Moving from ideas to action on ESG

The Business Revolution Episode 5

In this fifth episode of The Business Revolution, we tackle the crucial question of how to move from ideas to impact, particularly in the realm of sustainability, ESG and policy change.

The episode features an interview with Michael Sheldrick, author of the new book ‘From Ideas to Impact: A Playbook for Influencing and Implementing Change in a Divided World’.


Audio version:


Michael Sheldrick emphasises the importance of policy entrepreneurship and how individuals, businesses, and communities can drive meaningful change by understanding and actively participating in policy-making processes. He highlights the role of businesses as first movers in climate action, showcasing initiatives like the Race to Zero campaign that have spurred government policy changes.

Sheldrick stresses the need for businesses to go beyond setting targets and focus on implementation, including near-term emission reductions and transitioning business models.

The episode also touches on the importance of employee activism, corporate advocacy, collaboration, and honest leadership in driving positive change.

“I think we’re starting to see this shift and recognition as norms change. But I think as individual employees, we can also call out our own businesses and say, ‘Well, can we go a bit further? Yes, it’s great, we’ve got a Net Zero 2050 plan, but where is our five year emission reduction target?’ And also: How are companies using their voice?,” Sheldrick says in the interview, which was conducted by Mik Aidt in the lead up to Earth Day 2024.

About the book

“How do I lead a campaign to get my business or my workplace to be part of the sustainable future we need?”

Michael Sheldrick has written the book titled ‘From Ideas to Impact’ to presents a straight-forward answer to this question. The book outlines eight steps of how you can be a visionary and an implementer to bring about the change we need.

→ Book sales page on Amazon

From Ideas to Impact proves change can happen when we begin dialogues with those whose actions we may not like! It demonstrates how others have made a difference and how you can make a difference too.”
~ Jane Goodall, founder the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace


About the author

MICHAEL SHELDRICK is a policy entrepreneur, author, and co-founder of Global Citizen, playing a key role in global climate advocacy.

Sheldrick is Chief Policy, Impact and Government Relations Officer at Global Citizen whose campaigns have led to over $35 billion distributed to anti-poverty and climate change policy efforts around the world. 

In 2021, Sheldrick served as a ‘friend of the COP26 Presidency’ in Glasgow, securing commitments from 17 major companies for the UN’s Race to Zero campaign. During the same year, he facilitated pledges from businesses and regional governments to protect and restore 157 million trees.

Sheldrick’s work spans the world of pop and policy having worked with international artists such as Beyoncé, Coldplay, Idris and Sabrina Elba, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Priyanka Chopra, Rihanna and Usher, as well as prominent political leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former Australian Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

Since 2022, he’s been a member of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s Bridgetown Initiative, focusing on unlocking finance for climate resilience. Michael holds a certificate in sustainable finance from Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership.  

Michael Sheldrick’s bio on Wikipedia


Links we mention

→ The Sustainable Hour’s longer interview with Michael Sheldrick on Earth Day

→ On Being Podcast episode with Colette Pichon Battle: On Knowing What We’re Called To.

Relevant stories and recourses

→ Fast Company – 27 June 2024:
Building a sustainability strategy: A guide for corporate companies and startups
“Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword—it’s a critical component of modern business strategy. Here’s how to get started.”

Social media posts about this podcast episode

Linkedin | Facebook | Instagram | X/Twitter | Youtube


Transcript – The Business Revolution episode 5

Mik Aidt (00:01)

Welcome revolutionaries. My name is Mik.

Alan Taylor (00:05)

And I’m Alan.

Cherry Ward (00:06)

And I’m Cherry. Together we’re the three business Musketeers, who will guide you through the evolving landscape of business and sustainability.

Mik Aidt (00:12)

This podcast is made on the lands of the Boon Wurrung, the Yogurra and the Turabo and the Wadawurrung people to whom we pay our respects and acknowledgement. And in today’s episode, we’re going to be diving into probably one of the most important questions of all times: How do we make an impact? I mean, really: we have all these ideas, but how do we go from our ideas to impact? That’s the question.

Alan Taylor (00:44)

As everyone in the business sector is facing increased pressure to reduce emissions and adopt sustainable practices, understanding where to start is crucial. And which actions can make an impact?

Cherry Ward (01:00)

So today we’ll explore how anyone from students to business leaders can become a policy entrepreneur and drive meaningful change on critical issues like climate change and social justice. We will uncover the secrets of navigating complex policy landscapes, influencing decision makers and building coalitions for impact.

Mik Aidt (01:21)

The thing is here in The Business Revolution podcast, we are on a mission. We intend to prove to the world that sustainability and all this talk about doing good for planet Earth isn’t just good for the planet, it’s also good for business. It’s good for our economy.

Alan Taylor (01:40)

So whether you’re a business owner, a climate advocate, or simply curious about the future of our planet, you don’t want to miss this episode of The Business Revolution.

Mik Aidt (01:49)

And that’s why we’re thrilled to have author Michael Sheldrick with us today from Global Citizens. He is out with a new book called exactly what we’re talking about here today, “From Ideas to Impact” is the title. And the subtitle of the book is, “A Playbook for Influencing and Implementing Change in a Divided World”.

Michael Sheldrick (02:12)

I would often get messages from university students, from high school students, from Rotary Club members, and they would all be seeking advice. Seeking advice on how they can launch their own campaigns to impact the biggest issues of our time. Whether that’s issues related to artificial intelligence, whether that’s issues related to climate change. It could also be issues related to their workplace. Many of them would reach out and say, how do I lead a campaign, to get my business or my workplace to be part of the sustainable future we need?

And so given that, the book outlines eight steps – eight simple steps – of what I call Policy Entrepreneurship. In the same way we have entrepreneurship in the business sense, I believe we need more people involved disrupting the policy making process, learning how to promote good policies. And so these eight steps give people a place to start, you know. And when we think about policy change, there’s many ways to make a difference.

We can contribute, we can donate, we can volunteer our time at charities, we can have conversations. And that’s important because if you look at the U.S., only 8 per cent of US households actually talk about climate change on average per the year. We can do all these things, but rarely do we actually talk about policy change, right?

Policies can seem abstract, it can seem vague, but really policy is fundamentally about people. Both in terms of how policies impact, it has a very human dimension, but also in terms of how policy is made, it’s about people, it’s about relationships. And so my book is, my view is… If you’re…. You know, you could either be a cultural icon like Taylor Swift, you could be a business executive, or you could be an ordinary citizen, but there is a role for all of us to play in bringing about policy change.

And so the book doesn’t profess to have all the answers, but it outlines these eight steps of policy entrepreneurship. It outlines how you can be a visionary, how you can be a diplomat, how you can be an implementer to bring about the change we need.

My view is it all starts with us in the words of former U.S. first lady and the first ambassador to the UN, Eleanor Roosevelt; ‘The way to begin is to begin’. And I hope the book provides people with a start on how we can all start bringing about change.

In the book, I talk about businesses as a great example of navigating gridlock at the UN. We often focus intently on these big UN climate talks – the COPs, that happen every year. The problem with these talks is that they all require consensus and agreement from all the countries. So if you don’t get that, then you’re delaying action for a long time. And I think, at the end of the day, climate action, when you look within countries, it’s really about action from businesses, from cities, from universities, right? And these institutions, these organisations, they can often act in a way that governments can’t, right? They can be first movers.

And so in the book I talk about, for instance, the Race to Zero campaign, which was an initiative set up to catalyse business action. It’s now got thousands of businesses, cities and universities on board. All pledge to reduce their emissions by half to put transition plans in place.

Climate Champions promotion trailer (05:36)

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Michael Sheldrick (06:29)

What you’ve seen now as a result of this, because so many businesses are taking action, government is now waking up and being like, wow, okay, we’ve got thousands of businesses taking action. You see this in the European Union. You see this in America. They’re now putting in place their own regulations. So for instance, now in America, right, the US government, which is probably one of the largest customers in the world, when you look at the billions it gives out in contracts each year, they’re now saying you can only get a U.S. government contract if you have a science-based emission reduction target in place.

My point is: that would have never happened without the voluntary action from businesses. And by the way, I do not at all avoid the fact that many of those voluntary actions accounted to greenwashing, they didn’t ladder up. But in getting all those commitments out there and having the scrutiny, businesses are now waking up and saying, well, we’ve got to do more than just put out these commitments. We’ve got to also walk the talk.

I think, you know, for businesses now, it’s about implementation. It’s about, ‘Yes, we’ve set these targets. Have we got near term targets? Are we on pace to reduce our emissions within the next five years?’

And this is a big one for fossil fuel based companies: ‘Do we have a plan in base to change our business model?’

There’s a few people like Andrew Forrest of Fortescue metals that’s talking a big game on this. So we’re waiting to see what happens, but also have we got transition plans? And finally, what I also challenge businesses on as well, is don’t just look at what you’re doing in your own backyard, in, in your own operations. That to me is the minimum.

But at the end of the day, businesses have contributed to the problem of climate change, much as governments have over the last couple of centuries. And these businesses should be looking at how they can help communities who are now facing the very real impacts of this devastating climate crisis, how they’re helping those communities adjust and transition themselves, whether that’s in the Amazon, whether that’s in parts of Africa.

And so have a look at your overall responsibility. The good news is as many companies are starting to lead the way. Just earlier this week at Global Citizen, we had this incredible symposium with the Minister of Indigenous Affairs from Brazil. We had over 200 businesses. We had Coldplay’s Sustainability Lead. All talking about what they can do. And I think, you know, we’re starting to see this shift in recognition as norms change.

But I think as individual employees, we can also call out our own businesses and say, ‘Well, can we go a bit further? Yes, it’s great we’ve got a net zero 2050 plan, but where is our five-year emission reduction target?’

And finally, also, how are companies using their voice? Because it’s great to be putting your money where your mouth is. It’s great to be reducing your emissions. But if you’re in Washington, DC or Canberra and you’re part of an industry lobby group, that is preventing macro climate legislation being in place, then we’ve got an issue. So companies are increasingly also realising the power of their voice.

And I think you saw that at the recent COP – everyone spoke about the corporates: ‘they’re doing nefarious activities’, but you actually had over 200 lobbyists there on the other side actually saying, ‘We need to shift away from fossil fuels and we need the policies in place.’ So that’s important too.

Mik Aidt (10:06)

Michael Sheldrick, who is the author of the book ‘From ideas to impact’. And this was an eight minute excerpt of actually a longer interview that I did with him when he was in Australia a couple of weeks ago. And we talked about a lot of other aspects as well, sustainability and so on. If you want to hear the full interview with Michael Sheldrick, we’ll make a link for it in our podcast notes on businessrevolution.earth.

But let’s just for a moment delve into what he was talking about here. Certainly, I think it’s interesting. What he’s saying basically is that we shouldn’t be so afraid of that word policy. That we need to be better to embrace and to dig into what it means to create policy and to use policy, in the work when we want to create change and have a real impact.

Cherry Ward (10:59)

I agree, Mik. And I think he really emphasises the importance of individuals and also organisations actively engaging in policy change. And, you know, not just through traditional means, but actually understanding what is the policy and also influencing policy making process. I think that’s really important because we can often get scared off by these concepts of policy and it can be a bit esoteric if you’re, you know, an average Jane or Joe trying to understand the different policies.

I was actually listening to another podcast on climate just this week. The guest was a climate activist and a former lawyer. Her family was impacted by Katrina in the U.S. a few years back. And she talks about it wasn’t until she started digging into: why did the low socio economic population get so badly impacted by Katrina in the U.S.? And as she was talking to that. She discovered that the disaster process in the U.S. is designed for the middle class. And that was just fascinating. I hadn’t even thought about it. And that triggered an action for me to go, ‘OK, I should start looking at what are our disaster processes right here in our own backyard in Australia.’ Are they… Our most vulnerable people – will they survive if we have extreme weather events, like fire, like floods?

Alan Taylor (12:39)

Such a powerful point. And it reminds me of one of the points that’s actually in the book. And it’s talking about Barbados, you know, tiny little island in the Caribbean, and what he shares is how Mia Mottley, that’s her name – I think she’s a prime minister, or was the Prime Minister Barbados – and how some of her powerful speeches that she’s used at the United Nations – and she doesn’t mince her words. Very politely put, but very powerful messages, can demonstrate how we’re not being consistent and we’re not holding ourselves accountable. And that’s at every level. Obviously, she’s talking at governments around the world. So yeah, it’s a big example that can be used as you’ve used there, Cherry, you know, the locals, but on a global scale as well. And it’s important.

Mik Aidt (13:28)

There probably isn’t a more important topic than how we change our ideas to impact. Because certainly in the climate movement, I can speak as a climate activist, there are so many ideas out there… How we move from ideas to impact – I love the title of Michael Sheldrick’s book because this is really, really crucial in everything we do. When we talk about ESG, for instance: how do we move from, you know, the director coming in, or the CEO, and saying, ‘I have an idea! Could we do this? Could we do that?’ But then to actually make it happen in the end and see it roll out in the entire organisation is another story, isn’t it?

Alan Taylor (14:08)

Yes, absolutely. And Michael covers that so well in the book because he talks about three key archetypes in organisations. These three… You’ve got the visionary, the person like you’ve just mentioned, who’s come in with this amazing idea, ‘Let’s do this, this big, hairy, audacious goal!’ And then you’ve got the diplomat, the one who’s going, ‘Okay, I can see all these different feelings. How can we work with them? How can we get in bed with the ones that we don’t normally want to, but we will because it makes sense.’

And then of course you’ve got the other people who are the actual implementers, the people who are doing it. And by calling all those out and seeing… and calling out where they can actually contribute, it’s quite a powerful reminder that we need the diversity as well in the organisations to make this happen.

Cherry Ward (14:51)

Yeah, those implementers are key, aren’t they? I think in the video, he talks about encouraging employees to hold their organisations accountable for some of those big, hairy, audacious climate goals. And so I think those people on the ground who are implementing or who are taking action, I think they need support as well.

Alan Taylor (15:15)

That’s a great point because there’s another… interwoven this so beautifully. It’s like, even those implementers, they’re doing it, but they need the word you’ve used there, Cherry: Support! It’s massive. And quite often that gets forgotten. You’ve got the visionary who’s going, ‘Yeah, we can do that!’ But then they drop away and they don’t continue supporting and nurturing the other parties who are making it go. And so that’s where these things can fall astray. It’s what sort of being called out by Mia, as I just mentioned a few minutes ago, at the global scale. We need each other, supporting each other, and it’s not just a hand over to the next person.

Mik Aidt (15:57)

And not to turn religious here, in any way, but it is very much about belief as well, I feel. It is whether you trust and believe the story that you are being told. I mean, fundamentally, if people have this attitude, they hear the boss is talking about some new thing coming in here, it’s called ESG. ‘Oh yeah, ESG…. It’s yet another buzz word. Now they have another thing that they want to put onto us. And is it going to change anything? No. Why should it? You know, we’ve, we’ve seen GDPR, we’ve seen all these other… They come with these letters and then they implement something and half a year later, nothing has happened.’

You know, so unless you actually believe in that it’s going to make a difference, that it will change things, then it probably won’t.

Alan Taylor (16:42)

Yes, that’s so pertinent. And he calls that out in different ways in there. And part of it is also a bit of a reality check. So he talks about, I think he called it Offtopia, if I remember in the book. And it reminds me of another method which has been called out recently, which is Thrutopia. What do either of these mean? They mean that mix which in films and TVs and books, and news: it’s usually looking at the dystopia, the problems, ‘My God, the world’s gonna come to an end!’ Occasionally you’ve got like a good story, it’s like, it’s all gonna be a happy ending and it’s a utopia type story. They’re rare, but they happen.

But the Thrutopia is, or the Offtopia as Michael calls it, is more of a reality check. Let’s aim for Heaven, but let’s think of all, okay, to keep everybody happy, we have to go somewhere in the middle, but let’s at least move there, not going to Hell.

And being aware of that and holding ourselves accountable and remembering where we’re going to, is a massive part of this.

Mik Aidt (17:48)

I love that, Alan. I’m curious, Alan, because I think you’re the only one of us three who actually read the book. And if you were to give like an elevator pitch on what’s the essence for you, what do you take away from having read the book? What would that be?

Alan Taylor (18:07)

That’s a great question. I think it’s that systemic view. It’s the fact that we have to be reminded that it is systemic. Everybody has to help each other out along that journey. And it isn’t the way, it’s quite a significant shift for leaders who are used to handing things over. And this mindset shift is happening around the world. There’s practices like I’ve seen in the IT space of Agile, where you’ve got ongoing communication from bottom to top.

Amplifying that and doing it in a way that some organisations do brilliantly celebrate the successes, accept and even celebrate failures when they’ve been accepted, when they’ve been managed well. And I think that’s the key thing that he sums up with some great case studies.

Yeah, another really pertinent takeaway for me was the truth. Telling the truth, being open, honest, and fair with it. And he uses the example of McGowan in Western Australia when they needed to say, ‘Well, we need to actually start closing these pits eventually, when we need to close the coal power down’ – in a state which is, as we all know, very much driven by coal and mining.

And by sharing that open truth, he talks in the book about how people actually gave him a round of applause for that, even though they were going to be hurt. Because he was being honest and giving them a bit of a heads up.

And I look at other examples where a similar sort of mentality has been employed, like down here in Melbourne, when the Toyota plant was closed down. I went to visit it only a few months before it closed, and there were so many signs which were obviously they’re for a very long time. ‘Don’t forget to talk to your support for retraining.’ ‘Don’t forget to do this.’ ‘Don’t forget to look after yourself and being open and transparent and supporting people in the transition.’

So it’s a combination of truth and back to that support word, in all of its facets. Those are some really huge, powerful takeaways for me.

Mik Aidt (20:11)

Which brings us to the G in the ESG governance. It is about good leadership. Because if you ask me, a good leader is an honest leader.

Alan Taylor (20:21)

Absolutely. And that’s a wrap for today’s episode of The Business Revolution.

Cherry Ward (20:26)

We hope you enjoy diving deep into the world of business and sustainability with us.

Mik Aidt (20:34)

And then please remember, the revolution doesn’t end here. It’s up to each of us and everyone to take this knowledge and inspiration that you picked up today in this episode and then turn it into action, you know, from ideas to impact.

Alan Taylor (20:50)

And whether that’s implementing a sustainability practice in your own business or advocating for change in your community or even your organisation, maybe it’s a bigger organisation and you can advocate for that there, be that visionary. Every step counts towards building a better future.

Cherry Ward (21:08)

And don’t forget to visit our website at businessrevolution.earth for more resources, past episodes and ways that you can get involved.

Mik Aidt (21:19)

And remember you can find us in your phone, in your podcast player, your favourite podcast platform. Just look up the business revolution and then you can subscribe. You’ll get a little notification when there’s a new episode. You can also rate us and please do. It’s great to see, you know, people writing reviews and getting support in that way. Your feedback really helps us, in the work that we do to try to get this message further out.

Alan Taylor (21:45)

So thank you for joining us on this journey of transformation. Together we can revolutionise the way that we do business and create a world that’s sustainable for generations to come.

Mik Aidt (21:57)

Stay tuned for insights, inspiration and actionable steps that can help reshape the way we do business for a better tomorrow.

Cherry Ward (22:05)

Until next time, keep innovating, keep inspiring and keep pushing for positive change, for a brighter tomorrow. This is Cherry.

Mik Aidt (22:15)

This is Mik.

Alan Taylor (22:16)

And Alan, signing off. The business revolution starts with you.

Excerpt from epilogue in Michael Sheldrick’s book ‘From Ideas to Impact (22:27)

When we think of the challenges we face today, they can seem overwhelming, leaving us feeling paralyzed and powerless. And yet, while we are in the danger zone,
we are not yet at breaking point. How will we rise to meet the present moment?
Will we make full use of all of the formidable array of tools and levers at our disposal
to live a meaningful life?
By the time this book comes out my daughter will have been born. What will her generation say of us? Will they say we ran away? Or will they say that we gave it a go? Only we can write the answer to that.


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The Business Revolution
The Business Revolution
Cherry, Alan and Mik

Podcast hosts Cherry, Alan and Mik are three consultants working independently in this field of transformation in Australia. In a series of interviews and segments they ask some of Australia’s leading experts, decision makers, sustainability officers, carbon accountants and employees how we make it happen - how we turn what is still just an idea, a mindset, into a genuine, serious and deep revolution and reinvention of how we do things in business.

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