Entrepreneur in Residence: Kate Williams

This story was written by Ted Carrick, SEMBA ’17. 

In the most recent installment of SEMBA’s Executive in Residence speaker series, the CEO of 1% for the Planet, Kate Williams, detailed how she has turned a passion for the outdoors and leadership into a successful career in the non-profit sector. I, too, share a love of the natural environment; it was the driving force for me in seeking out SEMBA.  In doing so I aspired to gain the skills necessary to use business to benefit the environment.


For me, Kate’s story is especially inspiring because it shows that adhering to one’s values throughout one’s career can lead to a much larger positive impact on the environment and planet as a whole.  Her work at 1% for the Planet creates a positive impact on the natural environment by connecting corporate dollars environmentally focused non-profit organizations. Their mantra is to accelerate smart environmental giving to the planet.  In doing so, they provide value to the businesses they partner with, helping them support the natural ecosystems from which we all benefit.

Moreover, 1% for the Planet is building expertise in the field of environmental giving. In fact, only 3% of all philanthropic giving in the US goes directly to the environment, and of that, only 3% comes from the business community.  At 1% for the Planet Kate and her team provide the link between businesses and non-profits to create the most impactful partnerships.  Companies who partner with 1% for the Planet donate 1% of their total revenue to environmental charities.  This number provides substantial aid to charities, especially when it comes from larger partner companies like Patagonia, King Arthur Flour, and New Belgium Brewing.  To date, 1% has helped 1,200 member companies donate more than 100 million dollars.  Member companies benefit in two main ways: they enrich the environment that they and their customers live, work, and play in and have the opportunity proudly display the 1% logo, receiving positive associations from consumers.

The important take away from Kate’s talk? That doing mission-driven work can take many forms, and to have the greatest overall impact often these different forms need to interact with each other.  At SEMBA we are focused on harnessing the power of business to make the changes we want in the world.  Kate has chosen the non-profit space to affect positive change.  1% brings those two worlds together to make a difference.  Their work shows their corporate partners that giving can support business objectives and help in long term growth.