The Intrapreneur Era

By: Liz Maw | April 22, 2014

What do coffee, dish soap, and conferences all have in common?

[Pause for head scratches].

Well, for one, they’re all spurring sustainability stories driven by “regular employees.”

Over the past few weeks, Guardian Sustainable Business has featured our blog series about three corporate employees who went above and beyond their day jobs to help society and the environment. All three individuals work in different kinds of companies – a coffee wholesaler, a consumer packaged goods multinational, and a huge tech company. They all have different jobs – product management, marketing, and events.  But one thing they have in common is a drive to make an impact, and a bold vision to bring that into their workplace.

For example, Sarah Beaubien is a sustainability enthusiast at Farmer Brother’s Coffee, and found herself surprised at the amount of waste the company generated that wasn’t recyclable. After using the Impact at Work Toolkit, she came up with innovative ways to recycle her Portland headquarters’ trash and transform the culture.

Barbara Ryl is a passionate idealist who comes from the international development NGO sector. She has been empowered by her boss at Unilever to drive forward the social mission of Sunlight dishsoap, and through a unique partnership with OxFAM, has set up a pilot water system to bring clean dishwater to communities in Africa.

And Gina Broel plans massive events for Microsoft. Five years ago, she saw both an opportunity to build business and serve her passion by greening the company’s conferences. Since then, changes to Microsoft’s event planning processes have saved approximately 56 semi-trucks worth of recycled material.

Corporate “intrapreneurs” – people who create meaningful change from within an established company – is a term that has gained popularity in recent years. This is heartening. While many Net Impact members aspire to get jobs in CSR and sustainability departments, the intrapreneurship trend shows many others can drive meaningful change from beyond traditional “impact” roles.

The three intrapreneurs in this blog series are inspiring individuals who have brought their passion to work with the support of a boss or enabling company culture.  Just think if everyone had a similar drive and permission to make the world a better place through their day job.  The possibilities for impact would be endless. At Net Impact, we believe this shift is essential to creating a more sustainable world.

Net Impact is proud to feature the stories of these three women, and we’d like to hear yours.  Do you or someone you know drive change from a mainstream, for-profit job?  If so, we’d like to hear about it!  Email me at or join our Facebook discussion. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Special thanks to TD Bank for helping us bring this series to life. For more examples of intrapreneurship, download their case study on environmental employee engagement.


David Shah

Very informative article Liz. Thank you so much for writing :)

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Liz Maw

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