Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How Ketan Dattani Of Buckingham Futures Is Helping To Change Our World
An Interview With Martita Mestey
Believe in yourself. You decide what is possible for you. Dare to believe you can be the best, and make it happen. Embrace challenges and setbacks as defining moments, learn from them and use them as springboards.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”,I had the pleasure of interviewing Ketan Dattani.
Ketan Dattani is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur. He holds 25 years of Environmental Health recruitment experience and has a high profile within the sector.
He is widely documented as an expert on Employment Law, Employee rights and for providing Careers Advice.
Ketan is the Founding Owner and CEO of Buckingham Futures, a specialist Environmental Health Recruitment Business that provides bespoke permanent and temporary recruitment and consultancy solutions to public and private sector employers.
Academically Ketan holds a degree in Environmental Biology and a Masters degree in Environmental Planning and Management. He also holds a Certificate in Employment Law and The Certificate in Recruitment Practice which is a nationally recognised recruitment qualification developed jointly by the REC and key employers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Hello, and thank you for the opportunity!
I have a wonderful family; supportive parents, a beautiful wife, four incredible children an eccentric Bulldog. I absolutely love my life. But my story wasn’t always so rosy.
I was born in Leicester in the early 1970s after my parents were forced to come to the UK from their birthplace of Uganda by Idi Amin the military dictator.
In London, our economic situation wasn’t the best. We lived in a rented room until the birth of my sister. It was then that we were allocated council housing.
Sadly, there were not many prospects in my area however there were abundant
difficulties with social deprivation, racial violence and substance abuse.
If I’m really honest I’ve spent most of my childhood years doubting myself. As the only Asian kid in my South-east London Council Estate, I really lacked confidence due to daily racist taunts and often violence as well. I found myself constantly looking for the approval of others, and desperately wanting to be accepted and fit in.
As I reached adolescence, I rebelled and my fears manifested as a series of failures. My unshakeable belief in my ineptitude stopped me from truly trying to succeed. Unwittingly, I was conforming to a self-fulfilling prophecy I’d set for myself.
Having failed in the school system it was my avid interest in Environmental matters that led me back to education and to my academic choices of undertaking a degree in Environmental Biology and a Masters degree in Environmental Planning and Management.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
I set up Buckingham Futures in 2013, a specialist Consultancy supplying Environmental Health personnel across the Private and Public sectors on a nationwide basis as I identified an opportunity to aid Environmental Health professionals to fill the gap in the employment sector caused by significant challenges to the global economy caused population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, soaring costs of energy and escalating impacts of climate change.
My philosophy is one whereby Environmental factors are drivers of my business success. This means that we always go the extra mile to understand the business objectives and operating environments of our clients.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
As with many people in the Environmental field, my career path has stemmed from my deeply rooted love for nature and unbridled interest in understanding natural ecosystems. As far back as I can remember, I loved animals, plants, and trees — really anything that was outdoors and wild. Simply put, I was fascinated by the natural world.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Sadly the 1980s were an era of ceaseless ecological ignorance and I found that most of my peers were content to watch the world go by, detached from the conservation and ecological issues plaguing our environment.
During my adolescence, regrettably, I got mixed up with the wrong crowd and as a consequence, under the supervision of the probation service I had to undertake 300 hours of unpaid work which included clearing public land of fly-tipping, fixing footpaths, and removing graffiti in public spaces.
Ironically it was this hands-on work in an outdoor setting that gave me real-life environmental experience that boosted my interest and enthusiasm for environmental issues and helped me aspire for a brighter greener future.
Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
Since stepping away from the ‘rat race’ and starting Buckingham Futures in 2013, I’ve had the chance to see my dreams come to fruition.
I started Buckingham Futures for personal and professional fulfillment. I love to accomplish goals and feel as if I am contributing to something important, an overarching vision for what I can create, and am motivated by change, challenge, and diverse problems to solve.
I was very motivated by the idea of creating something from the ground up. Making the jump from being an employee to starting my own company was very exhilarating, rewarding, and fun, but was exhausting, relentless, and stressful in equal measures.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting story since I started my career is how and why in 2013, I left my corporate recruitment career and started my own business Buckingham Futures.
It was undoubtedly the biggest career risk I ever took was to quit a very well-paid career to set up a self-funded Environmental Health Recruitment Business from scratch from my parent’s box room.
It has been said, that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Do you have a story about a humorous mistake that you made when you were first starting and the lesson you learned from that?
When I first set up Buckingham Futures, I found that most clients were unwilling to do business with a ‘one-man-band’ and I felt that in order to succeed I needed to give the impression that Buckingham Futures was a bigger business than it actually was.
I look back on the early days and laugh now but I used to play YouTube videos of a busy office environment in the background when calling clients.
I invested in a virtual business address to help add credibility to Buckingham Futures as I felt would be easier to successfully attract clients by having a ‘brick and mortar’ location.
My business cards showed a prestigious central London location, all my mail was posted there and I would arrange to meet with clients in the reception area of my virtual office and conduct our meetings in nearby cafes.
This set-up was running well for about 8 months. Then one day I received a call from a client to say that she was in London for the afternoon and would love the opportunity to meet with me and my team in person to thank us for everything we had done for her and that she would be at my office in less than 10 minutes.
The problem was that it took me over an hour to get to my virtual office from my parent’s box (where my actual office was) and there was no way I’d be there in 10 minutes. I was afraid that the receptionists would let the ‘cat out of the bag’ and tell her that Buckingham Futures did not have an office, let alone a team based there! I felt that had no choice but to come clean about my business setup.
It was on this day that I learned that the most imperative quality clients look for is authenticity. To be authentic can be the difference between failing or succeeding.
It is not easy, as being authentic is as much about revealing your flaws as playing to your strengths. It is often tempting to put up a front of total competence rather than risk looking vulnerable.
However, authenticity is a key ingredient in running a successful business and leading a great team.
As the business has grown, I remember to always remain authentic and to never lose that openness and willingness to connect with people.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I credit my mother for some of the most valuable life advice over the years. I would not be the person I am today without her unconditional love.
Throughout the years, I have witnessed her endure many hardships and overcome many life-changing obstacles.
She has always been there through all of the ups and downs of my life. During my tempestuous times, she was the only person that believed in me!
She has instilled in me a hard work ethic, and a moral compass always points in the direction of compassion.
She is one of my best friends and confidante, I still rely on her judgement and approval to keep me grounded and maintain my self-esteem.
Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Most definitely. Three` practical ways that the community, society, or politicians can do to be environmentally friendly:
1. Encourage Environmentally Friendly Practices
Coach all residents to be conscious of saving energy. Encourage residents to turn off lights in rooms that aren’t in use.
2. Making Environmentally Friendly Changes in Local Government Facilities.
Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs. Rearrange office furniture and add window coverings that allow for as much natural sunlight to flood the workspace as possible.
Instruct employees to turn off computers, printers and power strips at the end of the workday. Ask employees to delay turning lights and office equipment back on the next day until they really need to use them. Make sure that monitors are set on the most energy-efficient settings and eliminate screensavers on computers.
Provide a water cooler to reduce the collection of plastic water bottles in the office. Healthier eating leads to a healthier lifestyle, and local governments are bound to reap the rewards with employees who take fewer sick days.
To reduce paper use, set printers to print on both sides. For the times when paper use can’t be avoided, opt for recycled paper. In addition, check out other eco-friendly office supplies, such as refillable ink cartridges and non-toxic highlighter pens.
3. Support Local Agriculture
According to The Guardian, the meat industry is responsible for 60 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, exceeding even those of the transportation sector. In addition, it is the most significant source of water use and contamination in the world.
Today, 80 per cent of all agricultural production goes toward feeding animals not people. The expansion of land for livestock, and the crops to feed them, is the most significant cause of deforestation.
Governments can make a difference by supporting small local producers who, unlike large factory farms, employ sustainable practices, care about land restoration, benefit nearby communities, and make animals and crops more resilient to climate change.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
A sustainable business doesn’t happen by accident. Becoming sustainable requires a strategy and for that strategy to succeed it requires a connection to the financial health of a company.
Environmental consciousness at Buckingham Futures is essential for the long-term growth and financial health of our business.
However, sustainability is far from a black-and-white field. There’s no one right way to implement any strategy, and performance metrics aren’t always fixed.
At Buckingham Futures, we have made tackling environmental wastes a key economic driver.
We aim to reduce our energy usage by 50% by the end of 2023. Over the next 5 years, we plan to double our revenue while halving our environmental impact.
The reason for our actions is a simple yet powerful realization that the environmental and economic footprints are most often aligned.
When we prevent physical waste, increase energy efficiency or improve resource productivity, we save money, improve profitability and enhance competitiveness.
We have learnt that being environmentally friendly does not have to cost money and that the benefits far outweigh any negatives.
The time and money it takes to establish new environmentally green protocols pay back in dividends, not only in money but also in feeling good that my company is kind to the planet.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
The 5 things I wish someone told me when I first started are:
1. Knowing when to trust your intuition. When starting up, it seems everyone wants to give you advice or tell you that you are wrong in the way you conduct business. Learn to listen to yourself first. Intuition is your experience. It’s your ability to recognise situations that you’ve encountered before and to identify patterns based on those experiences.
2. Believe in yourself. You decide what is possible for you. Dare to believe you can be the best, and make it happen. Embrace challenges and setbacks as defining moments, learn from them and use them as springboards.
3. Don’t always play by the book. Be different to be seen. It’s better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation. Don’t waste your time trying to imitate. Be yourself, and stand out from the crowd, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
4. Never lower your standards. Rapid growth will make you feel like you are always behind on growing the team. However, even though it is important to ensure that talent is joining your company, it’s equally important to keep your standards high — or even higher than before. Hiring the wrong candidate can slow productivity create team friction, and cost your business money.
5. Expect the unexpected. Things don’t always go according to plan. The only thing we’re ever really guaranteed is that there are no guarantees in business! We have to be practical and recognise that we cannot possibly foresee everything that’s going to happen. So be flexible, be ready to roll with the punches and try to turn an unexpected situation to your advantage whenever possible.
If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
As an ambassador for environmental health in all its forms, I regularly hold career days at schools, colleges and universities to encourage young people to study environmental courses. I am constantly amazed by their interest in the subject and enthusiasm for learning about it. I meet kids, like I was once, who may have never considered a degree but who are passionate about the world they live in and making it better.
A significant proportion of young people comprehend the importance of becoming involved in sustainability and the environmental movement.
I feel that both parents and the younger generation could mutually learn these 5 things from each other:
1. Listen. The younger have fresh environmental perceptions and new viewpoints.
Parents can learn a lot if they listen to their concepts and what they think needs to be done — and to their questions, fears, and hopes. Parents don’t listen to youth nearly enough.
2. Lead by example. It is simpler to establish a habit in young children than to teach them a new habit as they get older. Teach them about recycling and which items go into which bin. Teach them about littering, keeping lights off, and turning off the water when they brush their teeth.
For us parents, paying attention to our role as a consumer and how that affects the environment wasn’t something we were taught to think about. However, as parents today we can change that for our children. This means focusing on recycled items, buying sustainably sourced food, finding energy-efficient appliances, and using biodegradable cleaning products. Children, in turn, will emulate these purchasing decisions as adults.
3. Play outside whenever possible. It is difficult to develop a love for the environment unless it’s understood what is at stake. If our children develop a love for nature, they’ll be more likely to fight for it.
The outdoors provides the perfect laboratory for young people to conduct independent, interest-led inquiries into the workings of the natural world.
Parents have a responsibility to encourage a childhood that is overflowing with simple childhood pleasures like exploring the woods, turning over rocks to discover insects, using fallen trees as balance beams and so much more.
4. Channel environmental concerns into action. Thanks to the youth climate movement and social media, the younger generation is more in harmony with the environment than ever before.
Parents can help their children channel environmentally related uncertainties into action by educating others about climate change, campaigning for preferred political candidates and protesting peacefully
5. Vote and include your older child in the process. Raising a generation of politically engaged youth is vital for ensuring our future leaders take bold action on environmental issues.
Parents can show their child that one of the biggest ways we can improve the health of our planet is by voting.
Young people can get involved in the campaigns of candidates with environmental manifestos, attend community forums and watch televised debates.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.” ~ Rumi
I see a tree as stable, strong, and robust. Its roots grow deeply into the ground, allowing it to stand firmly in its place.
Being like a tree means creating a deeper connection with Mother Earth, being present in the now, and continuously growing even when it’s not visible for others to see beneath the surface.
Letting the dead leaves drop to me epitomizes being open to change and allowing myself to renew.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast with Gyalwa Rinpoche (the 14th Dalai Lama) — he is a huge source of motivation for me.
The Dalai Lama said this and it always inspires me, ‘One should always try to do good whenever possible.’ And then he added, ‘it is always possible.’
How can our readers follow you online?
I am most active on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success with your great work!
Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How Ketan Dattani Of Buckingham Futures Is Helping… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.