Profit for Purpose

Q&A with Kate Rayson

 Profit for Purpose

Brands Taking Positive Action is a three-part webinar series hosted by Frost*collective to showcase and share next generation sustainable thinking. We spoke to experts across industries to see what steps, as people and businesses, they’re taking – and we can take – to contribute to a more sustainable future.

“Climate is an issue I want to work on, and Pollination has been designed to be laser focused on accelerating the transition to net zero and climate resilient future, so it aligns perfectly with the work I want to do.”

Kate Rayson is the Director of Marketing & Business Development at Pollination, a specialist climate change advisory and investment firm, accelerating the transition to a net zero, climate resilient future. As part of our Brands Taking Positive Action leadership series, we talked to Kate about Pollination’s mission to contribute to a sustainable future and how other brands can do the same.
 Profit for Purpose
Can you give us a quick background of your career? 
I started in marketing & comms roles for various agencies, before taking on my first really formative role working in Vietnam for a climate change NGO. It was the first time I could connect the things I personally cared deeply about with my work, and my first experience with purpose-driven work. I then went to WWF Australia as Head of Digital Campaigns & Engagement, before moving to Qantas Future Planet, running the carbon offset program and business, where we worked with other big Australian corporates on their own carbon neutral products and services. This combined my earlier commercial experience with my purpose driven work, which leads nicely to Pollination – a new climate change investment and advisory firm laser focused on a net zero emissions future.  
 
Is climate change something you’re personally passionate about?  
My family are third generation farmers and are absolutely on the front line of climate change in Australia, so yes, we’ve always had good and healthy discussions around the dinner table! 
In your experience, how have discussions around sustainability over the last decade changed? 
It’s changed significantly. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) used to be a very separate philanthropic or ‘charity’ element. Big organisations would have sustainability people, but they were often quite carved off and certainly didn’t have a seat at the executive table or weren’t decision makers at that level. There has been a huge shift where sustainability is now central to the way you do business. It’s part of your strategy today and helps shape decisions about how you do business tomorrow. There’s also sense of responsibility for sustainability not just in your business, but in your whole supply chain. For new organisations like ours, it’s much easier to bake it in from the start, but it’s also becoming a core part of the way established businesses operate too.  
Where do you think this change is coming from? 
There are a whole range of drivers and pressure points for sustainability within organisations. From shareholders, investors and regulators, to customers and the employees we want to attract and retain – it’s a whole ecosystem of shareholders that is driving for sustainability to become part of core business.  

 Profit for Purpose
What attracted you to Pollination?
Its purpose. Climate is the issue I want to work on, and Pollination has been designed to be laser focused on one thing and that’s transitioning to net zero and a climate resilient future. Climate change is a very complex problem and to unlock change and for money to flow into this new decarbonised economy, we really need to take a holistic view of the challenges. Pollination is very deliberately bringing together experts from across the global climate change ecosystem, such as policy, investment, corporate strategy and law, and when you bring these people together for a client such as BHP for example, it’s their different experiences, ideas and networks that can unlock solutions at a scale we might not have seen before.
What has been the journey since Pollination’s launch? 
I’m so pleasantly surprised at just how right the timing seems and how much appetite there is for change and action, which is really exciting. We’re growing really quickly; we launched in November and at last count, we’re 40 people in nine countries. I’m really proud of that growth because it’s absolutely linked to the pace of positive change that’s happening in business and governments. The Paris Agreement, which sets us on a path to net zero emissions by 2050, is catalysing change, which is why we’re growing so quickly. There’s a lot in our work that’s doom and gloom and pretty scary, but the scale of the action from organisations, investors and governments makes it impossible not to feel hopeful.  
 
With such rapid growth, how have you ensured that your brand values are maintained? 
Our values really are our foundation. It’s all well and good to come up with them, but it’s about actually embedding them. They’re a huge part of our recruitment strategy, which includes one entirely values-based interview, which has had great feedback from candidates. We also have a weekly global call and the second agenda item is a ‘values share’, where someone in the team shares an example of where they’ve seen our values in practice inside the organisation. The Australian team also has a weekly ‘health check’ and answers a question around our values, so they are part of the conversation on a twice weekly basis at least.  
 Profit for Purpose
With such rapid growth, how have you ensured that your brand values are maintained? 
Our values really are our foundation. It’s all well and good to come up with them, but it’s about actually embedding them. They’re a huge part of our recruitment strategy, which includes one entirely values-based interview, which has had great feedback from candidates. We also have a weekly global call and the second agenda item is a ‘values share’, where someone in the team shares an example of where they’ve seen our values in practice inside the organisation. The Australian team also has a weekly ‘health check’ and answers a question around our values, so they are part of the conversation on a twice weekly basis at least.  
 
Are sustainable companies more economically resilient?  
Often the biggest barriers to sustainability action is the status quo, so what the pandemic has done is ensured that there’s no such thing as business as usual anymore. In this context, businesses are more open to conversations around change and what they should be doing. It’s also highlighted in devastating ways the need for resilience within our businesses. Recent research into the economic crisis by BlackRock, the world’s largest fund manager, found that companies with stronger social and environmental scores were performing better than those without. From an investment perspective, companies that perform well on sustainability scores are seen as better, more resilient long-term investments, so have fared better at maintaining and attracting investment in turbulent times.  
What can businesses do to make positive change? 
In Australia, where the politics around climate change is so toxic, we have this outdated view that sustainability is a philanthropic endeavour and makes you a Green. It does not. It makes you commercially and economically rational and builds long term success and resilience in your business. 
In terms of practical steps that businesses can take, which completely depends on the business and industry, there are some good places to start: 
B Corporation – a certification for businesses looking to verify their social and environmental performance. Rightly, it’s a stringent process but whether or not you decide to do it, the B Corp website has a whole raft of great tips, ideas and toolkits of what we can be doing, which might help you get started.  

The Measure, Reduce, Influence framework – 
Measure – measuring your carbon footprint as a first step will often identify several things you can do. So, find out what it is, e.g. carbon emission, water usage, waste etc – there’s often low hanging fruit you can start doing very easily.  
Reduce – what can you reduce? Do what you can short term and long term. 
Influence – how can you take what you’ve learned and the power you have in your industry or supply chain and use it for good to influence others to take action?