I’ve spent my whole career in and around communications and public affairs. I trained as a journalist, but moved into strategic communications across the private and government sectors – managing relationships and reputations, often under challenging circumstances.

It was on just such a project that I first got to know about ERM. It revolved around transforming a car park to include some green community space – I was managing communications while ERM was tasked with stakeholder engagement. I got to know the consultant and we kept in touch. Then, when a role opened up on her team, she thought my skills would be a good fit. It turns out she was right!

Now, approaching my two-year anniversary at ERM, I can honestly say I have worked on some of the most interesting projects of my career. I’ve contributed to industrial decarbonisation strategy for governments, helped develop a framework to make the renewables industry more equitable for local communities and created engagement strategies central to planning approval on the kind of developments that have a state-wide impact.

It’s not just professionally complex and personally fulfilling – this is all crucial work, playing an invaluable role in shaping a sustainable future for everyone.

But, personally, the area of my role I’ve found most rewarding involved collaborating with some amazing colleagues in our liability portfolio management and remediation team on PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) contamination. You don’t often find projects with more impact. We worked closely with our environmental specialists to deliver clear messaging and ensure constructive discussion of people’s concerns, which taught me a lot. We’re reaching the end of one of these projects now – it’s been great to see how our work had contributed to the overall results.

There are still some people out there that consider stakeholder management as a ‘nice to have’, an optional extra. The reality is that bespoke stakeholder engagement, when it’s built into a project from the start and when it’s executed properly, is crucial to achieving strategic outcomes. Likewise, leaving it out can cost a project significant time and money. 

In short, the expertise we offer is far from nice to have, it’s absolutely vital. Thankfully, I’m part of an organisation which recognises that. So, just like the environmental specialists, the remediation experts and all our other colleagues and collaborators, we have a role that offers every opportunity to make a tangible difference, today and for the future.

Quotation mark If we don’t consult the community, if we don’t meet public expectations, we can leave the doors open for outrage to take hold and for problems around critical planning approvals later. Quotation mark

Elizabeth Rich

Managing Consultant, Sydney