Spotlight on: Tom Lewis Reynier
I’m the Director of Strategic Engagement at WRAP – a leading circular economy and sustainability charity operating through the UK and with global programmes. I’ve worked in the private sector, with local and national governments and in all corners of the social sector as well – so you could say my career has been a bit ‘squiggly’ to coin a phrase. That’s the way I’ve liked it though – because although it hasn’t always been planned, I’ve always been drawn to change, to challenge, and to opportunity. There’s been plenty of it in the past decade or two as we go through technological, social and climate change – and I’ve relished the chance to help organisations reconfigure themselves to address the roles they can play and the impact they can have in this picture.
WRAP has an established history, but is a ‘new’ charity – and so I’m here to help it build its profile, and diversify its income, and base of partnerships. The space of sustainability and climate change is right at the cutting edge of global interest and change right now and so the chance I have to learn about the issues, and bring what impact I can to it is a real privilege. Roles like this do not come around very often and so when I got the call from Starfish to look at it I jumped at the chance – and realised it would need a real blend of experiences and backgrounds to fill it well – and so was delighted to be appointed.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Obviously working in climate change I have a really global focus. One place that is really seen at the moment is in the space of responsible investing (ESG). I’ve always been fascinated with the transformational impact that different uses of capital can have, and have long been involved in social investment projects. It’s amazing to see the traction and scale that asset managers are picking up in how they use their influence to affect business decisions relating to carbon emissions, land use and poverty alleviation. It would be great to think that we in the social sector can continue to build on that and work very much hand in hand with the financial sector to get to this brighter, cleaner and more sustainable future. They are joining the space that we as charities have long been creating and so we need to harness their resources to make sure that it delivers the right sort of impact.
What personal philosophy do you aspire to live by? I guess I live by the philosophy that there is room for a broad range of views, opinions and approaches. And we should leave space for that. Of course we need to choose action and be decisive but I find the most impactful, creative and energetic organisations across sectors are those that allow people to express themselves. I find too often in life, in business and especially in the charity sector we’re too quick to cut each other off and we lose sight of what is going on around us. The strongest organisations are those that bring together the most diverse sources of people and experience, work hard to foster that and really work hard at it.
Who has inspired you the most on your own career journey? My first job out of university was in printing – screen printing, and specifically t-shirts and clothing . I worked with a growing business for 10 years and was really influenced by the entrepreneur who had set this up. My whole approach to opportunity, business development, innovation and my attitude to just getting on with what needs to be done came from that. It’s really been a strong driver for the work I’ve done through all the roles I’ve had in the charity sector. Too often we come up with reasons why we shouldn’t do something, or why we can’t and I’ve always tried to shift that mindset. That was borne of my time building a small, innovative and creative business and I guess it’s with me for good now!
What advice would you give to others who are following a similar path? I guess I’d encourage people to be bold, go for it – and to not doubt. If you really believe something is a good idea, is the right thing to do or will work – then don’t be discouraged or dissuaded by your fears that you, or it won’t fit in. Group think and going with the flow can be such a strong force of extinguishing your enthusiasm and energy and it’s really important to keep things in perspective and stick with your convictions. In addition – if you are working in any change role then never forget that this is what they have brought you in for!