Immediate Media
30/08/2023

"10 Questions for..." Michelle Whitehead

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In the interview series "10 Questions for..." we introduce you to Burda employees from across the business, giving you an insight into different departments, countries, and markets. This month we spoke to Michelle Whitehead, Sustainability Lead at Immediate Media. Michelle talks about remaining optimistic in times of climate crisis and explains why action means hope.

Our favourite question: What are you working on right now?

To quote the British naturalist Sir David Attenborough: “Solving the climate crisis is a communications challenge”. Helping our audiences live more sustainable, healthier lives is where we can make the greatest impact.

So, we are working with content creators from across the business to develop a sustainable content strategy. We will start with an audit, followed by workshops focused on effective climate communications that inspire rather than polarise our audiences. We have just completed our 2022 carbon footprint and calculated our net zero pathway, so we are setting targets and KPIs across the business through the sustainability leadership team. Sustainability has to be embedded into day-to-day operations and workflows, rather than it being seen as a separate, independent department.

What fascinates you about your job?

Everything! There is no blueprint to follow, and solutions are evolving on a daily basis. Sustainability is such a massive issue that it can often be overwhelming. But with action comes hope, and what’s so heartening is the level of cooperation and collaboration both within the business and across the industry. Uniting with our peers and competitors to share knowledge and best practice will accelerate change. Power comes in numbers, and we are stronger when we stand together.

Is there any one person who has inspired you along the way?

It would be more than one person – there are so many people I have encountered over the years who have helped me with their generosity of spirit, time and knowledge. My sustainability colleagues in particular, with their energy and perseverance, especially six or seven years ago when we were banging on doors to get people to sit up and take notice of what was happening with the climate, are an inspiring group.

What skills do you think are particularly important in today’s world?

Creative thinking, adaptability, perseverance, and collaboration. And never giving up!

What are you most proud of – this doesn’t have to be work-related.

Raising three strong and kind girls, starting a new profession after a 15-year career break and hauling myself up two mountains so far as part of the 3 Peaks Challenge. Ben Nevis next!

Is there anything about your job that really drives you crazy?

I meet the most amazing people in my job who are deeply committed to doing the best for people and the planet. Unfortunately, there’s a narrative playing out in the media that has moved from climate denial to climate delay, and I do come across the ‘yes but’ narrative: there’s no point in trying, it’s too late, the solutions are worse than the problems, what about China and so on. But it will never be too late. Every intervention we can take to delay and halt warming will help buy us time to implement new solutions and will save lives.

What is the best book (or film) you have ever read and why?

Impossible to say – I am an avid reader and film buff. If I absolutely had to choose, I think I would say the novel would be Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, a beautiful book about the deepest human bonds of love and loss, full of haunting imagery that will stay with you for a long time. And the film would be Paddington 2 – because it is great family viewing and the dance scene at the end is a work of pure genius!

How do you maintain a clear head when things get stressful?

Taking a break is so important: going for a walk, listening to a podcast, or doing a bit of cooking. And having a trusted colleague that can offload with helps.

Work-life balance: How do you manage to switch off in your free time?

With a husband, three kids and a dog there is not much free time, but spending time with family and friends, enjoying a good meal with a lovely glass of wine, yoga or spending time in nature are my go-tos. I love musical theatre – it combines my love of dancing and singing.

And one last question: Any thoughts of wisdom to share?

The quotation I live my life by is from the anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.

We need to keep focused on solving the climate crisis because we have more power than we think to do great things both in our personal and professional lives. Use the power of your voice to speak up. And vote! Let’s keep focused on making the world a better place.

 

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More images & downloads

Koli Pickersgill (left) and Joanne Beattie (right) chatting with Michelle (centre) at Immediate´s summer festival © Immediate Media
 

Michelle Whitehead presenting sustainability initiatives at Immediate´s Climate Action Day in May © Immediate Media
 

Michelle joined Immediate in June 2022 as Sustainability Lead and is passionate about normalising sustainability behaviours © Immediate Media
 

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