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.