Anna Lawson, BSc Sustainability and Environmental Management

Anna Lawson


What have you been doing since finishing your studies? 

Following graduation, I spent the summer travelling and then moved to London to start a job at Marks and Spencer which I secured in my final year at Leeds.

I work in the Food Plan A (Sustainability) team in head office, working to drive sustainability improvements across M&S food categories and in our supplier base, managing and supporting specific sustainability projects cross-functionally to meet business goals. My job is very varied which I love, I work across a variety of different areas including raw material traceability, supplier sustainability, communications, and sustainable diets, collaborating with many different teams across the business and externally.

What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career?

The close-knit and open environment of the course to have honest discussion about sustainability challenges with both lecturers and students and the breadth of topics we covered have both really helped shape my thinking and ability to work cross functionally in a large business. It has helped me to think critically about big issues such as climate change and how we can translate them into actionable plans to make change.

Why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I chose the course and Leeds as it offered world-class teaching at a very fun university, with a varied course structure on key sustainability issues. I was also clear that I wanted to do an industrial placement year so that really attracted me to the course. I was looking through prospectuses for Geography type degrees and could not find any courses that really spoke to me and what I wanted to do, when I found the course at Leeds it all made sense!

What was the best aspect of your course?

The flexibility of the course to focus on areas relevant to you and your career was really valuable for me. The industrial placement was also a big highlight for me as it gave me a head start in managing my professional development and allowed me to come back to final year really clear on the career I wanted with a plan on how to get there and a strong industry network.

Where did you undertake your year in industry?

I worked as a Sustainability Technician at PepsiCo, working on LCA and Carbon Footprinting analysis. I also supported my team on internal engagement on our new sustainability strategy, worked on a New Product Development project with the other placement students and supported the companies STEM programme.

What was the best aspect of the year in industry?

The people were undoubtably the best aspect of my year in industry. There were 12 of us on the placement year who all lived and worked together, having this support network was invaluable in helping each other work through our first jobs. My team were also incredible in supporting me and allowing me the freedom to do as many projects as possible to help me progress. Some of my team have been mentoring me over the past three years which has been instrumental in my career progression.

Do you have any advice for students considering taking a year in industry?

My main advice would be to do it! For me it was the best career decision I could have made when applying for graduate jobs – I would not have got my current job without my year in industry. Start early in looking for placements and ensuring you go into second year with a clear idea of what you want to do and with an updated CV and cover letter template. Take all the help you can get in application and interview tips. When you are on placement make sure you keep updating your LinkedIn – the connections you make will be invaluable in your future career.

What activities outside of your studies were you involved in?

In my final year I set up a new society with three friends called LUU Food4Change to provide a platform for students to create sustainable change across the university with a focus on food sustainability.

What would you say to students thinking about studying your course?

Go for it! If you want a future-proofed degree, in an exciting, relevant, and ever-changing field then this is for you. A career with purpose is becoming even more important in the current climate and a degree in SEM will be key in getting you there and to help you begin building a network of likeminded peers who will play a critical role in your future career.