Q&A with 1% for the Planet CEO Kate Williams

August 4, 2015

The 1% for the Planet network of companies has donated over $130 million to environmental causes. One of the world’s largest environmental networks, the 1200 member companies pledge to donate at least one percent of annual sales to nonprofit organizations focused on the environment or sustainability. Now under the new leadership of CEO Kate Williams, 1% for the Planet is looking to affect even greater change with a renewed commitment to its mission, fresh initiatives, and a growing list of members and impact stories. Eco News Network recently caught up with Williams to learn about her new role and the future future vision for 1% for the Planet.horizontal1

Eco News Network – What’s the history behind 1% for the Planet?

KW – It all started in 2002 when Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, decided to join forces to help businesses contribute directly to the environment. Their vision grew 016-Kate_Williams_2015 LR (1)into 1% for the Planet, a passion project, which has grown to become one of the world’s largest environmental networks, connecting more than 1,200 member companies in 48 countries. Through the 1% for the Planet network, businesses, nonprofits, ambassadors, media partners and individuals can come together to tackle big everyday issues, like food, water, climate, land and species, committing to making positive change for our Big Blue Planet.

Eco News Network – How does 1% for the Planet it work?

KW – Every day, new companies join 1% for the Planet and pledge to donate at least one percent of annual sales to nonprofit organizations focused on the environment and/or sustainability. With a long list of member companies, helping to save our planet can be as easy as drinking a beer, eating an energy bar or replacing your favorite pieces of clothing. 1% for the Planet makes it easy to buy better products and protect the planet we play on. When put in the right hands it can make a world of difference; we can all do more together than we can alone.

Eco News Network – What “fresh initiatives” do you have planned for 1%?

KW – ​Individual giving will be one focus for 2015. 1% for the Planet has been focused on engaging the business community in environmental philanthropy for more than 10 years. We are thrilled in 2015 to launch a program – the Blue Crew – that invites individuals to join the movement by donating directly to 1% for the Planet, fueling the work we do to engage and coordinate the largest global network of business and nonprofits working together to address pressing environmental problems.

We will also be engaging our network around specific issues. In a variety of ways we will be sharing our collective story and demonstrating the power of corporate environmental philanthropy around each of our issue areas: food, water, land, species, and climate. We will support and host events, create new funding partnerships, and amplify the important work our partners are doing on the ground, with the end goal of showcasing the incredible power our growing network has to create positive environmental impact.

Eco News Network – Why are you the right person to lead the charge?

KW – I have a deep personal connection to the outdoors and my professional career has been shaped by tapping this connection to fuel my work in the nonprofit environmental sector to create real change on the ground. I have experience leading complex enterprises and building organizations from good to great, and I believe I have a compelling vision of collective engagement that will lead to far more success than any one business or nonprofit could accomplish alone. My work as Executive Director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and as Chair of the Board of the National Outdoor Leadership School demonstrate the range of my commitment from local, direct action to broad global leadership. I’m is thrilled to bring this focus and breadth to 1% for the Planet to build on the organization’s strong foundation and help it to attain its full potential as a global leader in the environmental space.

Eco News Network – Who do you look up to most as an environmental leader?

KW – I am a huge Wendell Berry fan. His grounded-ness in place, and his wisdom that is at once simple and complex is a consistent reminder that we give our best for what we love, and taking the time to instill true affection for natural places, whether an urban community garden or a remote wilderness river, is a foundation stone for building a lasting environmental ethic. I have also turned to Edward Abbey to remind myself of the need to think and act courageously and with urgency in the face of the very real environmental threats we face.

Eco News Network – What do you believe the top three most impressive achievements of 1% for the Planet have been?

KW – First, that more than 1200 companies have given $130MM since the organization was founded in 2003. This is a significant achievement, and just the beginning of the growing movement.

Second, that 1% for the Planet is truly global, with members and nonprofits in more than 40 countries. The environmental challenges facing our planet are not confined within our political boundaries, so a global footprint and approach are absolutely critical.

Third, we are lean and scrappy. We leverage every dollar that comes into our organization more than 30:1 to get real money into the hands of the nonprofits doing the critical work on the ground.

Eco News Network – What makes 1% for the Planet such a great choice for companies and individuals interested in supporting environmental causes?

KW – Our network and our movement is compelling. Member companies, nonprofit recipients, and individual consumers can all take action every day through responsible purchasing choices. The challenges facing our planet can seem overwhelming. The 1% for the Planet model creates a way for the most complex of corporations right down to the simplest of single individuals to come together play a real and important part in supporting the health of our planet, every day.

For companies, the 1% for the Planet model represents a credible, meaningful model. Our brand and our approach give member companies a very clear and concise way to tell the world that they are making an enormous commitment to the health of our planet, every year, no matter what. As such, our brand offers a very real “glow” for our companies who want their environmental commitment to taken seriously and to amplify their brand.

Finally, our model works and it’s proven to be good for business. Cofounder, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, famously and regularly states, “Every time we’ve done the right thing it’s ended up making us more money.” And our other co-founder Craig Mathews said of his own company, Blue Ribbon Flies, membership, “I can say, our business doubled in a year once word got out on our 1% work. It builds a solid customer base, one that brings loyalty and strong friendship and support from our customers from around the world. When consumers find out the can support wildlife, wild trout, clean air and water through purchases with member businesses of 1% they become customers for life.”

Eco News Network – What do you believe are the greatest environmental challenges for the next 3 years, 5 years, 10 years?

KW – Acting as though our finite resources are infinite is the greatest challenge we face. From fossil fuel use to agricultural practices, when we operate as though our singular planet can simply keep on giving is a fallacy that we must grow beyond. It’s exciting to see the many innovations and reconnections to ancient wisdom in all of our issue areas – food, water, land, species, and climate – that are showing us how we can live meaningful and healthy lives while caring for and replenishing the only planet we’ve got.

To learn more about 1% for the Planet or to get involved visit www.onepercentfortheplanet.org where you can also find a full list of members.

-JE Forbes

Photos and visuals provided by 1% for the Planet

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