Calling All Intrapreneurs

Calling All Intrapreneurs

Calling All Intrapreneurs

When developing sustainability strategies with our clients, there is often a moment when the company’s senior leadership team realises: ‘This is so much bigger than we thought. It will require change in every part of our business. It’s a total transformation.’

Yes it is. And to deliver this transformation, businesses need to embrace new ways of thinking and doing while accepting a level of uncertainty they have not experienced before. No one knows exactly how climate change is going to play out, which for Boards and senior management teams can be a scary prospect.

So how can companies, particularly large established ones that tend to take a long time to change, equip themselves to deal with this unprecedented situation? How can they harness the innovative, adaptable, agile spirit of a start-up within a big, complex organisation? Answer: find the intrapreneurs.

An intrapreneur is like an entrepreneur but working from inside an existing organisation. ‘They are your sideways thinkers, silo-busters, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer innovators,’ says Maggie de Pree, founder of the League of Intrapreneurs. Intrapreneurs, she adds, ask ‘What if?’ And’ How might we?’ questions like, “What if people stopped buying stuff and started sharing?” “How might we create supply chains that regenerate our ecosystems?” “How might we finance the climate transition?”

Many corporate sustainability practitioners have intrapreneurial traits: they are passionate (about their purpose), determined (in overcoming barriers as they try to make change happen), diplomatic (essential as they need to influence and persuade many different people), and results driven (because they are always having to prove the business case for sustainability). But sustainability practitioners can’t be the only ones asking the big questions and coming up with the radical solutions. We need an army of intrapreneurs! Sustainability people need allies across the business to join forces with them and shake things up.

From what we’ve seen through our work, companies are full of passionate, forward-thinking employees who are intrapreneurs in the making. The sooner companies empower and support these innovative thinkers by fostering a culture of intrapreneurship, the better. Because as we’re all starting to understand, climate change is everyone’s job, not just the responsibility of those with ‘sustainability’ in their title.

Our April Top 5

  • Uncertainty tolerance: with the future unpredictable and constant change the norm, we all need to get better at tolerating uncertainty. This article talks about how we can train ourselves to do just that. (Forbes)
  • Rewilding Scotland: a ground breaking new re-wilding company run by eco-entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett raised €7.5m in its first round of funding. It will create a nature reserve that will sequester carbon, create green jobs and generate profit in the process. More of this please! (The Scotsman)
  • Charities can invest in planet over profit: on 29th April a high court judge in the UK ruled that trustees of two charities had the right to ensure their charity’s investments were aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, even if it means sacrificing profit. Sets an important precedent. (
  • Earth’s future in the hands of big business: excellent article on the role of big business in fighting climate change. With just 100 global companies responsible for 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions over the past three decades, we can’t really solve this crisis without them. (Time)
  • The Climate Game: the SW team enjoyed this cool game which challenges you to see if you can reach net-zero by 2050. It takes about 15 minutes and makes you think. Give it a go! (

Info On Intrapreneurship

We first heard of the term ‘intrapreneur’ around 5 years ago when one of the SW team did some work with the League of Intrapreneurs. Describing itself as ‘a global learning community of intrapreneurs and catalysts driving change’ the League is a growing movement of people working to change big companies from the inside-out. Check out their website here.

For an explanation on the concept of intrapreneurship this is a useful article from MIT. The short video within the article is worth a quick watch.

Last but by no means least, one of SW’s Associates, Ron Immink, who supports us in our innovation work with start-ups, has written a book on intrapreneurship. In it he describes how intrapreneurship is the quickest way to reinvention and innovation – something all companies need to do in response to sustainability challenges. Being the generous man that he is, Ron is giving his book for FREE to SW News subscribers! Simply click on the website link and use the code #sustainabilityworks at checkout. Thank you Ron 🙂


Client Spotlight: Screen Ireland

We were delighted to see our client Screen Ireland (the Irish Film Board) launch their sustainability plan last week. It outlines the agency’s ambitions to help work towards lowering the carbon footprint of Ireland’s screen industry, which is currently experiencing an incredible period of growth and success.

The sustainability plan also includes a funding commitment for programmes that have clear Diversity, Equity and Inclusion objectives. SW worked with Screen Ireland to co-create the plan and we’re excited to see the impact it will have over the coming years.

Climate Adaptation Guides for Business

We mentioned in our last newsletter that SW was developing a series of business-friendly sectoral guides on climate adaptation. These are based on the findings from an EPA-funded research project we did – Climate R/O – looking at climate risks and opportunities for 5 key sectors of Ireland’s economy. We shared the link to the first guide, for the Computer & Electronics sector, last month and we’re pleased to say that the other four are available now! Each guide includes a simple but comprehensive step by step guide to doing a climate risk & opportunity assessment for your business.

Check out the guides on the SW website.


SW sustainability training with IBEC

On 7th June, SW Director Karen Deignan will be delivering a half-day training course with IBEC on ‘Foundations in Sustainability & ESG for business.’ As the name suggests, the course is designed to equip participants with foundational knowledge on what sustainability means for business and how corporate sustainability/ESG (environmental social and governance) strategies are developed and reported on.

Delivered virtually via Zoom, the programme is suitable for any manager or employee who wants to develop their knowledge of the sustainability agenda so that they can support the implementation of change within their organisation. Visit the IBEC Academy website to find out more and book your place! Open to both IBEC members and non-members.


What We’re Watching

We haven’t actually seen it yet, but we’ve just heard about Youth v Gov, a documentary film on Netflix that follows the journey of 21 young people suing the US government for its actions in creating the climate crisis. This is filmmaking as activism, encouraging us as viewers to find inspiration in the example of these determined teenagers. We’re looking forward to watching it. View the trailer here.

What We’re Listening To

We enjoyed listening to the (free) audio version of the book, Swimming on my Own: the business case for kindness, by Susie Warran-Smith, a former colleague of one of the SW team. It tells the story of Susie’s life and career and her quest to do business in a different way. Born into inner city poverty against a backdrop of racist and misogynistic 1960s Britain, Susie finally ‘made it’ becoming a self-made multi-millionaire at 59 years old. This is not your average entrepreneurial tale – there’s a lot more to it than that, all delivered with a good dose of humour. Check it out on Spotify (or Audible or download to your Kindle).

Sustainability Jobs

  • Origin Green standard coordinator – Bord Bia
  • Sustainability data analyst – Diageo
  • Commercial Director – Positive Carbon
  • Head of sustainability – JLL
  • Associate Director  – ESG Research – Cpl
  • Implementation specialist ESG – Diligence
  • Public Affairs and Sustainability Manager – Novo Nordisk
  • Sustainability Engagement Lead – Twitter
  • Sustainability Consultant – sustainability infrastructure – Jacobs
  • Farm sustainability development advisor – Glanbia
  • Programme manager – sustainability – Central Solutions