Non-profiteer winner: Jane Burston, Centre for Carbon Measurement

FUTURE LEADERS AWARDS: In our search for the rising stars of sustainability, Jane Burston, the head of Centre for Carbon Measurement, wins the non-profiteer category for her work on climate change.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

If you want somewhere discreetly prestigious to work, then you could do no better than the National Physical Laboratory in Middlesex. It's where Sir Barnes Wallis developed the bouncing bomb that was used in the Dam Busters wartime raids and where scientists Alan Turing and Sir Robert Watson-Wyatt worked.

Not that Jane Burston is a scientist. Instead, she heads the NPL's Centre for Carbon Measurement, which supports climate science, policy and low-carbon business communities. The first of its kind in the world, it comprises the work of about 150 scientists, and seeks to answer imponderable questions such as how can we better predict the extent and impact of climate change, and how can the claims of new technologies be validated.

Just 31, Cambridge philosophy graduate Burston believes that 'climate change is the biggest challenge facing my generation; sustainability is the opportunity presented by that challenge'. This belief is the guiding purpose of her career. Before NPL, Burston was a co-founder of the noted social enterprise Carbon Retirement, which reformed emissions trading and carbon offsetting, and for which Burston won numerous awards.

After university, she decided to join a public sector strategy consultancy, which helped her spend a year out in Zambia running a computer recycling charity. Back in the UK, she joined a retailer in a sustainability role but left to start up Carbon Retirement, which buys up EU carbon allowances on behalf of clients to take them out of the system.

As head of the Centre for Carbon Measurement, which she launched in March, Burston is responsible for setting strategy, acting as a spokesman and enlarging its role and increasing its influence. Already one of MT's '35 Women Under 35', Burston has also been asked to present at high-profile and influential events, including the World Economic Forum in Istanbul earlier this year.

Burston admits that one of the biggest obstacles she faces is 'getting people to think big. People mostly associate scientists with climate change modelling but scientists also have a huge role to play in supporting industry to make a difference.'

Jonathon Porritt says of Burston that 'she is particularly interesting because of the role she had in setting up Carbon Retirement, which is really what she is known for in our world. Carbon Retirement was a great non-governmental organisation, which was admired by a lot of people.' Co-judge Jeremy Darroch was impressed too, saying: 'Jane's determination and resolve are really admirable.'

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