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Laura Burke CDir

Laura Burke CDir

Laura Burke CDir

Director General, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Laura Burke CDir is the Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
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She was appointed in 2011 and has served as a Director within the EPA since 2004. As Director General she has the responsibility to lead and strategically manage the EPA. Laura was the Chair of the European Environment Agency (EEA) Management Board from 2017 to 2023.  Laura is a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) and a member of the High Level Implementation Committee of ‘Food Vision 2030’, the Irish Agri-Food Sector Strategy.  Prior to joining the EPA, she worked in the private sector. Laura is a graduate chemical engineer of University College Dublin (UCD), holds an MSc from Trinity College, Dublin, is a Fellow and is a Vice-President of Engineers Ireland, and is a Chartered Director. In 2016 Laura was awarded the UCD Engineering Graduates Association (EGA) Distinguished Graduate Award. 

What is the one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Being true to yourself is a key characteristic for any leader. For me, good judgment is essential. Leaders are required to make decisions daily that have the potential to impact on the performance or reputation of the organisation they work with.  Leaders should be guided by a clear sense of the role of the organisation and where the organisation positions itself, keeping a close eye on the external environment and potential for synergies, divergences and opportunities. 

What is the most important lesson, from your personal or business life, that has guided you the most in being a business leader? 

 A lesson that has guided me in being a business leader is to have the courage of your convictions and to trust your gut - if something does not feel right, you need to delve deeper to understand what is behind a proposed course of action. These are the situations where you especially need to be curious and to constructively challenge the perceived wisdom. Of course you can change your mind, but the key lesson is not to ‘go with the flow’.  It is important for well-functioning, positive, and challenging Boards that diverse views are listened to, with the overall focus on the best decision being made in the interests of our stakeholders.

How has being a member of IoD Ireland supported your role as a director and business leader? 

IoD Ireland has challenged some of my perceptions (in a positive way!) for example through the Creative Board Project, looking at the role of Board Members in addressing key global challenges, but in an innovative way.

What do you value most about being a member of IoD Ireland?

Being a member of IoD Ireland has supported me both through continuous professional development as well as the opportunity to discuss and debate issues with people from a range of different organisations with many similar experiences

How has membership of IoD Ireland helped you feel more equipped in your role as Director General at the Environmental Protection Agency?

Membership of IoD Ireland has supported me in my role as Director General in the EPA, in particular through the Chartered Directorship Programme. It was recommended to me by a colleague from another agency and was one of the best Programmes I have completed- the expertise and experience of the speakers, from HR, to Governance, to Strategy, was second to none. 

Is there someone who has had a major impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?

I have worked with a wide range of people over my career and I have learnt from each of them, taking elements that resonated or worked particularly for me. I have tried to remember, as my career has progressed, how a person showing genuine interest or support to me at early stages had a disproportionate positive impact, and gave me the confidence to try new things. Whilst learning from others, key for me is to be your authentic self and be the best you can be. I had the great benefit of having parents who instilled in me that I could be anything, once I was prepared to work for it. 

What are the biggest business challenges or/and opportunities that you have seen over your career to date? And how did you help to overcome or/and optimise these? 

One of the biggest challenges I have faced was the merger of the EPA and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII)in 2014, which was decided by the Government, shortly after my appointment as Director General. It was an extremely challenging time for both the EPA and the RPII, bringing together two organisations and two cultures. With significant work, the merger happened on time and within budget, while maintaining excellent services. More importantly, the people in the two organisations came together, forming ultimately a stronger, more impactful organisation. 

How do you think business leaders can best prepare for the future?

For me, preparing for the future is keeping yourself well informed, through a wide range of national, European and international sources. Listen, listen, listen and try to connect the dots between the work of the organisation you work with, and what is happening in the wider world. 

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring directors in Ireland?

I would advise new or aspiring directors to look for roles where they can be fully committed to delivering for the organisation, continue to invest in their own self development, aim to make genuine connections with others, and of course, avail of all of the opportunities, including networking, that  IoD Ireland offer!