• purposelypodcast

Challenge of launching a movement early, Rachel Brown founder & CEO




Rachel Brown, ONZM – Founder & CEO, Sustainable Business Network


Rachel Brown is the founder & CEO of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) and was one of the early champions of the ‘business for good movement’ in New Zealand. Rachel launched her organisation 20 years ago at a time when people doubted the science emerging around human environmental damage. Back then sustainability was associated with ‘greenies’ or ‘tree huggers.’

Rachel, however, did believe the science and was determined to do something proactive to turn the tide on environmental damage in an effort to protect the planet.


So why business and sustainability?


In part because of her childhood, she describes a wonderful upbringing where her parents, especially her mother, introduced her to the science of sustainability at an early age. At the same time, she was intrigued by the growth and buzz of capitalism. Rachel quickly realised that business could play a productive and leading role in sustainability and could be a force for good rather than bad.


In the podcast Rachel discusses those times and how ‘well meaning’ business leaders refused to connect business practices to the environment. Often, they could not see a purpose beyond making a profit for shareholders - ‘nice people who would push me towards their charitable giving activity’. They hadn’t made the connection that care for the environment was going to be crucial to the long-term success of their business or that a different approach could give them a competitive advantage.


The SBN network she created now includes 600 organisations from a range of sizes and sectors. Rachel has overseen the creation of systemic collaboration projects focusing on climate action, designing out waste, and regenerating nature. SBN runs the Sustainable Business Awards, New Zealand’s largest sustainability award programme as well as a series of successful training programmes.


In 2009 Rachel was personally selected by Al Gore to present The Inconvenient Truth (part of the global climate change education programme). In 2012 she was invited by Al Gore to join an elite group of international presenters to be part of the Climate Reality Project broadcast. The broadcast reached over 3 million people across the globe.


As a regular presenter, collaborator, investor and driver of action within NZ communities, Rachel is committed to the role business plays in supercharging and transforming NZ’s economy into one that is smarter and more sustainable. Rachel regularly sits on government panels to inform on policy. Currently she is on the Advisory Panel of ‘Jobs for Nature’, a Board member of the Milford Foundation, and on the business advisory panel for All of Government Procurement. She is a member of the advisory panel for the National Waste Strategy and the Million Metres Streams Advisory Board. Rachel also provides advice and support to a number of new and emerging businesses, individuals and social enterprises.


In 2018 she was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for years of service to sustainable business.