Inspirational Woman: Karen Sutton | Founder, Global Good Awards

Karen Sutton

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role:

I am the founder of the Global Good Awards; a scheme that rewards businesses, NGOs, charities and social enterprises of all shapes and sizes around the world, that are blazing the trail for purpose-driven sustainability and ethical leadership.

They recognise leaders who are achieving practical, real-world impact that is both scalable and replicable – and who have inspiring stories to tell.

Before the Awards was founded, I didn’t give a second thought to where I bought things, how they were made and where my money was invested. The Awards have led me on a personal reinvention to live a much more sustainable lifestyle; simply by being inspired by our entrants.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all…I started my career as a photographer, straight out of work experience at 17 years old in London. My placement was at a Formula One photography agency. I’ve always been a stickler for detail and a logical thinker so with a hard work ethic, I soon found myself in Brazil with a camera in hand at my first F1 race in 1996 working for teams and sponsors, including McLaren, Williams, and a few tobacco and oil/gas companies that shall remain nameless… a far cry given my current role and importance I place on the environment.

From there, I just made changes in my life as and when challenges and opportunities presented themselves.. But I certainly feel I’ve found my calling. I’ve always loved shouting about good things (and also calling out bad things too!) so being able to do that and encourage change, had given me a beautiful balance in life and work.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

(Tongue in cheek) Is this where most women say something about they’ve had to work harder than a man would to get where they are? I won’t be saying that… why? Because I’ve never allowed it to enter my mind. On the other hand, I am very short, just over 5ft, and also look about 10 years + younger than I am (lucky me, right?) I’ve found that far more of a challenge than my sex.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

When I started the awards in 2014, many people told me it wouldn’t work because it didn’t have the backing of a big publishing company or membership organisations or it “wasn’t niche” enough – so that spurred me on even more. Next year, the GGAs will be celebrating its 10th year and I’m now hearing from companies the magic words that I wanted to hear when it started –“Yours is the Award that we really want to win!” That makes me get out of bed in the morning.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your achieving success? 

Getting the 3 Ps in the right order… planet… people, then profit. I started the Awards knowing that it had to practice what it preached. I believe that if we are to recognise and reward change across all aspects of purpose-driven sustainability and social impact, then we have to be walking that talk ourselves. How can we reward for climate action and then serve beef at our ceremony, or reward for community impact and then buy cheap trophies made in a sweat shop in Asia?

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Not for me, sorry! Maybe 10 years’ time.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Are we talking about the UK? If so, I would call for the government to address Paternity and Maternity leave so it allows either parent to take the full year (not sure of the exact time?) out of work.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Walk away earlier if your gut is telling you to.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I was becoming disillusioned by selling tickets to companies that I knew hadn’t won an award and having an environmental impact by encouraging people to travel to a ceremony that was really just about having a few drinks and doing some networking. Past participants had said to me that they would be really interested to learn more about the winners, their projects and how they had got there, so I thought it might be an idea to split the GGAs into two parts: a free virtual ceremony for all, which will be held on 12 July, followed by a jam-packed day of purpose-led content on 12 October.

The focus of the event will be on practical workshops – each session will include a GOLD winner from the most relevant GGA category, sharing their insights about why they won, what worked, what didn’t, what were the biggest challenges, and what best practices they can share to help other organisations make a positive impact – faster.

This is another ‘first’ for the awards industry and really shakes things up. We’re in the business of delivering and celebrating purpose – a traditional ceremony doesn’t do that.

On 12th October, the Global Good Awards has teamed up with sustainability event experts, The Crowd to bring organisations interested in sustainability ‘The Purpose Summit’, a jam-packed day of insight, advice and bright ideas to help organisations turn purpose into impact. GGA winners will be sharing their insights, challenges, and best practices, to help other organisations make a positive impact. The current schedule of events is available here:

Related Posts