Hot 100 2020: SUEZ's David Palmer-Jones tops 2020 poll
David Palmer-Jones, Group Senior Executive Vice President for Northern Europe at SUEZ Group, has been voted winner of the 2020 Resource Hot 100, our annual poll of influencers in the waste and resources sector.
With more than 12,000 verified votes this year, interest in the Resource Hot 100 was greater than ever and demonstrated the wealth of talent and innovation in the waste and resources sector far beyond the top 100.
This year’s poll comes at a time of unprecedented turmoil in British society and the rest of the world, with the Covid-19 pandemic causing significant loss of life, uncertainty and disruption.
The waste and resources industry is on the frontline of keeping vital public services such as waste and recycling collections going throughout the crisis, and we should take a moment to recognise our industry’s contribution to public life in the knowledge that more will be asked of us in the weeks and months ahead.
This year’s top 10 features some familiar faces, with Dominic Hogg, Chairman of Eunomia Research and Consulting, making the move from number 10 to second place, while last year’s winner Cat Fletcher, Co-founder of reuse network Freegle, and runner up, beloved broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, remained in the top 10 coming in tenth and fourth respectively. Andy Rees, Head of Waste Strategy for the Welsh Government moves down two places to eighth from sixth.
Our top 10 also features new faces this year, demonstrating the sector’s diversity. David Allen, Managing Director of Recycling Lives places at number nine, while David Newman, Managing Director of the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA), came in at number seven.
Elsewhere, there were great leaps for Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator of the UK Without Incineration Network, Jane Bevis, Chair of On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) Ltd, and Natalie Fee, Founder of ocean plastic charity City to Sea, making up the rest of the top 10.
The past year has seen significant progress in the resources and waste industry, with government showing leadership with forward-thinking policy and industry responding, though much of this has been placed on hold by the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of those at the forefront of this shift has been David Palmer-Jones, making him a worthy winner of the Resource Hot 100.
Before taking up his new position overseeing SUEZ’s waste and recycling operations for the whole of Northern Europe, Palmer-Jones was Chief Executive Officer of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK for 11 years, leading the company’s UK recycling and recovery business. 2019 was a particularly successful year for the company, delivering billions of pounds worth of new energy-from-waste infrastructure and securing major new contracts, such as the Greater Manchester Area Waste Management Contract.
Palmer-Jones’ expertise and leadership qualities have been recognised by peers in the sector, having previously been Chairman of the Environmental Services Association (ESA) from 2012 to 2015, President of the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) between 2013 and 2017 . He is also the current Chairman of the Resource Council UK, an industry-led council working to create a value chain for waste as a resource.
Described by voters as “inspirational”, “brilliant” and with a “clear vision for a circular economy”, Palmer-Jones has drawn plenty of plaudits for his work at the head of one of the UK’s largest waste management companies.
But leadership comes in many forms, and it is perhaps Palmer-Jones’ desire to meet regularly with SUEZ employees, “enabling, supporting and nurturing key talent” at SUEZ and in the wider sector that have most endeared him to those that know and work with him.
‘Shocked and delighted’
Following the announcement of the final poll, Palmer-Jones spoke to Resource about his win: “I was shocked and delighted in equal measure to learn I had been voted number one in this year’s Hot 100. It’s an honour to be recognised by so many of my peers in this way and to follow in the footsteps of recent winners Cat Fletcher and Mike Webster, both of whom I respect and admire hugely for their contributions to our sector.
“When voting opened for the Hot 100 back in January, few of us could have anticipated the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in today. Over the last month I’ve been touched by the messages of heartfelt thanks our teams have received from communities up and down the country, signalling widespread recognition for the essential role played by our sector and its many thousands of key workers in keeping the UK running. That we have kept essential household collection services up and down the UK running with minimal disruption is testament to the power of partnership working and what we can achieve when we come together as a sector working with local and central government.
“Attention is now turning to what life will look like when we emerge from this pandemic and like many I have been pausing to reflect on what we have learned. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of resources to our economy and the fragility of our global value chains in today’s interconnected world.
“In the future, developing a strong, vibrant UK resources sector will be critical to effectively managing the flow of resources into and around our economy needed to sustain British industry. Our sector can help government rebuild a strong, sustainable circular economy, one that preserves our natural capital by developing the infrastructure needed to turn discarded materials into recycled commodities to make new products. In doing so we can bring investment to local communities, creating a wide variety of jobs from highly skilled engineering roles to entry level apprenticeships.
“The government’s environmental ambition remains undimmed and our sector has an important role to play in helping the UK become carbon-neutral by 2050. We must harness the power of partnership working to continue to move forward with the new policies needed to establish the investable conditions to support the required system and infrastructure changes that will enable the resources sector to play our part in a sustainable economic recovery for the UK.
“During my time as CEO for SUEZ in the UK, I was fortunate to have the support of a talented and dedicated team who, now under John Scanlon’s leadership, continue our important work helping government shape the future of our industry. I see this award as a recognition of their efforts as well as mine and would like to extend my thanks to them.”
We await to see how the UK waste and resources industry emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, and whether the government’s desire to continue its resources and waste reforming drive picks up where it left off. What is certain is as we enter a more uncertain world is that the UK recycling and waste industry will need more of the determined and respected leadership embodied by Palmer-Jones in the coming years, making him a worthy winner of this year’s Hot 100.
The rest of the top 10
Chairman, Eunomia Research and Consulting
"Determined to make change happen through original, forward-thinking ideas"
Dominic is Founder and Chairman of Eunomia, and has worked for over 25 years on environmental issues seeking new approaches and thinking.
Founder, City to Sea and Refill Bristol
"An innovative vision with the tenacity to pull it through and inspire others to join her"
Fee is an award-winning campaigner and founder of City to Sea who started the #switchthestick campaign and successfully persuaded all major retailers to only stock cotton buds made from paper instead of plastic. She has continued to work tirelessly to reduce marine litter including work on reusable menstrual products and reducing single use plastic bottles.
"Lifelong dedication to nature and environmental issues"
Though the impact of plastic waste on marine environments had already been one of 2017's hot topics, by highlighting it on the BBC's flagship Blue Planet II series Attenborough took the fight to new heights. His series Our Planet and one-off programme Climate Change - The Facts focused more on the climate emergency than any of his previous work, urging significant action to prvent climate disaster.
Chair of OPRL since 2009, Bevis has extended the reach of the recycling labelling system.
National Coordinator, UK Without Incineration Network
"Provides support for community groups campaigning against incineration"
Dowen is the head of the UK's grassroots anti-incineration network, working towards zero waste and encouraging community engagement.
Managing Director, BBIA
"Committed to pushing the industry beyond its potential"
Founded the BBIA in 2015 and has been at the forefront of promoting bio-based alternatives to plastic.
Head of Waste Strategy, Welsh Government
"Committed, knowledgeable and good to work with"
Rees is Head of Waste Strategy for the Welsh Government and works on the transition to a circular economy in Wales.
Managing Director, Recycling Lives
"An outstanding leader in the WEEE sector"
Allen is Managing Director of Recycling Lives Compliance Services, a unique Producer Compliance Scheme. The business is part of the national Recycling Lives Group, which comprises national waste management, recycling, car salvage, compliance and recruitment businesses, and is unique in using its commercial operations to support and sustain its own charity and social enterprise.
Last year's winner, Fletcher founded reuse platform Freegle in 2009 and has since carried out work with the University of Brighton, where she helped to create the Brighton Waste House, Europe's first building made from over 85 per cent 'waste material'.