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Changemakers in Business – 3 Takeaways with Nicole Rycroft


Hoffmann Institute

Changemakers in Business – 3 Takeaways with Nicole Rycroft

Changemakers in Business – 3 Takeaways with Nicole Rycroft

In an episode of the Hoffmann Institute’s Mission to Change podcast, Executive Director Katell Le Goulven speaks to Nicole Rycroft, the Founder and Executive Director of the award-winning initiative Canopy Planet, on conserving forests and advancing indigenous rights.

According to the World Resources Institute, 30% of global forest cover has been cleared, while another 20% has been degraded. On the other hand, Canopy Planet aims to conserve 30-50% of the world’s forests by 2030. A not-for-profit dedicated to changing supply chains within the paper, pulp as well as the fashion industry, they strive to protect the world’s endangered ancient forests, biodiversity and advance frontline community rights. With such a remarkably successful conservation model and high targets, we unpack three lessons from Nicole Rycroft’s conversation with Katell Le Goulven.

1. Your career path is not always straightforward

Like many entrepreneurs, Nicole’s path to success was never linear or straightforward. Her advice – it’s never too late to change your career and every experience helps create the person you are today. Nicole was an elite level athlete and physiotherapist before setting up Canopy Planet, and whilst Nicole grew up with an appreciation and love of forests, she did not plan to champion sustainability. It was an injury, making Nicole unable to continue in sports, that she credits as an unexpected gift.

This altered perspective made Nicole realise what was important in her life and that she wanted to make a meaningful difference and contribution to the world. Although two very different careers, it was her days within elite athleticism that gave her the tenacity needed to set up Canopy, proving no experience goes unrewarded.

2. Be bold and take the first step

Nicole discovered that many companies aren’t willing to take the first step to initiate industry change, and when it comes to sustainability, they are, more often than not, happy to sit back whilst other’s implement further change first. But the advice Nicole gives is to take the first step and with that first step, something truly remarkable can be achieved. Nicole set up Canopy in 1999 with an initial budget of just CA$1800.

Canopy pushed what had never been done before; working in collaboration with Raincoast Books in 2002, 1.5 million Harry Potter books were printed on Ancient Forest Friendly (AFF). In 2003, Raincoast Books printed Harry Potter and the ‘Order of the Phoenix’ on AFF paper, saving more than 39,320 trees, and printing on AFF again in 2007. This has proven to be the greenest book in publishing history to date, with 23 countries using eco paper in at least eight languages. Canopy took the first step to transform the paper and pulp industry and it achieved historical change. It is now taking the first step to transform the fashion and viscose industry, collaborating to end the use of Ancient and Endangered Forests in their supply chain.

3. Treat the cause, not the symptom

When faced with a problem, it is often all too easy to treat the symptom, not the cause. However, the problem will always reappear unless you address the root issue. Nicole’s advice is to treat the cause, not the symptom. The quick fix of treating the symptom in whatever facet of life can not only be costly in time and resources, but also irreversible.

Before setting up Canopy Planet, Nicole participated in protests such as standing on a logging road before realising there is only so long theoretically one can stand on a road to prevent destruction. Reflecting on this she said, “It felt like I was only treating the symptom and that we need to actually address the systemic course, which is that we are using the world's forests and other natural systems unsustainably. And so that was where the idea for Canopy came about.”

Canopy was borne from identifying an effective approach to create systemic change by engaging corporate purchasers and leveraging their economies of scale and supply chains to build a marketplace of sustainable alternatives.

Bonus business takeaway: Don’t be afraid of the NGO

For those wanting to initiate industry change, especially when it comes to sustainability but unsure of how to, Nicole says ‘don’t be afraid of the NGO’. NGOs can provide the necessary expertise and support for businesses to accelerate green transitions within conservation and to embrace a circular economy.


To listen to the full conversation, visit Mission to Change, and explore more of our episodes about the journeys of changemakers here.

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