In the mid-2000s Malini worked at the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as Head of the UK Sustainable Development Dialogues (SDDs) and UK government lead on International Sustainable Development.

An unusual position for an Indian citizen, this was made possible by an open-minded and inclusive UK policy at the time to recruitment to the civil service.

Working to a mandate from the Prime Minister to develop a structured dialogue on sustainable development with the governments of China and India, in the context of the G7 Gleneagles, Malini developed a unique whole-of-government approach to international sustainable development diplomacy. This engaged departments across government beyond just the environment ministry, as well as a Track 1 (govt to govt) and a Track 2 (multistakeholder) approach to create greater traction.

The SDDs attempted to create a new frame for bilateral relations with the ‘Plus 5’ emerging market countries. Moving away from antiquated development mindsets to a new model of a partnership of peers, placing sustainability at the heart of the bilateral relationship.

The success of the China and India SDDs led to the roll-out of similar sustainability partnerships with the Governments of Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

Malini led on international diplomacy, working closely with HMG missions in country and external stakeholders in delivering the ambitious partnerships.

Progress was made through these partnerships on priority bilateral issues ranging from wildlife crime to deforestation. One of the most successful Track 2 legacy initiatives of the UK-China SDD is China Dialogue which is remains the go-to site to understand China, the environment and sustainability. China Dialogue also seeded India Climate Dialogue and Malini remained on the boards of both for many years.

While in Government, Malini also established the cross-departmental Learning Platform on Sustainable Development Partnerships across Whitehall to promote improved cross-departmental learning and coordination of UK Government sustainability-related partnerships from WASH to REEEP.