Isabella Kong, Assistant Consultant (Corporate Sustainability) at ERM, won the Rising Star Award at the Sustainability Consulting Awards which recognizes the inspiring efforts of an early career sustainability and environmental professional who is driving positive change within their organization and the wider consulting sector. Here, she discusses the experience of being at the awards ceremony, how her passion for sustainability developed, and how this award has inspired her for the future.
When I heard my name called, I really couldn’t believe it. It was surreal. I had been nominated for the Sustainability Consulting Awards’ Rising Star Award and the anticipation of waiting for the winner to be announced built all evening. The Sustainability Consulting Awards was the first event that I had attended outside of my home city of Hong Kong, and I was already excited to be in Denver, Colorado - meeting and networking with consultants from other companies across the world. To be announced as the winner, surrounded by people in the room who were so supportive, warm and congratulatory, was an amazing feeling.
I was shocked to have even been nominated for the Rising Star Award, which is run by Environment Analyst and recognizes the achievements of an early career sustainability and environmental professional. It was the end of a normal day, and I had been commuting home when the email hit. I began to feel I was part of something bigger - all the work for corporate clients and volunteering I’ve done locally in my region, had been seen, valued and elevated to our company’s leaders.
A month after my submission to the awards, I found out that Archana Somasekharan and myself were shortlisted for the Rising Star Award. I felt so proud that ERM was represented twice for an award with such large international coverage. It made me realize the impact of ERM in my early career path – it is a company of people who coach sustainability consulting skills and care for entry-level employees, while also nurturing passion beyond our work and into our personal lives.
Since joining ERM, I have had the opportunity to be involved with a wide range of projects which has really opened my eyes to the wide scope of work that ERM engages with. I love my work and feel especially proud of those projects where I can see how my actions have contributed to an outcome. Seeing a project through from start to completion is very rewarding and I have enjoyed the diversity of projects I have worked on, from TCFD analysis, which is one of the next big net zero needs, and ensuring that financing for projects is sustainable, to stakeholder engagement to understand labor and working conditions at sites.
I’m also involved in ERM’s Sustainability Network and the ERM Foundation which have provided me with plenty of opportunities to develop my skills. The people at ERM are so supportive and have always been willing to offer their time and expertise to help me. In terms of the Sustainability Network, Kim Tran, the lead in our Hong Kong office, has been really encouraging of my ideas, including engaging with speakers for an LGBTQ+ event for Pride month. Whilst Robin Kennish, Director of Corporate Sustainability and Climate Change Services, has given me the opportunity to sit on the Future Leaders and Social Sustainability Committees of the British Chambers of Commerce which has enabled me to network with people from different consultancies, law firms, banks and NGOs.
confidence in my own voice. Initially, I thought I wasn’t focusing enough on any particular areas in my career, but this award has helped me realize that it’s ok to experiment, try new things and fail sometimes because that’s how you grow.It’s also made me reflect on how Senior Leaders at ERM value graduates and those early in their careers. Sometimes I have been timid about sharing my ideas or perspectives, but winning this award has given me pause and made me realize that I am not too young or inexperienced and that my ideas will be listened to and, hopefully, executed.
The award has also given me a greater sense of purpose, not just in my work, but also around encouraging representation of minority voices in this space. I really hope that I can help more people to see that there is opportunity in the sustainability sector to grow, develop and progress. When I walked onto the stage to accept my award I felt an overwhelming sense of encouragement in the room – even from people I never met before - I will never forget that warmth from the audience. I hope that I can provide the same level of support and encouragement to new consultants entering the sphere.