Inspirational Woman: Kate Cawley | Founder and Managing Director, Veris Strategies & Founder, The Future Food Movement

Meet Kate Cawley

Founder and Managing Director at Veris Strategies & Founder of the Future Food Movement

Kate Cawley, founder and managing director Veris Strategies and founder of the Future Food Movement.

Kate has made it her mission to connect previously competitive food businesses and help them combat climate change. She has identified a huge climate skills gap in the food industry and subsequently launched the Future Food Movement to give individuals and businesses much-needed climate skills and the confidence to take action.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Kate devised and launched the Future Food Movement in 2022 which is the biggest mass climate upskilling programme in UK history.  It has ambitious aims to revolutionise the role that individuals and businesses play in how the UK food and drink industry tackles climate change. 

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

I am the founder of Veris Strategies, a strategic change consultancy that focuses on supporting food and drink businesses to develop and deliver impactful climate strategies. I also founded the Future Food Movement in 2021, which connects previously competitive food businesses and helps them combat climate change.

We identified a huge climate skills gap in the food industry and launched the Future Food Movement to give individuals and businesses much-needed climate skills and the confidence to take action.

I have a background in waste reduction, resource efficiency, corporate marketing and communications. I went into my family’s waste management business after working at Reuters marketing for several years. I have become an expert at breaking down and simplifying hard to understand environmental technical information into engaging campaigns that help food and retail businesses make sense of and ultimately, tackle climate change.

This is more than setting PR-friendly green targets, it is about instigating behavioural changes across all areas of a business and embedding a net zero culture.

This approach has helped me develop sustainability strategies for some of the UK’s biggest food, drink and retail brands including Cranswick plc, Greencore Group plc, Compleat Food Group and Samworth Brothers, Roberts Bakery and Belazu.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Does anyone? I did a degree in Politics but I knew almost immediately that student life wasn’t for me. I was desperate to get into the world of work so I secured a work experience placement at Reuters in London which turned into a full time job. I ended up transferring my degree to a London university so I could juggle my final year and working.

I’ve always had a passion for communications and culture and I used these skills to support my family’s waste management business to launch the UK’s first commercial food waste partnership to anaerobic digestion. Waitrose and John Lewis Partnership was our first customer so I worked closely with them to tell the story to their business, colleagues and stakeholders.

This introduced us to the world of the food supply chain and kickstarted a passion for food manufacturing and retail and the impact that food has on people and planet. This is as much about people’s hearts and minds as it is about technology and process.  

Everything else I’ve done since then has come out of this passion.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Typically, businesses didn’t have sustainability budgets and it wasn’t a boardroom led issue as it was seen as a nice to have rather than an essential business strategy. So, I’ve  had to work really hard to change mindsets of senior management and prove the business case beyond typical operational efficiencies and how to hardwire climate skills into their businesses and reshaping the climate smart workforce of the future.

Because I’ve come from a cultural background to sustainability not a technical one, I’ve had to fight to be heard.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Setting up Future Food Movement has been a labour of love. There’s a huge skills gap in the food industry and industry generally.

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

Ultimately, I’m a climate optimist. I know that we can all work together to transform how businesses and individuals solve climate change. My passion and relentlessness is a key driver in building FFM and building a team of skilled, passionate and driven people who all believe in the same mission.

I want to be able to look my daughter in the eyes and tell her that I tried to make the world better. I believe that many parents feel the same way. We want to build a legacy for our children and leave them a world that isn’t on the brink of catastrophe.

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

I am passionate about giving young people a voice and we work with a number of interns at Veris and will be introducing a scheme into the Future Food Movement this year.

The Future Food Movement has partnered the Votes for Schools to develop a youth advisory board which will give their voice to key climate issues and give insights into what children and young people think and feel about our food system.

I personally work with a couple of industry mentors and coaches who I speak to for advice and to sound out ideas which is invaluable.

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

Women are still massively underrepresented as senior leaders in the food industry and this is a real challenge. We need to make the food industry more appealing to both young people and women to help build the future of food. Flexible working is key to attracting and retaining talent.

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

Keep going and working for yourself. Founding your own business is exciting and scary but absolutely worth it.

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

Building a food industry that has climate initiatives at its heart is my biggest driver. If the Future Food Movement can upskill 10,000 people who work in the food industry in climate strategies in 2022 that will be ground-breaking. Scale FFM into a global movement and attract more investment. Be braver, speak up more and also every time we support or water down a climate strategy or ambition it builds acceptance that it’s okay to take shortcuts. This isn’t business as usual it’s the wider society who will be ultimately suffer. We need to support transformational business change not tinkering at the edges business-as-usual stuff.

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