Forum for the Future graduate Toby Radcliffe describes his journey from commodities trader in the city to professional ironman triathlete.
Class of: 1999 – 2000
Currently: Professional ironman triathlete and Director at Rare Earth Consulting
Why I chose the MProf
I’d studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and, towards the end of my time there, was deciding between a PhD or working in international development. But then I started thinking: I can’t go to other countries and tell people what to do when we’re getting it so wrong here! I read an article about the Masters at Forum and it seemed so interesting. It offered the chance to explore sustainable development here in the UK, across all sectors, looking at the whole picture, and that really appealed to me.
What I learnt
You can be an agent of change wherever you are. Even in the corporate sector, when an organisation might not be ready to change, you can still try! Anyone, in any job, can and should be trying to make their work more sustainable – because everything you look at has an impact. If someone says to me that sustainability isn’t important to them, what they really mean is that they don’t know what their impacts are.
Career to date
After the Masters, I went to work for the Earth Centre – the biggest white elephant after the Millennium Dome, back in the day! [This ‘world centre for sustainable development’, based in a disused colliery in Yorkshire, opened in 1999 but closed due to poor visitor numbers in 2004.] I was so underwhelmed by the management style of this NGO that I thought there must be something to learn from the corporate sector. I worked as a commodities trader in the City for five years – which was quite a change! But I was aware that I needed some knowledge of economics if I was going to be a rounded sustainability professional. Learning from the horse’s mouth in the workplace like that was fascinating. In the long term, though, I couldn’t face the soulless, corporate grind. So, I left to finish a Masters in Financial Economics, become a professional athlete, and then set up my own sustainability consultancy.
What I plan to do next
I plan to carry on as a professional athlete, with my consultancy business alongside it, until I have kids. The peak age for ironman competitors is 36, so I’ve got a few more years in me. From there, I’ll grow the consultancy, and use sporting events as discrete projects to educate organisations more broadly about sustainability management. People find it easier to wrap their heads around an achievable project, like a sports event, as a starting point – and then they can apply what they have learnt to their organisation more widely.
Advice for future leaders
Find out what sustainability means to you, and what you’re passionate about, and use that as your tool to face the world.
Toby Radcliffe was in conversation with Katie Shaw.