The Changemakers: Sarah Whale, Profit Impact

In this, the first of an occasional series of interviews, we talk to pioneers conducting epic work in the sustainability sector. Our first guest is changemaker Sarah Whale, founder of Profit Impact. Sarah guides business leaders to increase the value they create through a strong triple bottom line. Here we put her in our 100 Ways hot seat…

Q: Can you explain what Profit Impact is, what it does and who it’s for? How do they benefit?

A: Profit Impact is here to guide small and medium-sized businesses to move to a sustainable future by understanding the impact on people, the planet, and their profit.

We support people to benchmark themselves against similar organisations and map out plans for their next steps. Services include B Corp certification support (B Corp is the non-profit network transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet), calculating your carbon emissions today (baselining), strategies to achieve net zero and education – plus ongoing measures and coaching.

Q: What did you do prior to setting up Profit Impact – and what motivated you to turn your back on that career?

A: After a long career in finance leadership roles within industry, I had become disillusioned with short-term decision-making driven by requirements to satisfy shareholders. I took some time out to reflect on what I wanted to do next.

Through coaching, I realised that I wanted a role that enabled me to ‘do the right thing’. Research led me to B Corp and the rest is, as you say, history.

Q: What’s your typical day like?

A: My role is incredibly varied and I have to be disciplined to keep structure within my day. I plan to spend mornings on client delivery work and then in the afternoons focusing on my team, strategy, partners, and product development. I do not always achieve this plan!I have a number of non-negotiables in my day and that is to ensure I have an element of either yoga, cardio work, or Nordic walking – this is my self-care. If for whatever reason I haven’t achieved this I really notice the impact of not looking after myself.

Q: As a young start-up in sustainability, what have been your biggest challenges?

A: Uncertainty is the biggest challenge. Who will work with you, how will the sustainability landscape change, and at what point will things become mandatory? The breadth and complexity of the subject is difficult to cover with a small team.

Q: And biggest successes?

A: Definitely Profit Impact being awarded the Best For The World™ for Employees, by B Lab. We are in the top 5% of B Corps globally in our size business (1-9 employees). We are number one in the UK.

Q: Funniest or weirdest moment?

A: We get to laugh every day, but the strangest thing that happened was the landmark ruling whilst the UK was experiencing one of its hottest days on record; the High Court ruled that the Government’s Net Zero strategy breached the climate change act. The Government was given eight months to update its Net Zero strategies to include a quantified account of how its policies will actually achieve climate targets.

Q: What keeps you going when you fear everyone’s journey to Net Zero is going far too slowly?

A: Action is definitely slower than I would like to see but my approach in life has always been you can only impact things within your own control. We have designed services and processes to help businesses build business resilience and protect the planet. Without action society has no future – and for this reason alone I’m confident businesses will step forward.

Q: What’s your top tip for easily achievable things people can do either at work, at home or at play to be more sustainable?

A: Travel is the area where we can have a big environmental impact. We can make small changes for incremental gains. Set yourself a goal to change one of your trips each week to a more sustainable one; lift shares, walking, EV couriers, use public transport for instance.

Q: What’s the most exciting sustainability development you’ve heard about recently?

The Green Salon Hair Collective. It is encouraging sustainable working practices in the hairdressing industry. The collective ‘recycles the unrecyclable’ from its member salons: everything from bleach and dye to people’s actual hair. In fact their recycled hair is even used in special ‘booms’ which are deployed to clean up oil spills in rivers and seas.

Confused with all the jargon around Net Zero, Better Business and B Corp, and want to go into the next few business months with a clearer vision? Profit Impact is running a series of informal, but invaluable, FREE webinars.

Sign up for Sarah and her team’s next session here.

100 Ways in 100 Days™ now in beta – and free ‘Believability™ psychological report out today

We’re thrilled that 100 Ways in 100 Days™ is now in beta – and we’re ready to start partnering with selected organisations. 100 Ways in 100 Days helps employees learn how to live more sustainability at work, at home and at play.

Rather than being doomy or preachy (to which people don’t respond well), our vision for 100 Ways is to do the opposite. To bring colleagues together in the battle against climate change through positive and colourful social interactions. It’s one of the most effective techniques for changing habits.

To ensure the programme deploys the most believable and motivating planet-friendly messages we decided collaboration was the way forward.

Partnership with University of Surrey

We’d felt the world is entering a ‘new age of scepticism’, especially considering the Wild West of social media and fake news, so we called in expert help to get to the bottom of it. We’re extremely proud therefore, to publish a brand new academic study, The Psychological Underpinnings of Believability’. Commissioned specially by us, it informs all the ‘Ways’.

This fascinating and insightful report was written by Claire Gregory, psychology PhD researcher at the University of Surrey and Emeritus Professor Karen Pine. It sets a framework for great climate change communication and it’s available to download free here.

Claire explains: “The study examines how the human mind goes about finding information believable nowadays. In cognitive psychology for instance there are two routes to believability, with intuition and analytics both having a role, but effective persuasion involves a combination of both, so we looked at these and much, much more, including how we use ‘heuristics (mental shortcuts), the role of emotion and how to replace old beliefs with new ones.

“All findings have been harnessed to encourage incremental positive daily behaviour changes in individuals to help promote sustainability.”

The research advises that tactics such as using plain English, rather than jargon or long words, using case studies with real people rather than statistics, and affirming an individual’s self esteem can all positively impact on how messages are absorbed and acted upon.

All ‘Ways’ are checked against the 100 Ways 15 point ‘Believability Index’, an instrument for the measurement of believability in communications, devised by Pine and Gregory.

Overwhelming messages can lead to paralysis and demoralisation, so it’s vital that the 100 Ways messaging focuses on hope, empowerment – and personal responsibility.

At 100 Ways, we instinctively knew, but academics in the report confirmed that people tend to avoid information that makes them feel uncomfortable. Or where it’s complicated and they feel they have little control over it. The climate emergency falls into that category.  Overwhelming messages can lead to paralysis and demoralisation, so it’s vital that the 100 Ways messaging focuses on hope, empowerment – and personal responsibility.

The Believability report helps guide us along just the right lines. Thanks so much to Claire and to Karen for their amazingly intelligent yet practical work.

If that wasn’t enough, each ‘Way’ on the 100 Ways programme is also underpinned by evidence from highly credible, trusted and knowledgeable organisations, such as NGOs, academics, charities and other reputable sources. They’re all evidence checked by our wonderful Gilang Majid, also a PhD researcher at the University of Surrey.

And each helps towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs: its blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all).

The power of a great team Mk III

Alex Teng is the latest recruit to the wider 100 Ways in 100 Days team. 

A PhD researcher at the University of Surrey, Alex will support 100 Ways throughout 2022 as business operations and strategy consultant. 

He is a man of many, many talents. Having previously secured a first class degree at the University in electronic engineering he’s now doing his PhD.

He’s immensely creative too. His eclectic kaleidoscope of experiences also spans a production role at The National Gallery and as a costume supervisor at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

We’re so excited to have him on board to help power 100 Ways’ employee engagement sustainability training programme forward.

Not so fantastic plastic: waste results in

Some sobering news from The Big Plastic Count (an initiative from Everyday Plastic and Greenpeace). Nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging are thrown away by UK households every year, with just 12% recycled in the UK. The research revealed that 88% our household waste is being burnt, buried and dumped overseas.

We were shocked when we counted our own plastic waste during the survey, back in May. So much is hard to avoid, even for people who intrinsically care for environment. Sometimes it really can be hard to be green.

Recycling issues notwithstanding, every little helps in terms of changing our behaviours more widely. For instance, in our 100 Ways employee engagement sustainability training programme we look at ways of forgoing use of the gazillions of [mainly unrecyclable] plastic pens that head for landfill every year.

Yep, we all have them don’t we :-(? Drying out in our desks, going blobby in the kitchen drawer, gathering dusk in our cars. Within the programme we present a host of easily achievable, everyday ideas of channelling your inner Hemingway, that are kinder to the planet – and much, much more. Plastic waste begone.

Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

The cost of disengaged employees – and how sustainability behaviour training can galvanise the workforce

What do you get when you cross sustainability with employee engagement? It is estimated that disengaged employees are costing the UK economy £340 billion every year. The reasons? Lost training and recruitment costs, sick days, productivity, creativity and innovation.

Even pre-Covid, the average employer was spending £3,000 and 27.5 days to hire a new worker. Since then we’ve witnessed the ‘Great Resignation’. Almost one in five employees globally say they are likely to switch to a new employer in the next 12 months. Research suggests this stampede for something better is showing no signs of abating.

In stark relief, engaged employees are much more likely to collaborate and work together as a team and overall, companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable.

Just as well then, that, as part of its sustainability behaviour change programme, 100 Ways in 100 Days truly brings people together. It’s predicated on positive social interactions.

One pilot reported: “It really brought teams cross functionally together, debating ways to both make their own personal contribution to protecting our planet but also engaging in business practice improvements.” 

Another declared: “As we continue to work remotely employee engagement and aligning our teams to our business objectives is harder and yet more important than ever, 100 Ways in 100 Days has been a really fun way to do this.”

Employee engagement? Slam dunk!

Please get in touch if you’d like to hear more.

The power of the team – Mk II!

Carrying on the good news from our previous post… They say collaboration in sustainability is the way forward. Here at 100 Ways in 100 Days™ we couldn’t agree more. We’re celebrating teaming up with Brunel University London where the wonderful Airin Alexandre and Shamai Monnaie are supporting.

Airin (Reen to us) is studying filmmaking and theatre and is helping develop 100 Ways’ innovative creative content. Shamai is studying psychology (a golden thread that runs through the programme) and is helping develop marketing and social media.

Welcome both – what a super-talented duo!

The power of a great team…

Building a new start-up business is rarely easy, but it’s much more likely to go gangbusters if you have a strong, diverse team.

100 Ways in 100 Days™ is delighted to be supported by the University of Surrey. It’s helping with 100 Ways’ ongoing research and development; on sustainability and psychology, to ensure a truly powerful e-learning programme.

As part of that we’re updating the academic paper, Believability™, which sits at the core of the 100 Ways. It examines what we believe, why we believe things and how they can be harnessed for powerful communications.

So, drum roll, introducing our powerhouse PhD researchers, the wonderful Gilang Maulana Majid and Claire Gregory, MBPsS… 

Gilang is ensuring our sustainability evidence base deployed in the 100 Ways programme is totally robust; no easy feat when findings in this arena develop and change fast. He identifies intelligence from credible experts and organisations around the world and – ensuring anything approaching greenwash is rooted out. All facts have to pass through the ‘Gilang filter’ before they can be used as the foundation of each 100 Ways bite-sized lesson. 

Creative, fun and engaging, easily achievable ideas are then worked up. Based on the theory of marginal gains, they encourage habit changes that empower employees to live more sustainable lives, at work and at home. And where many people enact many small changes, significant impact can be made.

Gilang, who hails from Indonesia, is passionate about sustainability and technology. He’s presented his research around the world and worked as expert advisor in Indonesia to the German government’s Center for International Migration and Development programme. At Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management he’s finding means of enabling artificial intelligence to deliver nudges that encourage tourists to apply sustainable tourism practices. 

Claire is our psychology guru. Believability™ is the golden thread that runs through the 100 Ways programme and is key to its success in positive behaviour change. But what we do and don’t believe has changed monumentally over the last few years, so Claire is therefore even looking at the psychology of fake news and misinformation, how to help people spot it – and absorb truthful environmental messages.

Crucially, she’ll also be exploring new ways to measure behaviour change. The 100 Ways’ methodology and content will be informed by her findings. 

Prior to Claire’s doctoral work at Surrey, where her PhD topic is the psychology of decision-making, she graduated from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at St. Andrews, where she was ‘Class Representative of the Year’. 

She was born and brought up in the United States, in Maryland.

Here are Gilang and Claire, pictured along with 100 Ways in 100 Days founder Sue Skeats.