Matt Smith, head of sustainability at Shaftesbury, on how he got started in property. He also shares his cultural recommendations, the celebrity he’d most like to meet and how he’d spend a million pounds.
How did you join the property industry?
I started my career in the property re-insurance industry before deciding I was better suited to sustainability after attending a seminar at the Royal Geographical Society. Fortunately, I found a sustainability role with a large property company that was willing to take on someone with a slightly different skillset.
What does your job entail?
I lead the development and implementation of Shaftesbury’s sustainability strategy. This principally involves working with colleagues from across the business to set challenging targets and achieve our aspirations to have an increasingly positive environmental and social impact. I am only a year into the role but in a fortunate position of building on a lot of good work.
What do you like most about the property industry?
There is something very satisfying in being able to see a project go from concept through the design process to physical completion. As an industry, we have a huge opportunity to make a positive impact on society and the environment. Get it right and the spaces we create and manage will be successful long into the future.
And what do you dislike most about it?
As an industry we often still suffer from a lack of diversity and in recognising the benefits that it will bring. I think progress is being made but there remains a long way to go. More diverse teams can better reflect our local communities and customers while bringing different perspectives to foster the innovation and creativity needed to tackle many of the sustainability challenges we face.
What do you want to change about the property industry?
I would like us to be able to accelerate the speed of change, from addressing sustainability issues to increasing diversity and embracing new technology. It is great to see companies responding to the challenges of climate change and I am excited to see how this momentum grows.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
My challenge used to be one of building a business case for sustainability and convincing people of the long-term benefits of an investment. I think we have made a lot of progress as an industry and the often bigger challenge now is keeping up with the aspirations of my colleagues.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Sustainability is increasingly being discussed among friends, so I am proud to be in a position to talk about my role and involvement on projects trying to tackle some of the issues.
What do you value in people?
Positivity, honesty and open-mindedness.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
There are many different career paths in the property industry so be open to change if new opportunities present themselves. I think finding a suitable mentor can also be a great benefit at any stage of your career.