impacts in relation to Africa. Changes in climate impact both environmental and social aspects of life.

You can’t control nature and therefore nature will always win, but understanding it makes it easier to predict how nature will “fight back” and that in turn makes it easier to protect its inhabitants, both human and other species, for generations to come. I found that this principle matched well with the NEBOSH International Diploma in Environmental Management course as the same sentiment was embedded in the very essence of the programme.

What would be your advice be to anyone at the start of their sustainability or environmental management career?
My advice would be to equip yourself with strong technical skills relevant to your career path, then build and develop from that foundation. Always keep an open mind and be willing to learn from others; soak up as much knowledge as possible from both junior and senior colleagues.

It’s also important to remember why you wanted to enter this profession, be it sustainability or health and safety, and use those reasons as a compass on days that seem more challenging than others. Safeguarding lives for the present and future generations always needs to be the first and foremost driver for those of us who choose this career path.