Sophie Lambin founded Kite Insights in 2012 with the aim of inspiring the business community to take urgent action on climate and the environment. Kite Insights’ latest initiative is The Climate School, a climate training programme to educate and empower employees to take action in their role at work. We spoke to Sophie to learn more about the programme, and to hear about what’s getting her fired up and inspired.
Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about Kite Insights – what’s your mission?
Kite Insights’ mission is to enable businesses to thrive in the green economy. Our planet is our business.
What drives you?
The potential to have a positive impact in the world, it sounds trite but it’s true… and I think that companies, which are made up of people, have a huge part to play in tackling the crisis that we face.
I founded Kite Insights nine years ago because I believe businesses have an urgent responsibility to society combined with the power to effect global change. Since then, little has changed in terms of corporates taking the strides that are necessary to alter our trajectory yet our window of opportunity for action has narrowed. In that sense, I am increasingly driven by the urgency of right now – the fact that the next few years could determine the future of this planet and the need to mobilise everyone in that effort.
From a more holistic perspective, exploring how social inequalities and the climate crisis intersect through the work that we do at Kite, has strengthened my commitment to raise awareness and catalyse change in organisations. If we can create visibility on the magnitude of these challenges and how they interrelate, we can start a serious conversation about creating their solutions.
Finally, I believe that there are solutions. To get to them demands a deep understanding of the issues, cross-sectoral collaboration, innovation, and thoughtful corporate action.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I think what I am most proud of is the team at Kite Insights. We are diverse in our perspectives and personalities but, what I believe sets us apart – both as a place to work and in our work for clients – is a curiosity and dedication that is shared by all.
The greatest testament to this has been our progress this year. In what was a difficult year for everyone, we set up and launched our most ambitious venture to date: Kite Insights – The Climate School, a climate training programme to educate and empower employees to take action in their role at work. For us to be at a stage now where we are presenting to investors could not have happened without the commitment and passion of the team for this project since its inception.
Indeed, the collaborative spirit, collective power and dedication that I see on a daily basis at Kite is the basis for our ideal of a winning team of employees empowered to effect change for their organisation and society.
On a personal note, I am also so proud of the raw kindness and solidarity between all of the members of the team. It creates the kind of environment where people can feel safe, bring their whole personality to the table, and truly collaborate. It warms my heart to see the team working together that way.
What are the challenges you face?
It is crucial for me that the work we do with clients goes beyond being a brand positioning exercise; that it affects real, impactful change within an organisation. To do this well demands a highly introspective and rigorous process for an organisation. The challenge for me is getting firm leadership to a place where they understand the effort and investment required to bring an organisation to a place of alignment and readiness for action.
A second challenge that we face daily is eco-anxiety. On the one hand, people need to understand the urgency and scale of action required and, on the other, we have the privilege of right now being able to act in a way so as to create a tangible difference for our planet, our lives and those of future generations. To succumb to climate pessimism or the feeling that ‘nothing we do will be enough’ limits our capacity to respond. To become a proactive organisation, you need your people to see the opportunities of the green transition: the health, wellness and economic co-benefits of this action, for example.
I’m also excited by the notion of positive climate tipping points: small events that spark cascading changes to speed up our transition to a green economy. With sufficient investment, imagination and vision for a green future, I do believe that this movement can and will transform business, society and our lives for the better. So it’s about getting people to that point – more than merely understanding the scientific facts of this crisis, also shifting away from a reactionary position on climate – changing the narrative, fostering an appetite for change, creating openness to the possibilities that sufficiently ambitious action on climate unlocks.
What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
Having worked in sustainability for a while, it’s very gratifying to feel to see the conversation around climate pick up — whether it’s the rise of ESG and impact investing, the exponential growth of climate technologies, ambitious climate commitments from major corporations and coalitions, or employee activism. This enthusiasm for action brings with it opportunities for impact; that’s a very exciting starting point when a client comes to us with a sustainability challenge.
Which is really where Kite Insights – The Climate School comes in. I feel, as part of a collective, far more empowered to take action and impactful in terms of the action I can take. My belief is that employees will feel the same if they are directed to take climate action in the context of their workforce. It’s about harnessing the energy at this inflection point and enabling people to do what they do best, which is to adapt and innovate in an environment in which they have been trained and have expertise. In other words, translating employee activism into corporate action.
Where do you want to take The Climate School next?
We are currently in our first investment round for Kite Insights – The Climate School, which is a very exciting and new process for us.
With funding, we will build up our platform of content to become the number one aggregator of best-in-class climate content. We will do this with our strategic and content partners, including AXA Climate, who have developed modules exploring the science of climate change, biodiversity, natural resources and the impact of human societies.
We will also create new modules where there are any gaps in existing content out there. We are proposing modules on the intersections of gender and climate, for example. These will explore the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on women along supply chains, outlining steps for employees to take gender-responsive sustainable action in their role at work. With our strategic and delivery partners, Leaders’ Quest and Schoolab, we are looking to create action-oriented and immersive sessions inspiring employees to collaborate and innovate.
In tandem, we will be building up our green technology platform, the Climate Innovators Network. The Innovators Network connects corporates who have undergone Climate School training with climate experts and sustainable innovators. The Network is hosted by the world’s premier digital matchmaking platform, Leading Edge Only (LEO), and will enable corporates to find and fund the green technologies they need to transform their supply chains. We have recently partnered with Solar Impulse Foundation and are in the process of onboarding up to 1,000 of their cutting edge climate technologies onto the Network to be launched to our corporate audience for the first time in the coming months.
Finally, we are exploring how we could extend the reach of our Climate Action Readiness Assessment (CARA). In its current form, it provides a baseline for companies embarking on The Climate School, giving corporates a starting-line in terms of the knowledge and readiness of their employees, which can be compared with their progress after the training journey. We are starting to think about how this could be used more widely for organisations not directly affiliated with Climate School training. One avenue which we are exploring is as a sustainability metric: CARA could be used by companies to demonstrate to investors/other stakeholders their organisational capacity to succeed in the green transition.
What can we as individuals do to make a difference?
It goes without saying that individual actions to reduce carbon footprint and be less wasteful are essential. But I think too often we minimise the role of the individual in achieving corporate climate goals and get caught up in the big numbers and big actions. My advice would be to take climate action into the role that you already play in your work: think about how you can mobilise your own creativity, position, and network to contribute meaningfully. Whether that involves starting the sustainability conversation with your organisation, or looking for opportunities for innovation, or cutting out inefficiencies (which may be costing your company financially as well as environmentally). Think about how you can cultivate an innovation mindset. I believe that we will see a huge amount of climate action play out in the workplace in the next few years.
Can you recommend a life-changing book for our readers?
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, or Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?
Find inspiration in the courage to take action and in small steps which in aggregate make a real difference. The joy of being part of a team which collectively achieves something that is bigger than the sum of its parts – being part of a winning team, in the impact it has on the world.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Listen, truly – with an open mind and an open heart.
What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?
Bach Cello suites or Elgar’s Cello concerto.
Finally, who is your eco-hero?
Those who walk the talk. To give an example: 24 year old Rosette Muhoza has launched her own company, My Green Home, that is now revolutionising recycling in Rwanda. She began melting plastic waste found around Kigali into compound materials for use in construction projects across the capital. What started as a project between her and a friend has transformed the recycling landscape in Rwanda, leading to recognition from UNICEF and the CommonWealth Secretariat. Truly an example of how one young person’s ingenuity can provide huge benefits for their city/country, and indeed, the global innovation community.