Interview with sustainability coach Jess Carter

Read the story of Jess Carter, the Sustainability Coach and co-founder of Planet & People CIC.

What’s your career background?

I have a varied career history but have always been dedicated to environmental conservation in some form or another. After studying Biology at the University of St Andrews, I worked on a postgraduate research project in a remote part of Indonesia. Upon my return I felt that I needed to pivot towards having skills which could be impactful in policy/law, so I did a Graduate Diploma in Law and worked in the sphere of Environmental Law. 

When I realised I didn’t want to be a lawyer I became more interested in working for nature conservation organisations and having built up my skills in project management I worked in the Head Office of the National Trust on a large Environmental Programme.

I was lucky to be able to work with lots of people from the countryside community (rangers, land managers and wildlife experts) developing and rolling out training programmes. I really thrived on the positive ethos of the National Trust. 

Since moving to Devon and nurturing a young family of my own, I have continued to support environmental education and co-founded a community interest company that delivers Planet Action Workshops to schools. In addition to supporting various community initiatives and networks I realised that I could also make a big difference by helping businesses to bring sustainable best practice into the core of their operations. 

When did you get the idea for your business/venture?

We spotted a gap in the market in 2021. Businesses were expected to get to Net Zero in a short timeframe but it didn’t seem there was actually much going on to change the way in which many were operating. And, how were business leaders supposed to know what to do to make the 

necessary changes?  Not only to reach net zero goals but to be planet positive and contribute to nature degradation, as well as be proactive in the wider context of sustainability. With the cost of living crisis as an additional challenge, it seemed there was a need for someone to support 

business owners and leaders. As SMEs contribute to more than 50% of carbon emissions in the UK, when it comes to sustainability they are in a great position to be “leaders of change”, as they are agile and in touch with their consumers’ needs. There seemed to be a lack of sustainability coaching and thankfully my skills are perfectly aligned to help business owners and leaders who don’t have the support they need to make the transition to a greener economy. 

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I upskilled by reading, going to conferences, reaching out to sustainability and business experts and networking, before putting together a programme for sustainable success. Together with my business partner at Planet & People, we worked with an expert in design thinking from the 

University of the West of England to ensure that our model was founded on robust principles for transitional change in the workplace. We piloted the programme with three different types of business and tweaked it as we went along.

I have since repackaged this programme into digestible modules and will be offering it as an online course in 2024, alongside an affordable membership that allows business owners access to a library of resources and ongoing support from me and my collaborators. 

What’s your USP?

As a sustainability coach I support business owners and leaders to accelerate sustainable change and transition to having sustainable best practice at the core of their operations. I work with leaders at the start-up and scale-up phase of their business to help them develop whilst considering the impact on the environment at every step of their journey to sustainable success. 

Who’s your target audience?

My target audience is business owners (start-up and scale-up) who are keen to build their business on sustainable foundations. These are generally people who are aware of the need to transition to a greener way of working but require help in putting together and implementing an action plan for sustainable success. This will ensure their business is securely founded on a base that equally considers planet, people and profit as their triple bottom line. 

How do you spread the word about what you do?

I attend conferences and networking events to raise the profile of sustainability coaching as well as reaching out to my followers on social media (especially Linked In) and generally talk to people about my sustainable passions and visions!

Through my website you can pick up my freebie: The Sustainability Playbook, which gives you 10 top tips for sustainable success. This is a great starting point and highlights areas you might like to work on before getting my help. 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Confidence! Sustainability is an exciting, fast moving sector but keeping on top of the changes is challenging and it can be somewhat overwhelming being in the same space as some of the big players in the business. It is a sector which I have been learning about for a long time but the space is starting to get crowded and at times it can be tricky to remain confident when there are lots of other people jostling for position.

Although at times it seems hard to get noticed, I like to believe that integrity will lead the way. Fortunately I have both knowledge and experience and also worked with experts to develop a programme which is tried and tested and gets results. 

And your proudest moment so far?

There have been so many exciting opportunities along the way to help people and learn. However, my proudest moment was hearing that one of my clients, who only recently became interested in making improvements in the way their business operates, has instigated real environmental change after investigating ways of working together with their supply chain to improve sustainable best practice. 

Why is work so important to you?

As well as having financial freedom, I believe that it is a privilege to work and thankfully my skills and experience enable me to choose work which is impactful, that I am passionate about and that I really enjoy. How lucky!

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by many people that I work with and all the people that I meet who are working so hard to bring about cultural change for the benefit of the natural world and species (including 

humans!). Also, my clients, who are trying hard to improve the way they work, to be more gentle on the planet as well as some of the top speakers that I’ve had the privilege of seeing at events, like Deborah Meadon and David Olusoga, who are a great inspiration. 

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. Always act with integrity: Be honest with yourself and your clients about what you can and can’t deliver
  2. Be confident: If you are unsure of something, investigate it until you are sure about it. And, don’t be shy about reaching out to experts. 
  3. Collaborate: Sustainability is essential, work with others, we are not in competition, we need all sorts of approaches to mitigate the climate and nature crisis effectively. 

Find out more about Jess Carter.