Meet the board: Steve Malkin, CEO Planet First & Founder of The Planet Mark

Describe your day job:

One of the benefits of being in a nascent business is that there is no typical day. However, most days of the week I’ll be meeting a CEO or senior team to discuss sustainability. I have to balance being CEO of Planet First with being the Founder of The Planet Mark, where I’m effectively an ambassador for sustainability in business. That often entails workshops, presentations, public speaking and awarding certificates of achievement. As a result, I rely a great deal on a strong team to help grow the business.

What skills are needed to be a good CEO?

The business environment is changing. Disruptive technology, ethics, transparency and the transition to a low carbon economy are accelerating the pace of change.

We are a creating a better way of doing business and good CEOs are adding this to their traditional skillsets. They still need to display decisive leadership, trust, competence and understanding of risk management, but now we are demanding more from our CEOs. They must master the ability to adapt, to embrace change and collaborate – even with their competitors. To be successful in this changing world, CEOs must have purpose and recognise that they can deliver profitability and have a positive impact on society and the environment.

What’s the best thing about being CEO of Planet First?

I’m a natural optimist. For me, there’s nothing better than seeing positive change. The culture at Planet First is similarly upbeat. It is our clients who provide us with the evidence to support our positivity.

“I rely a great deal on a strong team to help grow the business”

We’re working with customers who use sustainability to move beyond risk mitigation and to resilience and sustainable growth. They’re seeing business opportunities and innovating. We get to work alongside them, using The Planet Mark to tell the story of how companies are creating change from within and producing world class, sustainable products and services. Every day, this reinforces our optimism for business, the environment and society.

And what is the biggest challenge?

From a business point of view, the biggest challenge is managing growth. It brings typical challenges in time-management, prioritisation and developing self-sustaining systems and processes. From a sustainability perspective, the biggest challenge has been inertia, particularly amongst SMEs. It can be frustrating when you have evidence and case studies to show that reducing carbon emissions improves profit margins and can even help win business.

Where and how did you start your career?
“You could call it a sustainability revolution, and it is gathering pace…There really is no better time to lead a business”

I trained as a civil engineer. During my degree I raised sponsorship to race karts and cars. After a short spell selling advertising space, I began work at Brands Hatch in the marketing department. From there I produced a number of Guinness World Record charity events, did some TV presenting and ran my own marketing agencies.

Like many in my field, I came to sustainability in a career change to mix my passion, purpose and business skills. I’ve never looked back. First, I co-founded an award-winning carbon consultancy, which was sold to Deloitte five years after launching. I established Planet First just over two years ago and partnered with the Eden Project to create The Planet Mark, a sustainability certification, which uniquely combines ease of implementation with a focus on continual improvement.

What advice would you give to aspiring young business leaders?

Resource scarcity, climate change and public scrutiny are accelerating us into a new economic model. You could call it a sustainability revolution, and it is gathering pace. Some businesses are struggling to adapt, while others are embracing change. Those starting out in business that are in tune with this revolution and take advantage of the opportunities being presented by this new economic model will be the business leaders of the future. There really is no better time to lead a business.


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