How Shadow Boards provide a platform for greater representation, diversity and opportunity.
Where we started
It’s January 2022, the days are short in the northern hemisphere, the mornings are cold (though not as cold as they used to be on our ever-warming planet), and a new cohort of 11 Renewable Shadow Board members have just been appointed. Full of excitement, enthusiasm, and willingness to listen and learn, and a passion to challenge constructively, bringing a new diversity of voices to the Renewable UK Senior Leadership team (SLT) and Board.
What we’ve achieved
Roll forward two years, and we’re coming to the close of our tenure. Here are a few notes on our shared thoughts from this time, how our collective voice has grown, how we have steered and supported RenewableUK in our own way, and words of wisdom and encouragement shared with us that we’d like to share onwards to the new Shadow Board and anyone reading.
In the last 2 years we have seen many changes across the renewables industry and wider global context. COP26 brought hope in the commitment to 1.5°C, COP27 fell somewhat short on reinforcing commitments to phase out fossil fuels, but achieved the starting point for the Loss and Damage Fund and saw the launch of the collaboration driven Global Offshore Wind Alliance, COP28 is just kicking off and there are concerns around commitments being diluted but still hope from those of us working in the renewables sector that renewable energy commitments at least will continue to be an ever larger part of the global solution to net zero.
Closer to home, the UK has seen: The British Energy Security strategy (with 50GW of offshore wind by 2030, including 5GW of floating wind; commitments to accelerate consenting; and 5GW of green hydrogen targeted); ongoing work on grid reform and future network design with OTNR and HND; expansion of the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP) and establishment of the Industrial Growth Plan for Offshore Wind, coming out of Tim Pick’s UK Offshore Wind Champion recommendations; AR4 and AR5 (with no offshore wind but a number of solar, onshore wind and tidal stream projects being successful); Review of Electricity Market Arrangements (REMA); the Onshore Wind Sector Deal; and countless renewable developments coming online despite the many sector challenges (40% of the UK’s electricity supply in 2022 was from renewable sources and 2023 is set to continue this trend of increasing contribution at 42% in Q2 2023).An example of getting on and delivering in the UK is the completion of Hornsea 2 Offshore Windfarm in August 2022, supporting circa 600 high quality jobs in the Humber and powering around 1.4 million UK homes.
Against this complex and ever evolving backdrop, as the second RenewableUK Shadow Board cohort we took time to really understand RUK’s strategic direction and always looked to add value to conversation and developments in key areas, our input has been diverse across the Board meetings during our tenure, as well as focused on 3 specific areas.
We have all had the opportunity to add our voice to critical Board level discussions, and have been welcomed into those conversations, listened to, and supported. Collectively we cannot thank the individuals across the Board and RUK senior leadership team enough for your enthusiastic and welcoming approach. You are truly exemplar and industry leading in your decision to have a Shadow Board (something we discussed in our IWD 2023 Blog and in the many opportunities where we were asked to contribute to research, consideration of and forming of Shadow Boards and their value in a wider setting, including in KPMG’s recent Leaders 2050 report). The fact that the RUK Shadow Board construct is looked up to by so many, and held example, is testament to this forward-thinking approach.
And our view is that this reflects RUK’s forward-thinking approach across the organisation and the renewables industry, leading by example, and giving a platform to a diversity of voices to support the future shape of our rapidly growing and changing sector.
We formed 3 focus groups tackling “Engagement”, “Regions” and “Onshore renewables” dedicating time as a cohort to discuss challenges and actions, working with RUK’s SLT and the Board to accelerate strategy across these areas.
Through these focus areas, and more broadly, we have:
- Attended and spoken on panels at over 10 RUK and other industry events, representing the Shadow Board and RUK
- We also delivered alongside the RUK team several key activities linked to events. Especially memorable were the “women into wind” event at Global Offshore Wind in Summer 2023 and at the same event an inspiring session with a local school which was much enjoyed by the children and adults alike!
- Shared our thoughts in a total of 12 blogs covering Black History Month, International Women’s Day, RUK Events and 9 Regional focused blogs:
- Given focus to onshore renewables through: providing community benefits case studies which have been used in several RUK responses to government consultations and policy papers; supported with positioning of RUK approach to Onshore wind during across the period of “lifting” of the de-facto ban on Onshore Wind in England); supported various media campaigns including “Clean and green Energy” plus “Keeping Warm this Winter”; and supported with positioning on “debunking myths” around Onshore wind.
- Contributed to the refreshed engagement structure across RUK membership, through contributions to:the Strategic Messaging framework; the Strategic Committee & Working Group refreshed structure and Terms of Reference; the Members Charter; the RUK brand refresh and planned website updates; and evolving thinking on member communications around wider multi-media assets bringing key information in bitesize nuggets to a range of audiences.
- Supported the Future Leaders events across 2022 and the upcoming 6th December 2023 event inputting to planning, hosting and speaking.
The value of Shadow Boards…
“Shadow boards are designed to bring in younger leaders at the top strategic level, allowing for insight and challenges from these voices to push ambitions further and faster towards net zero and other sustainability targets.” “Women on Boards UK and RenewableUK have just finished a project supporting young professionals who sit on their shadow board. The shadow board consists of a group of non-executive employees from Renewable UK member organisations including Siemens Gamesa RWE and ScottishPower. The project has shown that shadow boards are effective at engaging a broad range of talent at a strategic level, with a high potential for lasting benefits to those professionals’ careers in the strategic skills learnt.” The Energy Institute
Our International Women’s Day 2023 blog asked the question: 'How can we address the greatest challenge of our time, climate breakdown, and realise a sustainable net-zero future with equity for all without diversification of voice around the tables, in our communities, in the boots on the ground?’
One way to ensure diversity of voice is through Shadow Boards. The Renewable UK Shadow Board’s primary objective is to bring greater diversity of voices into key strategic, policy and operational decision making, strengthening Renewable UK as an organisation and supporting a forward direction that better represents our industry and communities through a process of engagement, positive disruption, challenge and advocacy.
Renewable UK is one of a small group of organisations currently pioneering the addition of a ‘Shadow Board’ or ‘Future Board’, in what is seen to be a growing trend, with benefits for the organisation, as well as benefiting individuals across the Senior Leadership team, the Board and the Shadow Board through the natural process of reverse-mentoring that is created.
Across the incoming Renewable UK Shadow Board cohort, there is representation across many areas of expertise, geographic regions, diversity, and a range of experiences that no doubt will encourage continued healthy discussion and debate.
Without discussion and challenge, we risk an echo chamber effect of self-confirmation and gratification that the ideas we first arrive on are the best. Through a broader collection of voices, being open to challenge and actively listening, we should arrive at better decisions.
It is this collective experience and culture of trust that supports creativity, innovation, focus and hope for a sustainable and equitable future.
“Since establishing the Shadow Board in December 2019 we have gained a unique conduit to fresh ideas from talented up and coming women and men from diverse backgrounds. The Shadow Board provides insight and analysis from a different perspective, and in return receive valuable Board-level experience. RenewableUK is keen to play a pro-active role in developing the careers of our members, so they can step up to the top table.”
Stephen Bull, Executive Vice President Renewables at Aker Solutions and Chair of RenewableUK 2018-2023
How we’ve grown…a few thoughts from the outgoing Shadow Board
This list (and we did really want to avoid a list, so well done and thank you if you’re still reading!), summarises a snapshot of a far deeper and wealthier experience than it is possible to get down on paper… but here goes…
Laura Petrie, Senior Project Manager, Galileo:"I was once told as a professional that I could not be considered, nor even consulted, over an opportunity because I was single with a child. Neither status has held me back from achieving my goals, nor should it be a barrier for others.
Fast forward to attending RUK’s brilliant Future Leader event and being inspired to apply to the game changing RUK Shadow Board, I now know we are not only influencing future leaders, but we can also reach current ones who don’t think they have that option. Being part of this incredible and supportive Shadow Board has taught me that there is a place for every woman in the board room. We all know diversity on boards ensures more stakeholders are represented, brings broader views and improved variety of experiences, but by excluding mothers from boards, you’re essentially giving women who go on to have children an expiry date. Including us creates a culture change that demonstrates actual commitment to nurturing female talent, rather than lip service. Meanwhile, my daughter is directly influenced by this wonderful group, she witnesses her mother’s voice being respected and encouraged, and she now knows she can achieve anything.”
Julia Roope, Global Business Development Manager Offshore Wind, Fugro: When I sat down in my first Shadow Board meeting in RenewableUK’s office back in March 2022 I knew this experience was going to be something special. What I didn’t know then was the incredible range of insights and experiences being a member of the Shadow Board would bring. One of the biggest rewards is how much I have learnt. RenewableUK has offered us unique insights into how the organisation is run, the opportunity to lead and support initiatives shaping the future direction of the company, and experience of how boards work, preparing us to take on board level roles in the future.
The people that I’ve met, including the RenewableUK team, members of the Board and my fellow Shadow Board members have taught me so much, from a deeper insight into the industry and the diversity of roles and skills that support it, to leadership skills, as well as learning more about myself and what truly drives me. There have been opportunities to raise my profile through attending conferences, speaking on panels and writing blogs, as well as growing my professional network. The incredible people that I have met have reinforced my passion for the renewable energy industry and its role in reaching net zero. I know that when my tenure on the Shadow Board ends, I will be left with a wealth of experience and friends for life.”
Beccie Drake, Offshore Wind Digital Lead at Arup: “One of the things I’ve valued most about being a Shadow Board member is the ‘feeling of coming home’ to a peer group of inspiring individuals who share such a passion and drive for the renewables industry and who are all striving to have a positive impact in our fight against climate breakdown. As part of this diverse group, I feel that the small contribution I can make individually to achieving net zero, is amplified and our willingness to debate topics, share views and provide a collective steer back to Renewable UK I believe will strengthen the direction of the renewables industry. My experiences on the Shadow Board have no doubt set me up to continue using my voice to advocate for our sector and in the fight for net zero.”
Helen K Thomas, Senior Supply Chain Manager at RWE & Future Leader Award Winner 2022 “One of the many benefits that a Shadow Board provides aspiring leaders is the opportunity to have direct engagement or ‘airtime’ with the senior leaders in our industry. Embarking on your personal journey into leadership is incredibly exciting but can be daunting too. It’s therefore really important to be amongst existing leaders, to witness their style and approach, to learn from them and even more so, to be able to constructively and respectfully challenge them. That’s of course how diverse minds grow and how true equity can be achieved. My personal experience of being on the Renewable UK Shadow Board has been invaluable – all contributions are respected and listened to by the senior Board, and I am continuously shaping my own authentic leadership style, whilst being supported by and growing alongside my peers.”
Kerry Hayes, Floating Wind Project Development Manager at Simply Blue Group: Chairing the Shadow Board has been an absolute privilege. Thanks to everyone, from the Shadow Board to the board and to the fantastic RenewableUK team. Insecurity meant I nearly didn’t apply for the Shadow Board and if I did get in, I definitely was NOT going to apply to be Chair. It is safe to say I regret absolutely nothing about deciding to make either leap. The whole experience has not only been an unrivalled career development opportunity, but it has been flipping good fun too. I have learnt so much and have loved every minute of getting to work with the talented, hardworking and dedicated RenewableUK team, board and fellow Shadow Board members. Since taking up the Shadow Board I have achieved my goal of gaining my first board director position and I credit the RUK Shadow Board opportunity with helping me get there!
Alex Fowler,Head of Offshore Sales Service Extensions/ Aftermarket at Siemens Gamesa: Being a member of the RUK Shadow Board has been one of the most enjoyable roles of my life. From a knowledge perspective I have learnt much about the wider renewable energy sector and the importance of policy, grid, skills and many other factors combining to enable successful delivery. What has been even more valuable though is the experience of connecting with new people working in the industry, with different backgrounds, perspectives and specialisms. Lasting friendships have been formed alongside a network which I hope to enjoy for many years to come in this exciting industry. So, whilst my tenure as a Shadow Board member may be ending, it is not with sadness, but full of hope and energy that I now look forward and strive to make a positive impact and support the next cohorts of “shadow boarders!”
Johnny Love, Senior Project Manager OWC "I wasn't quite sure how being a Shadow Board member would be, but I knew it would be good. Actually, it was great! Wholeheartedly I'd say it has been a huge privilege and my career highlight to date - thank you RenewableUK and all of those who contributed and made it possible! As I step down and look back, I see that I have experienced so much along the way and that I have gained a wealth of knowledge about this industry and myself too. I got to know really well some amazing people, who have supported, taught, challenged and inspired me, all whilst working with the RUK team and main Board over a turbulent and exciting couple of years for the industry. It has been an enriching experience. Looking forward, I'm excited to see what's next in store for my fellow Shadow Boarders and how the new cohort get on - good luck to you all, I hope you'll love it as much as we have!"
Amisha Patel, Director Global Public Affairs (on Secondment to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) from Mainstream Renewable Power:
As a diverse group of professionals from across the membership we quickly learnt the different motivations and drivers for wanting to join the RUK Shadow Board. The differences enhanced the experience. Together we have not only actively engaged in RUK’s strategy and work but have challenged and brought about needed changes which has been welcomed by the main board and RUK team. The opportunity is unique and beneficial for anyone interested in developing board skills, learning from others and above all driving the mandate for renewables forward.
Rakesh Chand, Head of Business Support, SPR Offshore Business:
Do I belong? This is the question that I asked myself when applying to join the RUK Shadow Board. As a person of colour and a non-engineer from Scotland, do I belong and can I succeed as a leader within the sector. Selection into the RUK Shadow Board confirmed it and connecting with my fellow Shadow Board members reinforced it! I endeavour daily to be a leader and positive role model within the Renewables industry, and this opportunity provided me with the opportunity to learn to become a better version of myself in both those roles. Learning from and the opportunity to challenge, the RUK team and Senior Leaders from across the sector I have gained knowledge and insight into what it takes to reach Net Zero and reinforced my passion for this sector. I aspire to be a champion of Diversity & Inclusion within this sector. In order to reach our North Star, we require all people. The Shadow Board has provided me the platform to raise my voice louder and gain support to ensure that the sector grows with passion and inclusivity at its core! With my fellow Shadow Board members, I have found my tribe! Friends for life that support, advise, encourage and inspire me daily to be better! Ask me again, Do I belong? YES!!!!!
Tom Woolerton, Senior Investment Manager, Octopus Energy Generation: This has been such a rich experience. It's helped us all to think around and discuss important topics that are in the renewables sphere but not necessarily typical of what we each deal within our day jobs. So,we've been able to develop individually as well as provide fresh insights, challenges and ideas to Renewable UK. An added bonus is that we've each come out of it having built a strong network with one another, that I have no doubt will last long beyond when our tenure comes to an end. I'd like to say a big thank you to Renewable UK for having the vision to implement a Shadow Board (they still aren't very common - but they should be), and for properly committing to it, supporting it, and valuing it.
Alwyn Poulter, Public and Regulatory Affairs Manager, Vattenfall: The Shadow Board has been an incredible experience. It has provided an opportunity to help steer the future of our fast-paced renewable sector, grow my network and have a real impact on RenewableUK’s direction. It’s a fantastic privilege to be part of the Shadow Board.
A farewell and thank you…
Thank you to Renewable UK and the Renewable UK Board for demonstrating unequivocable support and appreciation of the broader range of voices the outgoing 2022-23 Shadow Board cohort has brought, and the incoming 23-24 Shadow Board cohort will no doubt bring in great measure.
As a final sign-off, we look forward to seeing the continued progress and collaboration across RUK, the Board and the Shadow Board, and as alumni we will continue to work with you all for the exciting future of the renewables sector.
With thanks to Kerry Hayes (RenewableUK Shadow Board Chair), Alex Fowler (RenewableUK Shadow Board Vice Chair), Alwyn Poulter, Amisha Patel, Beccie Drake, Helen Thomas, Jonathan Love, Julia Roope, Laura Petrie, Tom Woolerton, Rakesh Chand.