We first met Rosie Haslem, then a Director with the London-based design collective spacelab_, earlier this year at a panel discussion on workplace wellbeing. The event, part of this year’s ARCHITECT@WORK Digital Summit, also featured Ben Channon, a director with the architecture consultancy Ekkist, and other experts in the field of purpose-driven architecture and design.
Haslem has since moved on to a new role with Streetsense, an experience-focused strategy design collective, where her focus remains on a “people-focused approach to creating and transforming places.” We wanted to learn more about this purpose-driven approach to creating space and what placed her on this path.
1. What change does Streetsense want to facilitate within the design world?
At Streetsense, we bring a strategic, people-focused approach to creating and transforming places – starting by really understanding the needs of those who will use them, and then developing a comprehensive strategy to craft a place that will really work for these people. And, at a time when many people are rethinking how they want to live, work, shop, dine, and play, this is more important than ever.
We also always advocate for the need to think holistically, and beyond the confines of individual buildings, or individual uses within a building – so that the parts can come together, into something greater than their sum. Successful places are complex but harmoniously interdependent ecosystems, where different people come for different things, but overlap in space and in time. So the design world needs a more ‘connected’ outlook to understand, and design in complexity – and create the conditions for vibrant, evolving places.
2. What was your background prior to this, and how has it shaped your work with Streetsense?
I’ve always loved buildings, and cities. But it wasn’t just the physical architecture and aesthetic of them that I loved – it was also how they worked, and how they were brought to life by people. So I studied human geography at the undergraduate level, to more deeply explore how people interact with and shape the world. I then went on to do a masters at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, which was all about looking at how architectural and urban systems work, and how to plan and design buildings and cities to shape better places for the individuals, organisations and communities that inhabit them.
I carried my learnings from these, and a postgraduate certificate in urban design, into an early career in urbanism, working at a specialist urban consultancy advising clients on how to optimise their planning strategies and design proposals to create more vibrant, human places.
I then moved to an architecture and design studio where I ran the strategy group, applying my interest in creating people-focused, research-driven spatial solutions, at the building scale – largely working with businesses to shape new ways of working, and new workplaces, for their people.
Given the societal shifts of recent years, which were then accelerated by the pandemic, I was keen to move into a broader role – to help rethink the places we all want to live, work and play in going forward. Hence the move to Streetsense, to pull together my various threads into a new UK venture for the US-based company.
3. Is sustainability a bigger factor now in your work than it was 3 years ago? If so, what’s driving the shift?
Environmental sustainability is, rightfully, now rising up the agenda. There is greater awareness of the built environment’s contribution to the climate crisis, partly nudged by the fact that we’re actually starting to feel the impacts of the climate crisis on our towns and cities, and how we live in them. Design has a key role to play in helping solve these issues. Though environmental sustainability needs to be more inherently embedded in our thinking, and everything we do, rather than a separate workstream, or an ‘add on’.
A broader, more holistic idea of “sustainability” (i.e. beyond just an environmental focus) is also very important for my work. Creating places that are socially, physically and economically “sustainable” is about creating places that are designed for fundamental, unchanging human wants and needs (the desire to come together, to interact, and transact), whilst also understanding that the exact ways in which we do these things will in fact be ever-changing.
All of this is increasingly front of mind, what with the pandemic’s acceleration of our evolving patterns of working, living, shopping and playing. More than ever we need places that are crafted to bring people together, and support vibrant and diverse activity, and are also inherently resilient to change – by being designed to adapt over time.
4. Can you identify any roadblocks you encounter frequently when trying to implement your strategies or ideas? How have you overcome any challenges?
A common challenge is that clients want to see results very quickly. And working in the architecture and design field, this is a very literal ‘seeing’. Clients often want to know how an end product will look, before we’ve even established what the real need is, and how something should actually work. There’s often an impatience to know the answer before we’ve had time to do the “workings out”.
I always work closely with clients to help them understand the value of investing in creating a robust strategy at the start of a project, before jumping into a design. Giving examples of where the design-first mentality has resulted in unsuccessful projects is always really helpful!
And once they are on the journey – being challenged to think differently; being shown unexpected insights as the research is pieced together, and then being shown possible solutions that are informed by these insights – they invariably come to realise that these steps are even more than a “value add”, and that in fact, they can’t afford not to invest the time and money into getting a strategy right from the very start.
5. What keeps you motivated during times of frustration?
I try to focus on myself and the reasons driving me to do what I’m doing, and if I know that I am at least striving to do the right thing, then that is the best I can do.
6. What is one book you’ve recently read that has inspired you and that you might recommend?
I recently read Let my people go surfing, by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Part autobiography, part ‘philosophical manual’ for the employees of Patagonia, it’s an inspirational example of the power of bringing your values and purpose to your work – and of the potential for big business to do good in the world.
Chouinard’s love of the natural world, and desire to be able to go and enjoy it – and keep it safe so that it can go on being enjoyed – drove the creation of Patagonia. His ethos is embedded into what the company makes (garments and equipment for enjoying the great outdoors, which are as environmentally sustainable as they can be so as not to threaten the very thing they help people enjoy), as well as the culture that is lived by all Patagonia’s people (the go-surfing-when-the-surf’s-up attitude).
A great read for anyone interested in challenging the ‘norms’ of business and capitalism, and in living a fulfilled, purpose-driven life.
7. Who or what inspires you personally?
I get a lot of inspiration from travelling and seeing different places and spaces around the world. It’s fascinating to understand the contexts in which they were created – how they have been shaped (and subsequently reshaped) by culture and societal norms, as well as location, climate, and even material availability – and then to think about how certain elements can be translated into new ideas and projects I’m working on.
8. Do you have any other thoughts or wise words for aspiring purpose-driven designers or marketers?
A strong sense of purpose is more important than ever given the huge challenges (and huge opportunities!) of the current moment in time – both to drive positive changes in the world, and also to give more personal meaning to whatever you’re working in. So choose a job, and a company, that allows you to live your purpose, because being able to channel your values into authentically purpose-driven work every day will help make you happier, and help you produce even better things, for a better world.
This year’s World Green Building Week focuses on the idea of #BuildingResilience, specifically how a “holistic approach to building resilience can accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals and sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere.”
As the World Green Business Council points out, buildings are responsible for 38 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions and 50 per cent of all extracted materials.
At Springwise, we continue to track the latest innovative developments in designing and building sustainable buildings across the globe. Here are seven of the most promising built environments that aim to be a part of the solution to the ongoing climate crisis.
1. A SUSTAINABLE, TRIANGULAR-SHAPED BICYCLE GARAGE IN SWEDEN
Swedish Tengbom architects have designed a bicycle garage that has room for 1200 vehicles. The garage, which is situated beside the central station in Uppsala, has been designed as a beacon of the city’s sustainability ambitions, both socially and environmentally.
The design is both functional and graceful, with its wooden frame holding a unique triangular shape that is covered by mirroring glass façades. Two levels are connected by a wooden ramp, allowing commuters to ride their bikes between floors. The garage also presents a sedum-covered roof that allows it to absorb excess water from heavy rains and solar cells to provide an eco-friendly source of power.
2. RESOURCE-GENERATING BUILDING SETS SUSTAINABILITY STANDARDS
Termed a “living building”, the Kendeda has not settled for just being greener than other buildings. Instead, it is regenerative – generating more energy than it uses.
The building was designed and constructed by US firm, Miller Hull Partnership, in collaboration with local Atlanta firm, Lord Aeck Sargent. The building will be used as classroom space, but a number of areas, such as the lecture hall, roof garden and atrium, will also be made available for community events. Georgia Tech’s mission in developing the building is to expose as many people as possible to the project’s ideals of resiliency and sustainability.
3. SCHOOL MADE OF BAMBOO PROMOTES AND SUSTAINS NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
In Bali, a school that promotes sustainability through learning in a natural environment is practising what it preaches by constructing its buildings from an unusual material – bamboo. The Green School was founded by John and Cynthia Hardy, and designed by their daughter Elora Hardy and her studio Ibuku, in collaboration with bamboo architect Jörg Stamm and structural engineering firm Atelier One.
Most of the structures of the Green School are built using bamboo designed in organic forms and shapes. The latest building at the school, the Arc gymnasium, features a unique and complex double-curved roof. The roof is supported by 14-metre-high bamboo arches and curved shells to create an undulating canopy held in place through tension.
4. STUDENTS CONSTRUCT OFF-GRID RESEARCH CENTRE
Yale architecture students have constructed a research station on an island, using regenerative techniques that reduce the environmental impact of the building.
The research station is completely off-grid. It is equipped with an incinerating toilet, which burns waste into ash, so there is no risk of effluent escaping into the ecologically sensitive environment. A rainwater collection system provides water for washing, which will be filtered and reintroduced into the environment. Photovoltaic panels supply electricity, hot water and heat. The panels are attached to four openings in the roof that also act as wind scoops to circulate air through the building.
5. SOCIAL HOUSING IN PARIS USES HEMPCRETE TO LOWER CARBON FOOTPRINT
French architecture firm Barrault Pressacco created a new building in Paris’ 18th Arrondissement for 15 social housing apartments and two ground floor shops. The structure includes two central courtyards that enhance natural lighting as well as provide semi-private outdoor space for residents. Each apartment has bay windows overlooking the street and additional windows that look into the courtyards.
The wood-framed building uses hempcrete instead of concrete for the walls, and, as a result, already conforms to newly enacted government regulations regarding the sustainability of all new public construction projects. The hempcrete is applied as a spray in layers within the frame before being finished with an interior of lime rendering.
6. A LOW-CARBON CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS USES LOCATION TO ITS ADVANTAGE
International non-profit Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) is dedicated to solving problems related to agriculture and the environment by using their scientific expertise. So, when CABI wanted a new headquarters, they knew that it was important to have a design that reflected their mission. The result is a model for sustainable buildings, based in Wallingford, UK.
Designed by Scott Brownrigg architects, the innovative design echoes CABI’s commitment to creating a more sustainable world by leaving less of a carbon footprint and minimising the environmental impact. The building’s location and orientation were chosen to provide shade in the summer and to maximise sunshine during the winter. A photo-voltaic solar array will help provide energy, and roof lights will reduce demand for electric lighting and help to lower CO2 emissions.
7. SWISS CARBON-NEUTRAL BUILDING CAN ADAPT TO THE CLIMATE
Accommodating around 180 employees and built using mainly renewable materials, the new Sonova Wireless Competence Centre in Murten operates carbon-neutrally and adapts to the outside climate.
Made of a single wythe of climate-neutrally manufactured blocks, the building’s façade is designed to retain energy and moisture. The walls and ceilings are coated in pure lime putty, which purifies the air indoors and regulates atmospheric humidity, while the building’s photovoltaic panels generate 260,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, a higher output of renewable and carbon-neutral electricity than is required to run it. This surplus capacity is fed back into the grid and made available to other consumers.
Springwise is a proud media partner of London Tech Week, which provides the tech ecosystem with a platform to come together to drive change. Be part of the future from 20 — 24 September.
Despite the ongoing disruption caused by the COVID pandemic, we at Springwise continue to take inspiration from the positive innovation we see on a daily basis. Some of the most exciting solutions deal with climate technology.
With London Tech Week in mind, here are just a few of the brilliant startups meeting the urgency of the moment with creative business solutions.
1. PRECISION FERMENTATION CREATES DAIRY PRODUCTS IN THE LAB
The UK startup Better Dairy is using precision fermentation to remove animals from the food chain, creating dairy products that are molecularly identical to traditional dairy products but without involving the cow.
But this is not vegan cheese made from plants — the precision fermentation process uses yeast to create the individual molecular constituents of milk in different vats, and then blend them together to achieve the exact composition of milk. A very similar process has already been used to produce rennet and insulin.
2. CULTURED MEAT DESIGNED FOR MASS-CONSUMPTION
Ivy Farm Technologies is developing lab-grown beef and pork with a goal to have products available for retail sales by 2023. The Oxford University-based company was started by two alumni in 2019. Seeking healthy meats with no additives or preservatives and without the guilt of contributing to environmental damage, the founders decided to create their own. With patents pending in 12 countries, the company plans to offer pork sausages, Angus beef burgers and Wagyu meatballs as the first options.
3. AI-POWERED PLATFORM DELIVERS REAL-TIME AIR QUALITY DATA
Polish cleantech business Airly, Inc recently raised €3.3 million in a funding round to scale its AI-powered air quality platform. The platform will allow for global access to real-time and historical air quality data.
Airly’s services consist of supplying its customers with enough sensors to provide real-time, hyper-local reports on air quality. Over 600 local governments and cities across Asia and Europe already use Airly, and the company will soon open offices in the UK and US. According to Forbes, there used to be only one sensor monitoring pollution in the city of Jakarta. Now, thanks to Airly, there are 100.
4. RENTAL APP’S POP-UP STORE PUSHES BACK AGAINST FAST FASHION
Rental app By Rotation began in 2019 after founder Eshita Kabra-Davies witnessed the first-hand effects of textile waste while on her honeymoon in Rajasthan, India. The app allows users to rent out their own wardrobes and has more than 70,000 users. Now, By Rotation brought its concept into the real world with a physical pop-up at the Westfield London shopping centre.
The two-week pop-up occupied a 3,300 square-foot space and showcased the top fashion rental item from the app. Fans could rent fashion items and accessories from brands such as The Vampire’s Wife, Rixo and Ganni – some for as little as £3 a day. The space was designed to resemble a flat, and also included rentable furniture and homewares from Studio Arva.
5. MASS PRODUCING ALGAE, NO MATTER THE ENVIRONMENT
The UK-based Susewi can grow mass quantities of algae by only relying on seawater, the sun and wind, allowing it to produce alternative protein in regions that where it would otherwise be impossible, such as desert climates. The algae are then harvested, desalted and dried into a meal that can be incorporated into products like fish feed.
Susewi’s process can recreate natural algal blooms minus the freshwater that would normally be needed. Each strain begins in a laboratory environment before moving to a greenhouse environment. After a period of cultivation, it ends up in one of Susewi’s outdoor ponds, where nature takes over to bring the algae to its final bloom state.
6. A CARBON-OFFSETTING PLATFORM THAT IMPROVES TRANSPARENCY
Carbon offsetting, essentially paying for others to reduce emissions or absorb CO2 to compensate for your own emissions, has gotten a bad rep. This is because it doesn’t really seem to work, except as a form of greenwashing. There are many reasons for this, but the main ones are that it is very difficult to measure the exact reductions of individual projects and the process often lacks transparency. A recently launched platform, Sylvera, hopes to change this with a process that makes offsetting more accurate and transparent.
7. VEGAN PUFFER COAT IS STUFFED WITH FLOWERS
The clothing brand Pangaia has developed a puffer coat that uses flowers as an alternative to traditional duck or goose down stuffing. The vegan coat instead uses Flower Down, which is derived from fibrous wildflowers.
To create the stuffing, Pangaia combines the wildflowers, which are shredded and combined with a biopolymer made from vegetable waste, with aerogel, a non-toxic porous solid foam made of 85 per cent paper. The result is durable thermal insulation as warm as most high-end feather down jackets. The company claims that jackets made with Flower Down will keep the wearer warm in temperatures as low as minus-20 degrees celsius.
One of the many unique solutions we’ve discovered through our partnership with the annual ChangeNOW summit is The Skateroom — a social entrepreneurship based in Brussels that collaborates with acclaimed artists and art foundations to drive an “Art for Social Impact” premise.
This results in responsibly made skateboards that double as works of art. Through its “5:25” business model, The Skateroom donates 5 per cent of the turnover, or 25 per cent of the profit from every sale — whichever number is greater — toward social projects around the world. This is one key factor in The Skateroom earning Certified B Corporation status.
We spoke with its CEO and Founder, Charles-Antoine Bodson, to learn more about where the idea for The Skateroom came from, what it means to be a B Corp, and much more.
1. Where did the original idea for The Skateroom come from?
The idea actually started very organically. At the time, I had my art gallery here in Brussels and a private collection of skateboard decks. I had around 4.000 decks in total and at some point, I met Oliver Percovich (the founder of Skateistan) in Paris. He told me about his project and that he was looking for funding to build his second skate school. I then decided to sell a part of my deck collection in order to help him. I donated around $50,000 to Oliver and he was able to build his second skate park in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
A few months later, I had the opportunity to see the results and the reality struck me hard. I was like “Oh my god, this is what I want to do.” It was an inspiring experience. The interaction and trust between Skateistan and those children were just amazing. After I went to the opening, the idea of going back to my art gallery just did not make sense anymore. I could not reconcile who I was with what I had just experienced. My mind was set on doing more of this, and that’s basically where The Skateroom started.
2. What was your background prior to this, and how did that shape your work with The Skateroom?
While I studied Marketing, my professional career eventually drove me in the financial services industry where I worked for firms such as Prudential Bache and Raymond James. After five years in the sector, I co-founded Bongo/Weekendesk, a company that became successful by offering travel and experience themed gift vouchers. I sold the company in 2010 to pursue my passion for art by opening a gallery, and that eventually led me to found The Skateroom.
In a way, The Skateroom is a fusion of all those different experiences – art and business cemented together by the desire to create a positive impact at the heart of the company. Of course, using skateboards as the medium to create art editions was strongly linked to The Skateroom’s history. It was the starting point, and skateboards are an ideal canvas because they are affordable, mobile, and usable. Skateboards represent freedom and have the power to break social barriers. They essentially embody the core idea that drives The Skateroom forward – Art of Social Impact.
3. What change does The Skateroom want to facilitate?
I would describe the Skateroom as a social entrepreneurship project with two focal points. The most obvious is to act as a facilitator for our NGO partners. Through our business model, we donate a percentage of every sale to support social projects that use skateboarding and education to empower youth around the world. NGO’s often devote a considerable amount of time looking for funding. By ensuring their funding needs are met, we can take away that stress and allow them to focus on running their projects instead.
Our second focal point is to be a part of a conversation where we question the role of businesses based on the needs of the modern world. We do this by promoting a different way of consuming products on the one hand, and a different way to operate as a business on the other. By that, I mean the production, the way we travel, even the way we send out packages. That’s why we have compensated for our yearly carbon emissions since 2016 and proudly carry the carbon-neutral label. It’s also the reason we pursued B Corp Certification – to challenge ourselves, understand our weaknesses, and improve on them.
I want this company to be inspiring. Our business model shows people that there are better ways to consume while conserving our planet, and that profit should only be considered after the fact – not serve as the driving factor. Basically, we want to facilitate that conversation taking place and show that doing better is not a possibility, but a necessity.
4. Through your work so far, are you seeing a genuine paradigm shift in how purpose-driven initiatives like yours are being received?
I believe the human conscience is evolving to a point where concepts such as engaged consumption and responsible product manufacturing is slowly becoming a norm. There is a growing awareness about our relationship to the world around us, both on an ecological and an ethical level. There is a growing demand for sustainable and responsibly made products, and support for purpose-driven initiatives. We have been operating since 2014, and over that time we have seen the business landscape slowly shift, and our model is definitely getting more and more attention.
For-profit companies will have to adjust and drastically change their philosophies, even if it means lowering their margins if they want to stay relevant and appeal to their customers. We’re even having companies approach us now to do collaborations on social projects. For us, that means the possibility of much greater impact and awareness, and we’re all for it.
5. What has been your proudest moment thus far?
There are so many moments that stand out to me as I reflect on this question. For me, one aspect I truly love is collaborating with artists who really get the importance of what we’re doing, and want to engage and interact with the kids at the projects we support. The impact of our project is what gives meaning to everything we do and brings it full circle. Roger Ballen, a South African photographic artist, really got that and was fully committed to the social aspect of our collaboration. A few months ago, he even returned to South Africa to give Skateistan students a photography workshop. What more could you possibly ask for from such a world-renowned artist?
Another great example of this is when we teamed up with André Saraiva. I remember taking the entire team to Paris for the release party being held at André’s hotel, Hotel Amour. The entire evening was filled with positive energy and togetherness. The boards sold out almost immediately, and the result of it all? We funded the construction of Angola’s first skate park in Luanda, through the fantastic work of the non-profit, Concrete Jungle Foundation.
Today, that skate park offers a safe space to more than 135 youth, 40 of which are from an orphanage. These kids can now express themselves freely while also developing life skills, such as perseverance, to succeed and seek out a better life.
Every moment where something we do benefits the life of someone else is a moment we should be proud of.
6. What are your thoughts on being a B Corp-Certified company? Have you found that it has made a difference and would you recommend other purpose-driven companies consider the certification process?
Since the beginning, The Skateroom’s philosophy is doing business in a way that has a positive impact on the world. Conducting business in a way that isn’t harmful is no longer enough – we all have a responsibility to step up and truly tackle the challenges we face as humans. With that mindset, becoming a B Corp was a logical decision for us. It was a clear way for us to make our intentions clear to our community and publicly make a commitment to better ourselves.
The process of becoming a certified B Corp is very rigorous and quite challenging. There is a 200-question survey that covers 5 key aspects of a company’s social impact (governance, environment, customers, employees, and community). To pass you have to receive a minimum score of 80 points, and of the 80,000 applicants only about 4 per cent were accepted! For a company like ours, to pass that certification is a huge achievement for which we are very proud. One of the greatest benefits of the certification is that it helps identify your strengths and weaknesses as a company. That way you know exactly where to focus your efforts in order to improve and can create a roadmap based on your objectives.
All of this does make a difference, and so yes, I would definitely recommend for any company to consider the process. As an added incentive, we’re even starting to notice more partners that only want to work with B Corp certified companies.
Spotted: The UK-based Susewi can grow mass quantities of algae by only relying on seawater, the sun and wind, allowing it to produce alternative protein in regions that where it would otherwise be impossible, such as desert climates. The algae are then harvested, desalted and dried into a meal that can be incorporated into products like fish feed.
Susewi’s process can recreate natural algal blooms minus the freshwater that would normally be needed. Each strain begins in a laboratory environment before moving to a greenhouse environment. After a period of cultivation, it ends up in one of Susewi’s outdoor ponds, where nature takes over to bring the algae to its final bloom state.
“We have shown that the process is successful in all climates and across all the seasons, from the rain and cold of a South African winter to the 50-degree heat of a desert summer,” Keith Coleman, Susewi’s founding CEO, told the Advocate. “Governments are interested because it uses natural resources and provides food security and employment.”
Since 2013, SuSeWi has grown into a production facility that boasts the world’s largest algae growth pond, located in the coastal desert of Morocco. The ultimate aim is to be the world’s largest algal producer.
Written By: Justin Sablich
With Britain being one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, Rewilding Britain wants to see rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature – flourish across the UK. The charity’s Rewilding Network is bringing together a wide range of major nature recovery sites, while its Wilder National Parks campaign is calling on the UK Government and devolved administrations to create nature-rich rewilding areas across public land in these precious places.
To help support this incredibly important work, we, along with our sister company Re_Set, recently announced a new partnership with Rewilding Britain, which will include financial support through our membership with 1% for the Planet. We will also take a collaborative approach to highlight Rewilding Britain’s vision and explore the ways in which we can protect and learn from our natural world.
In order to fully understand and appreciate the work that Rewilding Britain is doing and the people driving its mission, we recently spoke with its chief executive, Rebecca Wrigley.
Could you please provide a bit of an origin story of Rewilding Britain? How did it all start?
The catalyst to setting up Rewilding Britain was George Monbiot’s book Feral. Its publication inspired an eclectic group of people to come together and ask ourselves “how can we make rewilding happen?”. We canvassed opinions about whether a new organisation was needed and, if so, what its unique contribution should be. Most people said yes and that it should focus on raising awareness and pushing the boundaries of the debate about rewilding whilst also inspiring rewilding in practice. And so in 2015, Rewilding Britain was born!
What was your background prior to co-founding Rewilding Britain and how has it shaped your current work?
I have been working in the conservation and community development sector for 30 years now across four different continents. For example, in Mexico, I worked for WWF on a forest conservation programme supporting local communities to develop the sustainable use of their land and natural resources. And in Uganda, I was involved in building local community participation in decision-making. During this time I have been lucky enough to have many experiences of wild nature — including watching gorillas in their rainforest habitat, seeing turtles hatch on the beach and diving with sharks. But more than anything it has taught me that people are part of nature and that if we are to find a positive future we need to find ways for both to flourish.
One particular experience has stayed with me that can illustrate this. There is a small community called Ixtlan nestled in the mountains of Mexico. The community came together to plan the use of their land and its resources. They grow crops and keep livestock on some land, sustainably harvest timber from their native pine forests whilst protecting and restoring large areas of cloud and rainforest. But they are also entrepreneurial. They set up a sawmill and produced furniture from them timber, employed community members and invested in their future by supporting young people to gain the skills they need to stay and work in their communities.
For them what worked ecologically also worked economically by providing diversified jobs and income for the community. So I believe that we can find ways to address the climate and ecological emergencies that we are facing that also works for people and communities and the livelihoods that sustain them.
What does success look like for Rewilding Britain? What are your key objectives at present?
Our vision is to see rewilding flourishing across Britain – reconnecting us with the natural world, sustaining communities and tackling the climate emergency and the extinction crisis. We are calling for 30 per cent of Britain to be rewilding by 2030, specifically including five per cent core rewilding areas (at least 1 million acres) where natural living systems are driving dynamic changes in ecosystems, flanked by 25 per cent nature recovery areas that allow for a mix of natural and human activities such as regenerative land uses and sustainable tourism. To this aim what we want to achieve over the next three years is:
- Catalyse: At least 200k hectares of land and 12 marine areas are in process of rewilding with support through the collaborative Rewilding Network, where natural processes are beginning to be restored and nature-based economic opportunities established.
- Influence: Rewilding is increasingly mainstreamed within government – particularly in how it delivers on its pledge to protect 30 per cent of Britain’s land and sea for nature by 2030 — and in other key organisational policies, with financial support available for its application.
- Engage: Key audiences have increased awareness, understanding and engagement in rewilding and with Rewilding Britain, and are inspired to take action.
The world we want to see encourages a relationship between people and the rest of nature where we all benefit and thrive. We want to see opportunities for communities to diversify and create sustainable, nature-based economies. We want to see people reconnecting with the wonders of wild nature, improving their physical and mental health. We see this transformation as a long-term commitment, secured for the benefit of future generations.
The world we want to see is one of hope — where the incredible hum and thrum of life replaces pollution, decline and destruction. It’s a world where our soils are healthy, our rivers are clean, and our land and seas rich and diverse. And it’s a world we know is possible, if we only choose to make it happen…
Through your work so far, are you seeing a genuine paradigm shift in how businesses and consumers approach rewilding in general?
Yes. Five years ago rewilding was a new idea for most people – exciting for many and threatening to others. It certainly stimulated debate across the country. More than anything it started a shift in people’s perceptions of nature and how we use land, and what might be possible in the fight against climate change and species extinction.
Today, rewilding is well on the way to becoming mainstream. We like to think we’ve played a part in making this happen by adopting an accepted definition of rewilding and ensuring it is more widely understood and defining a set of pragmatic principles and priorities to back this up.
We’ve also widely promoted the positive benefits of rewilding on land and in seas and produced a wealth of research to evidence the positive impacts of rewilding and launching our Rewilding Network where landowners and project managers can connect and share rewilding advice, practical help and support.
As a result, we’re now receiving an incredible number of enquiries from landowners, businesses, NGOs, local government and communities large and small wanting help and advice on rewilding. Over the last year alone more than 50 private landowners have contacted us with over 100,000 acres of land between them with potential for rewilding and over 385 people have joined our Rewilding Network.
Within five years, this positive shift in attitudes and support for rewilding at all levels has been truly remarkable. Even our social media channels are buzzing and our e-newsletter continues to grow – showing the huge appetite for rewilding. Added to that, we’re also getting businesses who are inspired by the rewilding movement – creative industries, food and drink, tourism etc – keen to show their support and become a partner and champion for the cause.
What are the key challenges you face in your efforts to restore and connect 30 per cent of Britain’s land by 2030?
Setting the ambition of 30 per cent by 2030 is maybe the easy part – actually implementing it requires a level of integrated action that is much more challenging. It’s not simply a question of some big nature restoration projects linking up across the country — there’s a real need for different people and organisations to work together, to help different areas of land — in terms of ownership and in terms of location and habitats — to rewild, and to connect wherever possible. This requires a change of mindset for many, moving away from defined targets and outcomes. It also needs the right kind of incentives to make it a viable proposition. Some of this can be achieved through dialogue, but we also need to show what can happen, to help people to imagine what’s possible, and where change can benefit people and nature.
Some of the challenges are inevitably political – but there are opportunities here in Britain too. There are lots of promises and pledges being made around 30×30, but without mandated action and financial incentives for those that need them, then these are empty ambitions. A lot of what Rewilding Britain does is to work behind the scenes with politicians and policy-makers (at Westminster and in devolved governments) to make sure rewilding is a recognised and incentivised process within land-use policy.
We are pretty confident that the ambition is absolutely achievable, and it’s becoming increasingly important for us to play a role in helping others understand what they can do to make sure we get there as soon as possible.
Re_Set and Springwise are proud to be partners with Rewilding Britain. Can you talk a bit about the importance of partnerships in reaching your goals and what you look to achieve through collaboration?
Rewilding Britain is also proud of the partnership – and incredibly grateful for Re_Set’s support, financially and in terms of driving awareness and engagement with rewilding. We fundamentally believe that we all need to work together to address the climate emergency and the catastrophic extinction of species. This is why we work with a diverse and growing range of partners and allies to create a healthier, wilder future.
We also believe that local people working together and taking action in places dear to them is a powerful force for change. Partnerships across different sectors and in different communities of interest can be so valuable to driving awareness and change and helping to influence others too. We welcome the valuable role that Re_Set can play in helping rewilding flourish across Britain — especially a partner who shares the same values and vision as us. We’re excited to see where we can go!
What keeps you motivated during times of frustration?
I think that rewilding brings an incredible message of hope. During the difficult times that we have all faced over the last months and years – with COVID-19, the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis – people have turned to nature more than ever for solace and inspiration. We are all part of nature, within its intricate web of life. And we know now more than ever that if nature heals, we heal. So I feel hugely privileged and also motivated by being part of an incredible team of people that are helping to make that happen.
Who or what inspires you personally?
This may seem obvious but I am hugely inspired by nature. From sitting on my Dad’s lap watching Attenborough programmes as a child, to breathlessly watching young beavers emerge from their lodge on the river Otter and snorkelling with basking sharks (I don’t know who’s mouth was wider open!). What truly moves and enthuses me has been sharing such experiences with the people I love and care about. And I would love for many others to have the privilege of having similar experiences on their doorstep.
Do you have any other thoughts or wise words for aspiring purpose-driven entrepreneurs or environmental activists?
I think rewilding brings a whole new world of potential entrepreneurial opportunities that harness the ingenuity of people in support of the genius of nature. We need to encourage a range of new nature-based enterprises – ones that help nature heal whilst supporting prosperous communities – to emerge and thrive across the country through supporting business innovation. These could be in anything from wildlife adventure tourism to seaweed harvesting, rewilding gin or furniture design using high quality locally grown timber.
There may even be products and services we haven’t even thought of yet! I would love to see nature-based economies become a key part of a wider green recovery – and entrepreneurs are ideally placed to help drive that.
Re_Set, the leading next-generation strategy consultancy for innovation and sustainability has today announced a new strategic partnership with Rewilding Britain, the first and only country-wide organisation in Britain focused on rewilding, in a joint commitment to tackle the climate emergency and share expertise and insights.
The partnership will see Re_Set providing up to one per cent of its sales to Rewilding Britain through its membership with 1% for the Planet, an international organisation, whose members contribute at least one per cent of their annual sales to environmental causes and forms part of a wider initiative by the strategy consultancy to build a coalition of global partners to accelerate change, giving a platform to organisations tackling the climate crisis.
Ahead of COP 26, the UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow later this year – and with the Prime Minister promising to protect 30% of Britain for nature by 2030 – both Re_Set and Rewilding Britain will together explore new ways to address key topics from carbon financing to the rewilding approach to land and marine management and how we can build back better and greener to create green jobs and encourage business to take a transformative role.
James Bidwell, co-founder of Re_Set, which is also a certified B Corp, said, “We are hugely proud to be partnering with Rewilding Britain and supporting the incredible work they do. We all have a responsibility to protect the future of our natural world. I look forward to working together to highlight new ways that we can tackle the climate emergency and restore natural habitats as well as encourage business to lead the way to the benefit of people and the planet.”
Rebecca Wrigley, Chief Executive of Rewilding Britain said: “This new partnership with Re_Set will help us take forward a vision of hope as we take concerted action for major nature recovery across at least 30% of Britain over the next decade – tackling the nature and climate crises, restoring the web of life on which we all depend, and creating opportunities for local communities.”
With Britain one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, Rewilding Britain wants to see rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature – to flourish across the country. The charity’s Rewilding Network is bringing together a wide range of major nature recovery sites, while its Wilder National Parks campaign is calling on the UK Government and devolved administrations to create nature-rich rewilding areas across public land in these precious places.
Both Re_Set and its sister company, Springwise, the renowned global intelligence platform for positive and sustained change, will contribute to the partnership as top-tier corporate partners in the company of brands such as Patagonia who have also pledged their support. Re_Set and Springwise will take a collaborative approach to highlight Rewilding Britain’s vision and explore the ways in which we can protect and learn from our natural world, thereby investing in a major step change for nature and climate.
Notes to Editors
About Rewilding Britain
Rewilding Britain wants rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature to the point it can take care of itself – to flourish to reconnect people with the natural world, sustain communities, and tackle the extinction and climate crises.
Re_Set is a leading next-generation strategy consultancy for innovation and sustainability whose mission is to ensure its clients thrive in a disrupted world. The consultancy specialises in understanding what’s next and how to make change happen at pace with a positive, sustainable impact. Re_Set is a certified B Corp company, part of a growing community of businesses committed to redefining the role of business in society as a force for good. Re_Set is also a member of 1% for the Planet.
Springwise is the renowned global intelligence platform that drives positive and sustained change, offering foresight into the most innovative thinking and ideas across the planet. With access to an ever-expanding network of 10,000 + global innovators, Springwise is trusted by thousands of thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, educators and tech disruptors and the leading source of ideas that inspire and empower. Springwise is a certified B Corp and member of 1% for the planet.
For further information on Re_Set and the partnership please contact email@example.com or for information on Rewilding Britain please contact Richard Bunting; 07753 488146; firstname.lastname@example.org
James Bidwell: Welcome to this Springwise Sessions interview with the inimitable Chris Turner. Chris, tell us about your path to this amazing role. How did that happen and how did you get here?
Chris Turner: As you say, it’s an amazing role. I’m so very lucky to do what I do. It was sort of a meandering path that led me here. I started off in marketing, but I quickly realised that I wanted meaning and purpose behind what I was doing.
I went and did some work in the US on political campaigning and, at that point, I got involved in some small startups that were looking at innovation, one of which was Springwise. And what that did was expose me to the amazing kind of breadth of exciting new things that were happening around the world, from product design all the way through to marketing and creativity stuff, as well as business models and more profound innovation going on in the business space. That was where I got particularly interested in social enterprise – businesses that are designed specifically for positive impact and to solve a problem for society or for the planet.
I wanted to throw myself into those problems, into those challenges and understand the context in more detail which led me into international development, where I spent a few years working for a variety of NGOs and foundations, a large portion of that time in East Africa. I was at the business end of the spectrum, so helping those foundations and NGOs cultivate markets and encouraging businesses who are trying to solve challenges.
I realised that I was more suited to the business world where there is just that that extra element of pace and dynamism. There’s also the potential for scale. And then I thought, what if every business was contributing towards the solutions that we all need? What we need, first of all, is every business being a force for good – to borrow some of the B Corp lingo. It’s incredibly exciting when you start thinking about the kind of shifts to the system that are necessary. That said every business can be a force for good. This is the biggest tool we have as a society to solve our challenges.
JB: You were at Springwise for two years as Managing Director and you set the foundations for what we’re doing now, which is continuing that really purposeful innovation that matters and doubling down on innovations that are making the world a better place.
When you landed your current role, I remember thinking it was such an important movement. So here we are with four thousand B Corps in the world right now.
What is the essence of the movement and in particular the context in the UK? How is the UK pioneering the movement? Are we moving quicker in the UK than in some of the other spaces because it has American roots?
CT: It’s an interesting question because some people “tell us about the B Corp Certification and what it means.” But your version of the question was “tell us about the movement.” It’s about ultimately changing the system. It’s about redefining what the role of business is so that it is no longer this single-minded pursuit of growth and profit and the bottom line. But it’s actually kind of reframing that contract between people and business and seeing business ultimately as serving society for all of our benefit. It’s an equitable, regenerative economy that we’re trying to create.
So we have the B Corp Certification, which Springwise obviously carries. And what that is, is a reflection of two things. In essence, one is the actual operating principles. The governance of the business is rooted in the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. And so what we do is we ask everybody to make a legal change so they are formally, legally committed to serving people, planet and profit. And that’s a really crucial pillar of the certification.
Every B Corp Certification looks a little bit different, whether you are around the world, whether there’s a separate legal form like there is in many states in the US, for example, or whether you can just amend your articles of association, which is what happens in the UK. The second pillar of becoming a certified B Corp is the assessment. Every B Corp has to complete a very rigorous assessment, which intends to be realistic, covering everything from the governance, how business treats its workers all the way through to the environment, its interactions with customers and the community.
A B Corp will fill out this assessment. They’ll get a score. And once it’s reached 80 points or above, then we verify that score. It’s all totally transparent. The tricky bit is how these two things fit together – the lofty mission for changing the system and then the certification. That’s where our strategy comes in. We work across the cultural and the regulatory kind of spaces advocating for changes to the law. On the one hand, we’re looking for a change to the Companies Act, for example, in the UK, or we look at the culture of business, how we can redefine success away from that old school concept of it.
My team does a huge amount of work in guiding businesses through the certification process all the way through to our great marketing comms activity telling the stories of our B Corps. We are small but quickly growing team. In the UK, we’re actually the fastest growing B Corp community in the world, which is incredibly exciting. We hit 500 B Corps back in March. So we’re racing through certifications in the UK. and that’s driven by really enlightened consumers who are looking for businesses who can match their values and can do so credibly. We’ve got investors who are looking for businesses that can prove their ESG credentials and that they are purpose-driven.
We’ve got an enlightened business community, business leaders who are recognising that ultimately this is what good leadership looks like. And they need to find ways of not just walking the talk, but actually embedding it throughout their business. So we’ve got so many things in our favour in the UK and we’re really just trying to capitalise on that right now and act with the kind of urgency that the big problems demand, like climate change, inequality, you know, the crisis of diversity and inclusion. It’s incumbent on us to meet that challenge and grasp the opportunity we have.
JB: We work a lot with clients on their sustainability strategies and their broader business strategies and the number of companies and CEOs that are coming to me and saying, you know, what’s the value of being a B Corp? Is it worth it and how do I do it? And for me, that’s a big indicator in the work you’re doing and the cut-through that your teams are having and also the zeitgeist of consumers.
But to achieve accreditation is really tough. Re_Set and Springwise are small businesses; we took 15 months to certify. I’m really proud that it was tough and that we got through the ringer to really certify that what we do is transparent and justified. We’ve made some sacrifices, as you know, because we believe in the movement.
And on the flip side of that, I also find that it has huge value. We’re very differentiated. No other consultancy of our size in the country can say that they are a B Corp and the big businesses can’t and they won’t because they’ll have to change the way they behave. People want to work for us because we’re a B Corp – we’re getting a lot of inbound, which is really cool.
One thing that I’ve seen also is that people are now saying that they’re operating their companies along the principles of B Corp. And for me, that is a bit like ‘B Corp washing’? I think that the strictness of the accreditation is really important because it forces you to do the right thing. However, at four thousand members globally, that’s a relatively small amount of companies. So how are you approaching that kind of tension, Chris?
CT: You know, that’s a great question because it really speaks to so much of what we’re trying to achieve and the way that we’re trying to achieve it. Four thousand businesses around the world is not a lot, but there’s a lot of work that’s gone into their certifications and the work that our teams do in verifying them. Even in the UK, which is growing quickly, we’re never going to certify every business in the country, which again comes back to that strategic question of how everybody can have real ripples of impact. The community itself of B Corps can be more than the sum of its parts in really inspiring other businesses to act.
I think, first of all, the assessment itself, it’s important to say, is totally free and accessible. Anybody or any business can go on and create an account and start filling it out and measure that business. And there’s that old adage, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Our intent there is to get that assessment into the hands of as many businesses as possible, because ultimately, if we can do that, then they’re on the journey. They’re thinking about the right things. They’re identifying the right improvements.
To give you a sense of that, while there’s about 4000 B Corps around the world, there are about a hundred thousand businesses using the assessment. So it’s a way of expanding our reach. But of course, there needs to come a point where, those other actors within the system, like employees, workers, customers, suppliers, investors, can identify the businesses who have actually reached a certain minimum standard, and that’s where the certification comes in. The certification is always going to be that gold standard. So we’re trying to do both. We’re trying to get that reach, get that scale and bring more and more people into the movement and on the journey. But we also really want to kind of champion the leaders, because ultimately so much of this is about leadership.
JB: I think that’s very reassuring, Chris. And what’s encouraging is that the investment community is now getting on top of this. But I think the message that needs to come through is that if we want systemic change, you have to make some sacrifices. So those people who are talking about operating a B Corp, using it as a framework, just do the assessment and commit to making sacrifices.
So just around the corner is the peak of the Global Climate Summit. What can we expect and what’s the objective from the Climate Summit in this very important year just after G7 and leading up to Cop 26?
CT: This year is really the starting point for the Summit. What a crucial year. From a UK perspective, it has been a massive year with the G7 and Glasgow’s Cop 26, virtual or otherwise. The B Corp movement is really focused on the climate emergency and on the ways in which B Corps but also businesses more broadly can contribute to the solutions and act with urgency. And we saw this, in fact, in the last Cop in Madrid back at the end of 2019, where we took a big delegation, again, mainly virtual to present net-zero commitments. And so we carry that forward to this Cop. Again, a big part of the Climate Summit is about empowering businesses to make those kinds of commitments.
The Summit itself is three days. It’s virtual. It is free to register, free to attend from June 29th and 30th and July 1st. There are sections of the Summit which are global and then localised content as well. But we want to equip B Corps and businesses more broadly for that journey to net zero. And there are also bigger objectives, which are about aligning the business community and B Corp community with climate action in the longer term, building a global community of action that is necessary to tackle the climate emergency.
One of the other objectives of the summit is to centre climate justice, by championing the human-centred kind of approach to climate action so that we’re ensuring that climate justice is at the heart of our response to the climate emergency. So the Summit will bring together the aspirational side of things and the more practical and empowering stuff such as how businesses can get on the net-zero journey.
JB: One of the frustrating things that I feel, having dedicated this part of my career to pushing this agenda of sustainability and equality, is that stuff doesn’t get done quick enough. We are in an emergency and it is urgent. I have lots of kids and I worry a lot about the next generations, although we live in one of the most fortunate parts of the world here. Do you really think that we’re getting to the bottom of this and the urgency is there? In this pivotal year, are we going to really see the system change that needs to happen actually happen?
CT: Gosh, what a big question. I agree with you; things can’t move quickly enough, particularly when it comes to the climate emergency. I think there are fewer and fewer people who would question the urgency of action in tackling the climate of urgency. It’s blindingly obvious, I think, to us. So speed is of the essence. I think it’s one of those questions where, yes, the sense of urgency and pushing this pace of action is incredibly valuable, but doing so in a way that you’re also encouraging mass action. We can’t have those nimble and fast actors racing ahead of everyone and leaving everyone else behind.
So the big challenge is pushing ahead with the action, finding those leaders and finding those businesses who can act with real urgency and forge the path, the kind of pace that’s required, maybe still not quick enough, but in a way that creates this wake of mass businesses following behind them and accelerating behind them. We don’t just need pace, we also need scale. So our most profound challenge, I think, is to do both at the same time. I think we are seeing more and more urgency and we are seeing more and more people acting faster or businesses acting faster.
JB: I think you make a great point. This is about a movement and it’s about a community. Governments will change and there are always going to be massive differences between governments. But one of the attractive things about being in the movement of business is that businesses can be truly global and can therefore have a global impact in a way that politicians can’t. And I think we do need to get the politicians to commit and to be much more focused on this.
Chris, what would you like the Springwise community globally to do? And what would you say to the innovators related to this conversation?
CT: Knowing the Springwise community as I do, I think many, many or most of those in this business and in the innovation space are already really switched on to these big challenges that we all face, that these problems need solving quickly. I would say that business is an amazing tool to do so because it can move at pace and create new ideas.
The Springwise community is knitted together by these common foundations and beliefs and values in a similar way to the B Corp community as well. So, I would urge people to collaborate, communicate and move together, because that’s how we reach more people and that’s how we reach the scale that we need.
JB: So Springwise is a global movement of innovation and innovators supporting the global movement of businesses as a force for good. Sounds like a plan, Chris.
CT: Thank you, James. It’s been a real pleasure and looking forward to seeing you at the Summit.
According to the organisers of World Rainforest Day, the planet loses about 40 American football fields—or 4,000 yards—worth of rainforests every single minute. Additionally, deforestation causes 15 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions that fuel climate change, which is more than all of the cars in the United States and China put together.
With another World Rainforest Day upon us (22 June), we thought we’d look back into the Springwise archive to unearth some of the most creative ways we’ve seen businesses and other organisations help protect rainforests and raise awareness.
1. MONITORING SYSTEM PROTECTS BRAZILIAN RAINFORESTS
Rainforest Connection uses advanced technology to monitor the rainforest and hence seek to put an end to illegal deforestation.
It has developed bio-acoustic monitoring that uploads rainforest sounds to a platform, which can be accessed and shared worldwide. This real-time data helps inform land management, policy changes and resource distribution. By monitoring the sounds of the rainforest, the organization is also able to pick up on sounds related to poaching.
2. WORLD’S FIRST NATURE-BACKED FINANCIAL INSTRUMENT
The venture capital group Single.Earth has developed a way for landowners to earn money for under-utilising their land. Their online platform allows forests, wetlands and other natural areas to generate income by being left alone – eliminating the need for their owners to sell their resources in order to turn a profit. Instead, owners are rewarded for preserving ecosystems.
Single.Earth works by tokenising privately-owned natural resources and areas of ecological significance. Companies and organisations can then purchase the tokens and thus own fractional amounts of the lands and resources. Importantly, investors also receive carbon offsets on their token purchases.
“Knowing that we’ve saved an immensely biodiverse rainforest or restored a degraded land back to a healthy ecosystem where animals return – and at the same time secured the local communities a decent income – is what keeps us going,” Single.Earth’s CEO and co-founder Merit Valdsalu told Springwise.
3. HEALTHCARE DISCOUNTS DISCOURAGE LOGGING TO SAVE THE RAINFOREST
Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is a non-profit that provides healthcare discounts to villagers who refrain from logging the forest — an act that is hugely damaging to the local endangered wildlife, including 10 per cent of the world’s orangutan population.
ASRI is helping to prevent this by giving villages that stop logging up to 70 per cent off of their medical bills. As a result, the human and natural health of the region has vastly improved; logging has reduced, and infant deaths have fallen by 60 per cent.
4. DIGITAL ‘SMART FOREST’ TECHNOLOGY IMPROVES FOREST MANAGEMENT AND MONITORING
At COP26, the Brazilian government announced targets for ending deforestation – a particularly important issue in a country that is home to nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest. Against this backdrop, it is more important than ever for owners of forest assets to make sustainable decisions based on data.
Sao Paulo-based Treevia is a technology platform that uses machine learning to monitor multiple variables in forest environments. Data is collected through extremely precise internet of things (IoT) sensors embedded within the forest environment. By providing accurate, automated, and structured data, Treevia hopes to empower researchers and forest-based companies to take meaningful actions that improve both productivity and sustainability.
5. BRAND CAMPAIGN FEATURING A MONKEY’S TINDER PROFILE RAISES BIODIVERSITY AWARENESS
Back in 2016, The Body Shop launched a conservation campaign via Tinder and the hashtag #helpreggiefindlove, to raise awareness of its commitment to endangered species.
By swiping right on Reggie the monkey, users received information on his habitat, the Khe Nuoc Trong forest in Vietnam — which is being affected by deforestation — and receive discount codes to spend online.
This article was first published on 22/06/2021 and updated in June 2022
Back in February, Springwise spotted a unique startup that developed a way for landowners to earn money for under-utilising their land. The Single.Earth online platform allows forests, wetlands and other natural areas to generate income by being left alone – eliminating the need for their owners to sell their resources in order to turn a profit. Instead, owners are rewarded for preserving ecosystems.
Single.Earth works by tokenising privately-owned natural resources and areas of ecological significance. Companies and organisations can then purchase the tokens and thus own fractional amounts of the lands and resources. Importantly, investors also receive carbon offsets on their token purchases.
We wanted to learn more, so we caught up with Single.Earth’s CEO and co-founder Merit Valdsalu to find out how this idea came about and what motivates her to keep pursuing her purpose-driven goals.
Where did the original idea for Single.Earth come from?
The story of Single.Earth goes back to a Garage48 hackathon called “the Future of Wood” which was dedicated to finding new ways of valuing forest and its resources.
Our goal was to create business models that would enable forests to generate profit without being sold as raw material – to find alternatives to intensive forestry happening in our home country Estonia.
Carbon and biodiversity trading schemes offered the perfect opportunity to solve this issue. Once we’d figured out how to monetize growing forests locally, we realized that we had actually cracked how to heal our relationship with nature globally.
What was your background prior to this, and how did that shape your work with Single.Earth?
I was one of the early employees of Pipedrive, a tech company that by today has become a unicorn. That’s definitely where I got my passion for building scalable tech solutions.
But, more than that, Pipedrive taught me one of the key lessons for my journey as an entrepreneur – that people are the most valuable asset of a company. Great company culture is a crucial component of success. Because of that, I’m doing all I can to create a positive and inspiring work environment at Single.Earth.
What change does Single.Earth want to facilitate?
Our goal is to monetize nature for its real value – the ecosystem services that keep us alive. Nature is the most valuable resource on this planet and it’s crucial for our survival. Yet, today’s business models only incentivize the destruction of these ecosystems.
Single.Earth creates a systematic change in how we value nature financially. We monetize the ecological value of nature like carbon sequestration and biodiversity.
We turn nature into a tradable and liquid asset class and, by that, integrate nature protection into the existing economy. That’s the only way we can make a lasting impact.
Through your work so far, are you seeing a genuine paradigm shift in how entrepreneurs and investors are approaching the climate crisis? How much work remains to be done to make a significant impact in stemming climate change?
My experience shows that entrepreneurs and investors are taking the climate crisis more seriously than ever before. Though it’s a tough topic with disastrous outlooks, there’s a certain buzz in the startup scene as everybody sees the crisis as an opportunity to create something impactful.
However, there’s still a lot of work to be done to turn this excitement into actual working solutions. We need to speed up the process and get these new solutions to market a lot faster. I see that, at least partially, the slow pace is a reflection of the governments’ and international organizations’ approach to these issues.
To combat the climate crisis, the entire humankind has to come together and make an effort. Without global leadership in this matter, the private sector has to step up and make a difference at the grassroots level.
What keeps you motivated during times of frustration?
I’ve realized that now that I’ve started the journey to save the natural world, there is no turning back. Regardless of how frustrating things can get, I’ve never even considered quitting. Failing is not an option if the future of our world is at stake.
So, the biggest motivation in this journey is the impact we’re making. Knowing that we’ve saved an immensely biodiverse rainforest or restored a degraded land back to a healthy ecosystem where animals return – and at the same time secured the local communities a decent income – is what keeps us going.
What has been your proudest moment thus far?
Our proudest moments have been the recognition we’ve received from some of the largest nature conservation organizations in the world. Hearing that they have been looking for a solution like Single.Earth has reassured us that we’re doing the right thing and encouraged us to think even bigger.
We’ve also been super grateful for all the attention we’ve received from the international media like Reuters and Forbes. It’s amazing to see the topics dear to my heart being published to a very wide audience, reaching people from very different walks of life, not just environmentalists.
What is one book or film you’ve recently consumed that has inspired you and that you might recommend?
I’d actually point out a documentary I watched just recently. I believe that every person should watch Seaspiracy. It’s a powerful documentary that shows the impact humans have on the marine ecosystem.
It leaves you thinking about how everything that we do affects other living things on this planet. Hopefully, this will encourage people to do their part in protecting the environment.
We can all make a difference by changing the way we use natural resources. Nobody will save the planet for us. We must all do it together, and every little bit helps.
Who inspires you personally?
I am inspired by people who have the guts to speak up when something is wrong. We must denormalize old habits, traditions, and pure greed that are causing harm to other living beings and the environment.
This can only happen if there are people to call things for what they are. I admire the kind of boldness in people and try to level up to that as well.
Do you have any other thoughts or wise words for aspiring purpose-driven entrepreneurs?
Build a team and a network of people around you who believe in the same purpose. They will play a crucial role in motivating you to keep going when the times are hard and pushing you to think bigger when everything seems to be good already.