Q&A with Zara Glew, Managing Director at Environmental Energies
In the first article in our Women in Green Technology series, Greentech spoke with Zara Glew, Managing Director at Environmental Energies. Based in the UK, the company provides a range of renewable energy solutions to commercial and residential customers. We asked Zara about her role at the company, how she got involved in sustainable technology, and her perspective on being a woman in the industry.
Greentech: Can you tell me a little bit about your company and your role there?
Zara Glew: Environmental Energies was founded in 2011, predominantly to install solar PV and other renewable energy products into, at the time, the agricultural and retail market.
Since then we have diversified into commercial new builds and, in the last year following carbon net zero 2030 and 2050 goals, we’re looking at more SMEs in the retail market.
Currently, we work with solar PV, battery storage solutions and EV chargers but we’re looking to go back into air source heat pumps. As the market grows, we’re seeing that clients are looking for a bit more of a package, especially in the domestic market.
Greentech: Have you always worked in sustainability?
Zara Glew: Originally all I ever really wanted to do was ride horses [laughs] and work with them. Later on I ended up working in the rag trade, bizarrely enough, as my father used to have a clothing business.
My husband (Simon Glew, Co-Director) and I were then doing some developing, so we stayed with the developing side. We saw how sustainability was coming into the building side and that’s how we got into renewables.
I’ve always been interested in sustainability in the scale of the planet and animals and that’s probably more my driver – the animal side. I like to think that as a company we are making a difference somewhere with climate change.
Greentech: Do you feel you have seen many significant changes since you started working in the industry?
Zara Glew: I think only recently have businesses picked up on the fact that they need to be reviewing their sustainability.
When we first started the business, it was driven by subsidies. Now the market is being driven by people actually realising that they’ve got to do something. Whether that’s because they need to reduce their energy bills or because they believe in the fact that renewable energy does help with climate change.
Greentech: Being a woman and being a director in a company, do you feel that you have had a different experience or that you have faced any challenges?
Zara Glew: I’ve never walked around with the fact or worried about the fact that I’m a woman and a director. It’s never really been an issue for me generally. I will often go into meetings around tables where there are 10 men and me but because I know my business and I believe in what I do and I believe in what I sell, I feel that I can hold my own.
I think as a woman if you are passionate about what you do and you stand fast with what you do then you’ll get on in any walk.
It’s hard. I suppose I can’t say it’s been any harder being a man or a woman because I’m only one of them. I suppose the challenge of being a woman is that you multitask on lots of other things outside of the business, such as juggling family life and work.
Greentech: Do you think your personal experience has a lot to do with the mindset that you have always had going into it?
Zara Glew: I think I’m a pretty strong character. I do believe that, whatever sex you are or whatever business you are in, if you want to get on you have to know your business and you have to be able to stand up and believe in what you are doing.
That’s where a lot of people potentially might fall down. If you don’t have that mindset you’ll trip, but that’s something you come across whoever you are.
For me, I haven’t felt that being a woman has had a negative impact. In fact, sometimes I think it can help. Sometimes when we face a problem on a site and somebody needs to pick up the telephone to solve an issue, as a woman, I think I can help to calm the situation down and balance it out.
Greentech: Are there any other positives that you can think of that women might bring to the industry, or do you think it’s an individual thing mostly?
Zara Glew: This industry is really male dominated. I can go to meetings and conventions and there are hardly any women. Especially in construction as there are a lot of men in that area, but it’s great that we are seeing more women coming into the construction side and the engineering side.
Women can bring a lot to the table. I think we are underestimated. As women, looking at myself, my friends and women I work with, we try to find solutions. I think it’s in a woman’s nature to try to placate and deal with tough situations. I think a lot more women in this business would be a great thing.
Generally, you have to be prepared to make sacrifices and have the right mindset in business. There are lots of things I have missed out on when running a business, even taking up a hobby or a sport.
You also have to be a certain person to be a boss, you have to have that want and that drive to take all that comes with it, the positives and the negatives.
I also think there are a lot more women getting into sustainability now from studying it in university.
Greentech: It’s a whole other area of technology for people to get involved in?
Zara Glew: It’s huge and it links to so much. People think “sustainability, is it just renewable energy?” but it’s not. It’s logistics, waste, water, it’s a massive market. We only touch on it as a company. There’s so much more to do and that we’d like to do.
Greentech: Is there any advice you would give to women who want to get involved in the industry?
Zara Glew: You need to understand the business and what it brings. You need to be formidable and you will go a long way. It’s a growing market now and it can lead you into lots of different avenues. There’s so much to understand and, as a woman, I would say get in there. Dig in. It’s great.
I don’t see myself as any less than a man. I know a lot of people are downtrodden and not given opportunities. It hasn’t happened to me because I’ve always been my own boss, so it’s hard for me to speak for other women.
Women would make great steps in sustainability because we so believe in it and we are passionate. I think we can really put something into it as women.
Overall, we need to get as many good people into sustainability as we can. As the market grows, you do see people mis-selling products and caring more about the money. We need the right people to drive it in the right direction. You have got to be coming into this industry for the right reasons.