Sessions: London from 1% for the Planet

Sophie Harbert

Sophie Harbert

As a longstanding member of 1% for the Planet, Grain Sustainability was invited to attend the ‘Sessions: London’ event at x+why People’s Mission Hall in Shoreditch this October. 1% for the Planet is a global movement started in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Matthews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, on the notion that if companies profit from the resources they take from the Earth, they should also invest in protecting it. The network is formed by companies or individuals who join, making a commitment to giving 1% of their annual sales or income to an environmental nonprofit of their choice.

Graphic facilitation by Visual Scribing

The event took place to recognise the recent sizeable growth of the network across the UK and Ireland — and also thanks to the growth of 1% itself including a Community Engagement Manager, Tanner Marvel — and was an inspirational couple of days filled with workshops, networking, speeches and activities. Through different companies and as individuals, Grain directors Madelyn and Christoph have been members of 1% since 2008 and Madelyn serves on its UK & Ireland Steering Committee. Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet, hosted a ‘fireside chat’ on the opening night, to discuss and celebrate commitment with legacy members, where Madelyn spoke alongside Harry Lyon-Smith from IllustrationX about her membership journey and the environmental partnerships made in that time, as an individual member and through Grain. We were finally able to meet some of our key contacts in person, including Kiera Murphy, UK & Europe Business Account Manager.

Fireside chat with Harry Lyon-Smith, Madelyn Postman, and Kate Williams

Day two commenced with a variety of ‘moments’ on offer including arts and crafts, an East London run or morning yoga from Love Club, a London and Brighton based social enterprise. Next, all guests were present in ‘studies’ where panellists spoke on the power of collective action. These included Hannah Cox from the Better Business Network, a community of small businesses creating positive action, and betternotstop, a sustainable impact agency, and Barny Dillarstone from twio, a tech platform rewarding customers with charitable donations. Finally, Christian Arno, founder and CEO of Pawprint, an app allowing employees to track their personal carbon footprint, came out with some great quotes on the necessity of action now, like, ‘Brexit is just a pimple compared to the climate crisis.’

‘We will always have the Donalds and the Gretas but it’s the mainstream middle that we need to impact.’

— Christian Arno, Pawprint

This was followed by a talk from David George from Bikmo, a cycle insurance specialist on a mission to protect the world’s riders and places they ride. He described how their 1% commitment has helped fund safer urban cycle infrastructure and World Bicycle Relief, a charity providing bicycles to communities in developing countries enabling access to education, healthcare, and jobs.

By midday we had split into workshops called ‘labs’. SHE Changes Climate is an organisation that began in 2020 after finding that all members of the COP leadership team were male. They conducted a thought-provoking session on how systemic change would transform responses to the climate crisis and how ‘carbon tunnel vision’ — solely focusing on reducing emissions to net zero — means we are missing out on solving societal issues. We were challenged to look at a wheel of power/privilege to assess our own position and how we can make our industries and workplaces more inclusive.

After informative discussions from the 1% team on how to maximise and commit to membership and a tasty lunch from London Vegan Kitchen, we left x+why for various offsite ‘actions’ including a trip to Spitalfields City Farm and a park visit with charity partner Trash Free Trails. Climate charity Possible took us on a walking tour, showing us what has and needs to be done to make London a greener city. This included the pedestrianisation and increase of bike paths on inner-city streets and creation of the often misunderstood ‘flying motorbike’ road sign, prohibiting motor vehicles. The tour took us to the Bunhill 2 Energy Centre in Islington, a world-first scheme using heat from the Northern Line as a form of low-cost, greener power for houses, schools and leisure centres in the area, and ended at The Sekforde, a pub in Clerkenwell with a heat pump in the basement used for both heating and refrigeration.

Walking tour with charity Possible, showing a ‘flying motorbike’ sign

It was a privilege to meet so many business members and environmental partners at Sessions: London, where Kate succinctly explained the approach of 1% for the Planet.

‘As a business you pay your rent, pay your employees and you pay the planet.’

— Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet

It is encouraging that an increasing number of members are committing to change and the closing remarks from Kate summed up just how special and magnetic this community is. She observed how, in the often-overwhelming space of sustainability and environmental change, we had united to form a ‘hope spot’.

Bunhill 2 Energy Centre in Islington, capturing the Northern Line’s ground heat

Get in touch or book a call