Tom Eveleigh is Strategic Category Manager – Energy & Environment at Mitie, a leading facilities management and professional services company in the UK.
For our latest Big Interview, James Dobbin spoke with Tom about his career in Procurement and what changes we are likely to see in regard to Sustainability.
Can you give us an overview of your experience to date, what lead you to Mitie, and what your role here consists of?
I have been in Procurement for just over a decade in roles in the Middle East, Europe and here in the UK so I have been in a few different industries. Initially in Education with a focus on FM and in the last 5 or 6 years with FM service providers with outsourced providers such as Mitie.
I joined Mitie at the start of last year, managing what we call our Energy and Environment category, so that is anything from HVAC, Building Management Systems and, increasingly, renewable energy projects.
I recently picked up Fire & Security as well, so anything that is responsible for the building’s internal conditions. A lot of exciting stuff, especially in the renewables area, Mitie has got an entire vertical of the business that we call Plan Zero (now, ‘Decarbonisation Delivered’) which is built to help decarbonise Britain’s built estate.
So yes, this is a very dynamic area and we get to have a massive impact on the business and our clients.
Has sustainability always been high on your agenda?
Yes, recently more so than ever and I think in the last ten years it is now on everybody’s agenda, no matter what role or what sector or industry they are in.
Certainly, it has always been a personal focus, I think a lot of people of this generation has grown up with climate change, energy and sustainability being an evergreen topic in the media.
Increasingly now I think it is a business imperative from consumer demand but also as a real value focus for a lot of organisations, embedding it in the way it does everything be it as a producer or consumer.
What is Mitie doing around sustainability and how does Mitie play into that?
All sorts. As I mentioned. we are heavily focused on monitoring and controlling tier 1 and tier 2 emissions; what we do as a business internally.
We have got a fleet of thousands of vehicles, the majority of which have been electrified now and we are increasing our focus on tracking scope 3 emissions, or everything that our supply chain does and understanding how they emit as well, capturing data around their own emissions and building that into our strategy to try to understand how we can incentivise that the right behaviour and decision-making.
We also have a suite of solutions that we provide for our clients around de-carbonising their estate, so end-to-end from our own supply chain through to our customers and our end users.
What do you think are some of the future trends we might see around the topic of sustainability?
I think in our environment there are a couple of things.
For one, the imperative now isn’t just to control carbon emissions because it is a metric that is externally imposed but also with volatility in energy prices there is an increasing focus on building energy resilience and making sure that you have cost controls around that as well so that plays into the renewables initiative, and we are already seeing exponential investment growth in renewables since the year 2000.
Increasingly, in terms of FM, construction and the build estate I think that the concept of the ‘Circular Economy’ is a theme that is going to be increasingly on people’s agendas.
I just came from a conference today that had at least two topics I saw that were focused around exactly that – moving away from a linear end-to-end supply chain where the default function is where you dispose of materials at the end of that process, to something that is more circular, focusing on regenerating materials, recycling, end-of-life management, cradle-to-cradle design processes and so on.
So we (as supply chain professionals) are going to have to learn to build in recycling and reverse logistics into supply chain planning.
So, we are taking raw materials rather than just defaulting to disposable and disposing of them we are actually incorporating them back into the supply chain, so it is a much more natural way of managing the flow of materials through the supply chain.
Another thing that I keep touching on is Servitization, or ‘X as a service’; the idea of taking products that we use in everyday life as consumers [and packaging their use as a service], so where we would have had a stack of CDs 20 years ago, it is taking something that used to be a physical product and digitalising it.
If you look at heating and air conditioning for example, I think there is an increasing demand for manufacturers to move away from just manufacturing and selling products to adopting the end-to-end view so they are looking at how that product is used cradle to grave.
The result is selling ‘energy as a service’, ‘heat as a service’ and so on, so they are as responsible for performance over the lifetime of the asset, the consumption, depreciation, and the emissions of their products in use as the consumer is.
They have ‘skin in the game’. That is definitely going to have an impact on the responsible use of plant and assets moving forward and I think it is really in its infancy.
I read something that said ‘In the future you will have nothing, and you will be happy’ – do you think that is where we are going?
I think more options around how we achieve the results we are looking for is always a good thing.
Reducing capital outflows, if you take something like driving, you can look at startups like Zipcar and a lot of these B2C technology-driven platforms taking products that usually involve large capital outflows, large CapEx investment and set a fee basically for cost in use.
In the grand scheme of things I don’t know how big an impact Servitization will have, but certainly in terms of converting capital-intensive assets to operating expenses there is almost an unlimited number of things you could do there from a business perspective if you are a manufacturer; different ways you can take a ‘product’ to market.
Did you want to get into Procurement? How did you get into it?
Having worked abroad in places like Dubai, what have you learned and what would you say about the profession as a viable career?
Let me answer the second part first.
For me, there are very few roles where you have such a broad range of potential stakeholders you are going to be working with.
You access potentially every part of the business and depending on which categories you are managing or which customers or business units you might be aligned to you really can get embedded with a lot of senior people very early on.
You can get involved in very strategic conversations with brilliant people right off the bat. In that respect, I think Procurement, supply chain and category management is fairly unique and that is one of the biggest pay-offs of this profession.
Granted, it can be a struggle to implement strategy and get stakeholders bought in but if you embrace the challenge, then it’s half the fun, to be honest.
Gaining credibility and being challenged to sell new ways of working into the business is a big plus. Like most of us, I didn’t choose a career route that involved procurement. I came from a finance background and fell into it by a series of happy accidents.
That said, I don’t think as a career path it is advertised well enough. In manufacturing, especially in automotive, supply chain and direct procurement is embedded in a lot of conversations but just look at the contribution that indirect Procurement or Procurement across the board can have on almost any industry in any sector, private or public.
The impact that we can have if Procurement is done right is enormous. As far as my experience working abroad, that was a bit of a blessing in disguise. You are forced to overcome cultural hurdles; it is a bit of a baptism of fire as you have to not only work with a diverse set of stakeholders in terms of what their requirements and influence is, and their understanding of Procurement but also a completely diverse set of cultural assumptions and backgrounds. So that is something I had to learn on my feet.
For someone who is considering Procurement as a profession, what do you think are the raw skills someone needs?
Where I think most people’s heads go to immediately is negotiation and the stereotypical view of what traditional Procurement is, but especially for me, what I think it is about is building relationships, not just with the suppliers but with internal stakeholders is absolutely paramount.
Also, to be able to think strategically beyond transactional Procurement, beyond the RFP to be able to think broadly about an entire category and how it fits in your company’s go-to-market approach and be able to understand how you are contributing to operating profit is critical.
I think data is obviously becoming more and more important.
A big thing for me is analytical skills. You can do a lot of work with Excel but to be honest there are so many programmes available but the ability to take large volumes of raw data, make sense of it, summarise it, draw conclusions from it and then (crucially) communicate that back to your audience in terms of what the strategy is, is paramount.
That is something that I think can be taught and is something I wish I had focused on more 15 or so years ago.
What do you like to do outside work?
I have young kids so I spend pretty much all my free time with them. We live in a rural spot so we do a lot of hiking and walk a lot.
Used to do a lot of cycling, but not so much anymore with infants around. I also used to be a musician, I played guitar for 20 years.