Leaders List Interview: 60 seconds with Stuart McLachlan, CEO, Anthesis

Date: 27 Apr 2021

Bumblebee Design

Citywealth spoke to Stuart McLachlan, CEO of sustainability consultancy Anthesis, to find out how he is helping corporates and financial institutions drive sustainable performance.  


Tell us about your role.

I’m the co-founder and CEO of Anthesis, one of the UK’s fastest-growing private companies and largest dedicated group of sustainability experts globally.  Every day I’m in conversations with some of the sharpest, sustainably focused minds on the environmental and societal challenges the world is facing. Anthesis is committed to amplifying its impact to tackle the world’s climate emergency by driving sustainable performance into our client’s organisations. We believe that sustainability is best delivered collaboratively. The breadth and depth of Anthesis allows us to pull together the relevant components of a sustainability journey on a case-by-case basis. Much of my work is about assembling the right talent armed with the digital tools to maximise positive impact during this decisive decade.  


What’s in store for Anthesis in 2021?

We’ve recently completed a significant minority investment deal with Palatine Private Equity, a team focused on supporting businesses that drive impact. The investment allows us to turbocharge our focus across the decade’s most material global systems: net-zero impact; carbon remediation; product circularity; land use; and inclusive economies. We’ve set some ambitious targets through this investment, including working with our clients to remove 3 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2030, meeting our intentions to meaningfully ‘move the dial’ during the next ten years. That’s the equivalent to half the emissions from the US in one year or eight years of emissions in the UK.


What impact has the last year had on the sustainability agenda?

2021 has been the strongest start to a year I’ve experienced in my 30 years in sustainability, which gives great hope for better times ahead. This comes off the back of a very different 2020. We weren’t immune from the CV-19 uncertainties, with clients understandably prioritising the health of their people and business. However, the returned focus on the climate emergency has made up for the lost time. With COP26 on the horizon, President Biden signalling a move towards a greener economy, and strong ambitions announced by the UK Government to cut carbon emissions, the signs are positive that corporates and communities again prioritise sustainability.  


What challenges do you face and how are you working towards overcoming them?

We can’t hire fast enough. Our market-leading expertise is unquestioned and in high demand. We’re constantly looking for new talent to join the team, leading to an ‘always on’ approach to recruitment to address market demand and ultimately drive impact. If you’re at the top of your game and want to join Anthesis, find out more on our Careers page.


What is your most memorable work moment?

So many. Welcoming new Anthesians to the Company. Spending a couple of days with 100 members of the management team in Barcelona for our leadership conference and seeing them wowed by the great work of our latest acquisition, Lavola. Receiving client feedback on us delivering the value that underpins the ‘raison d’etre’ of Anthesis existence. Seeing Anthesis in amongst the fastest growing Companies in the UK and Europe. Achieving impact and having that validated by our B-Corp status. Experiencing the enthusiasm from the investor community to deploy capital as a force for good through the work we do.


Best and worst parts of your job?

The best part is hearing stories from all our markets on our clients’ projects, from developing Net-Zero strategies and responsibly managing supply chains, to changing packaging strategies and engaging with the C-Suite on brand purpose. Worst – Saying goodbye to valued colleagues, notwithstanding our excitement for them with the opportunities they are choosing to pursue.


Who do you most admire and why?

I admire entrepreneurs, actually leaders in general, who risk it all in pursuit of purpose-driven dreams. People with strong ethics and values who are authentic and work for the greater good rather than their agendas. People who don’t compromise those values even when times get tough. I’ve spent a lot of time in South Africa, and Nelson Mandela remains for me the most inspiring leader who has been alive during my lifetime.