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Otto Terrell: Inspiring Change in Sustainability

Otto Terrell: Inspiring Change in Sustainability

‘To put it bluntly, I don’t think real change can be achieved by activism alone, you need to engage, influence and inspire people from a position of authority from within an industry. Getting on the inside of the energy sector is my way of doing that.’ 

Otto Terrell is a Senior Sustainability Consultant for True and is somebody with a strong understanding of the problems facing organisations on the journey towards a net zero future, having worked with a range of large-scale businesses to overcome energy and sustainability challenges. 

As part of the ChangeMakers initiative by True, in which leading figures from across the sustainability sector share their stories, insights and hard-hitting truths, Otto provides a key perspective on the state of affairs within the energy and sustainability sectors whilst also highlighting how others can maximise their impact and make change on a global scale. 


You can’t Tick a Box to Save the World 

Otto Terrell was the sort of young person who enjoyed causing trouble for his parents while on holiday, smuggling interesting rocks into suitcases and filling bottles full of sand to take home. It’s fair to say his fascination with geoscience was evident from a young age. 

“I’ve been captivated with the science of our planet for as long as I can remember and I was fortunate enough to have a teacher in high school who was the most inspiring person you could imagine. Without her, I wouldn’t have the career I have today because she encouraged me to take Geography at A-level which led me on to study Earth Science at Newcastle University.” 

“If there is anybody thinking about a career in energy or sustainability, or they know a young person that is interested in the subject, I would highly recommend the course because you study every aspect of the geoscience sector leaving you with a high and broad level of employability."

"I was equally left with a deep sense of how the planet was formed, how life began and the incredible nature, beauty and complexity of the environment we live in.” 

“After graduating from Newcastle, I knew I wanted to make a positive impact on the planet that I had learned so much about. If there is one thing that continues to drive me, it’s the thought of looking back on my life at the end of my days, being able to say that I made a tangible change at a global scale.” 

Otto went on to complete a master's degree in petroleum Geoscience at Imperial College London which, despite preparing many students for a career in the oil & gas industry, furthered his understanding of the challenges faced by the energy sector that were slowing and preventing the green transition.

“I maintained a strong desire to work in sustainability and, in a way, learned exactly what I would be up against in oil & gas. One of the most important lessons I learned was from a guest lecturer from one of the large energy companies, who worked within their sustainability department. I stayed behind to ask her advice on entering into the renewable energy industry.” 

“She made a strong case for working from within the industry in order to make change! To put it bluntly, she told me that fighting for a cause, against some of the largest organisations on the planet, was an almost impossible task because you’re having to work with activist organisations, startups and renewable technology firms that are low in funding and often portrayed as knowledge-lacking ‘hippies’ by energy companies, the government and the media." 

“Although somewhat counterintuitive, it was clear that more change could be made working alongside emissions producers and helping them from the inside. The key issue, when it comes to energy and sustainability, is that we cannot (yet) survive without fossil fuels and if you turned off the pumps tomorrow, we would not be able to function as a society. Green energy has a long way to go before the world can support its population so, it’s not as simple as just stopping fossil fuel production...”  

“However, you only have to look at the exploitative nature of the oil & gas sector to realise how carnivorous it is. It doesn’t help that the UK government continues to give out new licenses for drilling for fossil fuels. We need to prioritise investments in renewables if we have any hope of achieving a net zero future by 2050. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the government has the slightest intention of doing that.” 

“That’s why it’s so important for businesses to take the reigns and work to improve their own sustainability initiatives, but it’s a huge challenge! I was knocked down a few pegs in my early days when I was pushing CFOs to invest large sums of money into carbon cutting initiatives, their reply was strong and consistent. ‘Why would I invest a million pounds into a technology that won’t provide a return for 3-5 years and the only impact is carbon reductions?’."

“That was a wakeup call and I realised I needed to provide a solid business case that combined with sustainability initiatives, if they were to be approved.” 

Having learned a number of harsh lessons, redefined his approach and continued his learning process, Otto can now boast   a significantly higher rate of success, having been instrumental in managing the end-to-end process of implementing large-scale sustainability projects for a number of businesses across the UK including: Watford Football Club, Jacksons Fencing, Sheffield Forgemasters International and New England Seafood International.  

“I mainly work with wind and solar energy projects, helping businesses to connect with top class suppliers before managing the project on the business’ behalf, ensuring projects are delivered on time, within budget and with long-term success. However, no two projects are the same and it’s always exciting working with open minded clients willing to adapt their decarbonisation strategies as we move through projects so that we can streamline and expedite their savings and further reduce emissions.”  


“I’m extremely passionate about delivering projects that significantly reduce carbon emissions for businesses, while also generating renewable energy which provides long-term energy & financial security. I’m lucky to have been able to find a position with True, in which I feel I’m making a material difference to the planet.”


Small Steps to Achieve Giant Leaps

For many businesses operating in the UK, starting their journey towards a net zero future can be daunting considering most don’t know where to start, however as highlighted by Otto, making small steps and working with specialists is the best way to begin the journey.  

“We work with a range of carbon consultancies and I would highly recommend that all businesses make use of such a service. Carbon consultancies provide businesses with an accurate picture of their carbon footprint and where their emissions are being generated from. You can only address an issue if you’re aware of it. Learning about Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions is a great place to start and you can learn what that means with this little explainer video from my colleague, Jonno!” 



“I would also encourage anyone that works for a business to question the sustainability credentials of their own organisation. We should all be holding each other accountable. With enough people asking questions from the inside of businesses, we will see real long-term change. Unfortunately, it’s easy for large businesses to ignore activists that call for change from the outside under the guise of ‘they don't understand the challenges we face’ but if their own employees are demanding better environmental standards, it’s much harder to dismiss."

"We can all be ChangeMakers in our own small way and every contribution to the wider cause counts.” 

“We have a planet-wide issue across every part of society at the moment, from education to manufacturing, the media and food production. It’s hard to find a space which isn’t operating properly and causing massive harm to the environment. If you want to make a change, use your passion and apply it to making the world a better place. If you love teaching, go and teach people about living more sustainably. If you love tech, find a company that is developing tools to reduce emissions or generate green power. There is an incredible variety of opportunities to take.”  

For Otto, there is no other choice and, as somebody who admits to making five-year plans from the age of ten, it’s clear that there is no limit to his ambitions for the future. 

“I would love to be sitting in a room with a team of ten people, with each person being responsible for sustainability projects in specific regions around the world. To be able to have one person feeding me information and intelligence from the US, one covering EMEA, another for Asia etc, that would provide me with the power to make the kind of change that I, and the team at True, is aiming for.” 

Connect with Otto on Linkedin, here.

To begin your sustainability journey with Otto and the True team, share your details, here.