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Good work stories: From the Boardroom to the Beach

Posted by | March 23, 2021 | Good Work Stories

From the Good work stories Boardroom to the Beach blog header

An interview with Josh Borthwick, CEO Sustainable Coastlines

Ever been for a walk on a beautiful beach, only to find the moment ruined by cigarette butts, or worse?

Water safety warnings have been in the news again this summer. The Auckland Council’s Safeswim website map is regularly covered in red crosses that come with the warning, ‘high risk of illness from swimming’. Other parts of the country are faring no better, especially our wetlands, streams and rivers.

Enabling Kiwis to keep our waterways and coastline healthy and beautiful, is registered charity Sustainable Coastlines. A formidable and fun team of motivators, problem-solvers, ocean lovers and salty sea dogs, these folks are on fire.

Leading their charge for change is CEO, Josh Borthwick, who was appointed in 2020.

Sustainable Coastlines revitalised their leadership team last year. Josh had been keeping an eye on new listings on Do Good Jobs for a while and couldn’t believe his luck when he saw the newly created CEO role listed on Do Good Jobs.

Stepping across to the do-good Sector 

“I’d wanted to move into the ‘do good’ space for around a decade. I really started to get interested in sustainability as a career around six years ago when I became Sustainability Champion at Trade Me.

I remember ringing around some recruiters when I left Trade Me and they felt I had some transferable skills into the NGO space, but could benefit from some larger, scaled, experience running big national teams. So, I took a job at Stuff running their advertising business with about 200 staff – yikes!”

Josh had been a longtime supporter of Sustainable Coastlines through being a One Percent Collective donor and met co-founder Sam Judd when he was sniffing around for do-good work opportunities, so was familiar with the organisation’s work. The kaupapa had always resonated with Josh and he loved the ‘pirate’ attitude co-founder Sam and the rest of the team brought to their mahi.

Founded in 2009 and dedicated to walking the talk, the Sustainable Coastlines Flagship building in Auckland’s Viaduct was built using recycled building materials wherever possible and the space boasts the only composting (and super cool) toilets in the inner city. We love that the Flagship is available to hire too– free of cost to other do-good organisations during work hours.

Three areas of focus for Josh and Sustainable Coastlines in 2021 

Sustainable Coastline’s vision is for Beautiful Beaches, Healthy Water and Inspired People. We asked Josh to say more.

“We connect people to nature to inspire change. We want to clean up our coastlines and contribute to a world without litter, restore biodiversity in and around the awa that flow into our moana and inspire systems and behaviour change with the very top decision makers in government all the way through to future generations in schools across Aotearoa.”

Epic, right? You can see why this is Josh’s dream role.

Sustainable Coastlines does a great job of data collection and using storytelling to bring the impacts described by that data alive in their communications. This is clear on their website and social media. Anyone dipping into their website gets a very real sense of the change the organisation is facilitating. One of the things Josh is most looking forward to in this role is scaling that impact further.

“Sam and Cam (Camden Howitt, Co-founder and Programmes Director), have built an amazing brand and I think we really punch above our weight when it comes to the recall and recognition we get. I want to see us leverage that for some amazing outcomes for Papatūānuku and our moana over the next five years.”

The question that keeps social change agents up at night 

Something that keeps many social and environmental change agents up at night is the question of how to elicit the sense of urgency that drives behaviour change, Josh included.

“I know we harp on about COVID’s ability to show just how galvanized our response can be to an emergency, but we haven’t cracked how to demonstrate the same urgency with safeguarding biodiversity. 90% of our seabirds in Aotearoa, which make up a disproportionate amount of the world’s seabirds, are ingesting plastic, but we don’t see that as a general populous. It’s hard to witness the gulls we’re seeing on the Hauraki Gulf during America’s Cup chowing down on plastic and comprehend the downstream effects of that, yet it’s happening right in front of us and it’s every bit as real as COVID-19.”

That old chestnut, work-life balance 

Like many people lit up with the passion of doing something they love, Josh puts in the hours, much of it on the laptop. Josh has found the perfect way to balance out the physical inertia by e-biking to and from work.

“I e-bike to work roughly 3x a week, clocking up about 150k a week and it’s epic! Sitting in a car for an hour and a half a day is such an energy suck but riding an e-bike is like being a kid again! It’s thrilling, energizing, great exercise without feeling like you’ve run a marathon every day and a HUGE reduction in carbon footprint.”

So, why work in the do-good sector? 

We asked Josh what fuels his work. “This mahi is good for my soul. I feel restored every day rather than depleted. I’ve had some fantastic experiences in the corporate sector, and I’ve been privileged to work with exceptionally talented people, but it can’t hold a candle to the alignment I now feel with my values, and the work I contribute to at Sustainable Coastlines.”

Right there. That’s the goal. Doing good work that contributes to a better future. Work that has us feel restored rather than depleted.

Kia ora Josh!

#betterworkstories #makingadifference #whogotthegoodie

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