Life at Deloitte

Meet the Sustainability Team - Aoife Connaughton

Climate change is complicated. But that’s not stopping people around the world to make a difference. We’re lucky to have some brilliantly diverse people leading our climate work across the firm. In this series, we help you get to know them, their areas of expertise and why they’re passionate about the planet.

It's time to hear from Aoife Connaughton, Climate and Sustainability Director and eco-warrior

Trying to save the world from 9-5

I like to describe myself as a corporate Captain Planet who is trying to save the world from 9-5! A more grounded description is that I am a leader in our Climate and Sustainability practice where I work with Public and Private sector clients to help them understand the how climate change risks relate to their organisations and what they need to do to mitigate and adapt for these risks. My team work closely with our clients and their wider stakeholders including industry groups, academics and NGOs to help them develop and implement strategies to ensure they can reach their sustainability objectives, for example their Net Zero targets, and to identify opportunities for innovation and business model transformation driven by the challenges and opportunities of sustainability.

Living off-grid in the Amazon

I grew up beside the sea in Wicklow and have always been very ‘outdoorsie’ and passionate about nature. From volunteering in mountain rescue to living off-grid in the Amazon and on a houseboat in Oxford I’ve always prioritised being close to the natural world. I originally joined Deloitte’s graduate programme as a strategy analyst but after a sabbatical in Ecuador working in animal conversation I became increasing passionate about sustainability and the role organisations had in driving change through their supply chains and policies. After watching Jason Clay’s TED talk on how 100 brands can save biodiversity I was inspired to follow a career in corporate sustainability working initial with an Irish NGO Business in the Community and then with great sustainability technology company 2degrees in Oxford where we ran sustainable supply chain programmes for some of the world’s biggest brands including Unilever, GSK and Walmart. Having children has only made be more passionate and committed to investing my energy in driving the changes needed to ensure we can live within the planetary limits.

Helping clients to understand the risks and opportunities that sustainability presents

I work with clients across the consumer and public sectors primarily where I support them to understand the risks and opportunities that sustainability presents them. These issues could range from planning of the impacts of climate change, understanding how to set science based targets and how to achieve them, understanding how consumer behaviours are changing, planning for the impacts of regulations or addressing ethical issues in their supply chain. We help them identify and understand the issues that are most material to their businesses and support to prepare for this new future (vision setting, planning, options analysis), transition their businesses to the new models required (skills development, governance, operating model design) and to build the businesses of the future (improved operations, new products and services, new economic models)

I feel that I’m in such a privileged position to be able to talk directly with the leaders of some of the world’s biggest businesses about sustainability but that with that privilege comes a real responsibility to feel that we’re helping to drive real change.

Proudest moments

I feel that I’m in such a privileged position to be able to talk directly with the leaders of some of the world’s biggest businesses about sustainability but that with that privilege comes a real responsibility to feel that we’re helping to drive real change. For me it’s really important to feel that I’m being effective in communicating the real sense of urgency there is around sustainability in a way that resonates with a business and their stakeholders and some of my proudest moments have been the ones where a client has prioritised sustainability and have put in place real tangible actions to drive change.

Another highlight for me has been working with the team at DCU to support establishing the Centre of Climate and Society. I’m so proud that Deloitte has chosen to support such an important area as the school will be Ireland’s first academic research centre devoted to leading societal responses to climate change and it’s something I’m really excited to be involved in.

A promise for her children

It’s cliched but my children really do inspire me to do everything I can to influence change in this area. We spend most of our time with them playing in the garden where we have hens and where the kids love to plant flowers for the bees or exploring the lovely beaches and mountains we have on our doorstep in Wicklow. Being connected to nature really do motivate me to do all I can to protect it. I read some great advice for sustainability practitioners for when their motivation was faltering and it was to promise a child you’ll do all you can to protect their future and that’s what I’ve done.

I also get great inspiration from my network of friends and former colleagues who work in sustainability. I love hearing the work that they’re doing in their different organisations, hearing what’s working and what needs to change and it helps keep the fire lit.

I also love coaching and metoring people who are starting out in the sustainability careers. I am an accessor on Cambridge’s Business of Sustainability Management course and a mentor on their accelerator programme and seeing the passion, urgency and commitment of the next generation of leaders is food for the soul.

Aoife's vision for the future?

In 2050, I will be at retirement age. My children (Greta and Wolf) will be in their 30s and hopefully at a life stage where they have the opportunity to start families of their own should they wish. What does the future look like for children born in the 2050s? Our current trajectory is not good enough and change needs to happen faster. I hope that I will be able to say that I have dedicated my career to achieving a Net Zero future where people, societies and the planet are flourishing. I want to help organisations lead this change and I want to help nurture the next generation of sustainability leaders within Deloitte and our wider networks so that I can be truly proud of the impact I have made and the future I have helped achieve for my children.

Meet the others

We hope you enjoyed finding out a bit more about Aoife. Our sustainability team are here to help, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to find out more. And if you want to meet the others, you can fid out more about our team here. We’ll introduce you to new people every month.

Meet the rest of the team

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