The Reversing Climate Change podcast with Nori
A podcast about the different people, technologies, and organizations that are coming together to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reverse climate change. We also talk about blockchains.

#44: Lorraine Smith, Sustainability Consultant

October 23, 2018


We can learn a lot if we listen to the trees—and pay attention to the party going on underneath! Nature has much to say about how to realign our industrial value chains, embrace biodiversity, and maintain soil microbiology. The question is, are we smart enough to listen and move toward a regenerative economy? 

Lorraine Smith is a writer and independent consultant who advocates for the shift to a regenerative economy. Lorraine has consulted for leading change-agents and large companies since 2004, and she is a sought-after speaker in the realm of sustainability and corporate innovation. Lorraine collaborates regularly with John Elkington’s team at Volans and sits on the Sustainability Advisory Board of Fibria, a large Brazilian forest products company. She also serves on the Board of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility and the Review Council of the Future Fit Business Benchmark. Lorraine is currently working on her first book, a series of essays exploring the relationship between people and trees.

Today, Lorraine joins Ross, Christophe and Paul to share her ‘silver lining’ approach to environmentalism, explaining how a shift in the conversation can lead to true progress. She discusses her work with corporate boards, describing the value of understanding a company’s current circumstances and humbly checking your assumptions at the door. Lorraine offers insight around accelerating the rate of change and helping business think beyond emissions reduction to elevate the use of products that use CO2 as feedstock. Listen in to understand how we can expand the way we think about sustainability and create a regenerative economy based on the natural process that has been evolving for 3.8 billion years!


Lorraine’s Website

Lorraine’s Blog

Lorraine on Facebook

Lorraine on Twitter

Lorraine on LinkedIn

Lorraine on Instagram

Lorraine on Medium



John Elkington

Canadian Business for Social Responsibility


Forest Stewardship Council

The Donella Meadows Project

Cleantech Group

The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet by Kristin Ohlson

Brazil’s Carbon Index





On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

Key Takeaways

[2:59] Lorraine’s path to reversing climate change

  • Playground fight led to think about humans in wider world
  • Role in financial services: Who cares how money invested?
  • Volunteered to help farmers spin through weaving group
  • Eventually hired to work at CBSR(still board member)

[8:05] Lorraine’s current work in the climate space

  • Explore themes of regenerative economy through writing
  • Contribute to teams (e.g.: Volans, Fibria)

[9:40] The themes of Lorraine’s forthcoming book

  • Relationships between humans and trees
  • Patterns we haven’t picked up on
  • Possibilities for how we can BE in wider world

[13:01] The ‘silver lining’ approach to environmentalism

  • Broaden mindset to shift conversation
  • Realign industrial value chains, human interaction

[16:33] Lorraine’s work as a consultant to companies

  • ‘Can’t convince anyone of anything’
  • Understand present circumstances
  • Check assumptions at door

[21:53] Our role in the deforestation supply chain

  • Don’t recognize what we’ve lost (i.e.: soil microbiology)
  • Come from place of privilege, work to avoid catastrophe

[25:12] Lorraine’s insight around what we can do

  • Amplify what works using nature’s instructions
  • Incentivize behavior through financial mechanism
  • Inspire people to understand ‘party beneath trees’

[26:52] Lorraine’s advice on accelerating the rate of change

  • Worth focusing on emerging knowledge that can help
  • Energize what’s working (i.e.: carbon in soil)
  • Embrace what nature teaches about biodiversity
  • Value of art to inspire reveling in what feels right

[33:59] How companies can go beyond emissions reduction

  • Requires shift in understanding, how fit into carbon story
  • Encourage use of products using CO2as feedstock

[38:19] The evolving language of environmentalism

  • Greenhouse effect—global warming—climate change
  • Changes understanding of warning over time

[42:37] The dichotomy of being open-minded vs. permissive

  • Draw line when something isn’t okay
  • Not so open-minded that ‘brain falls out’
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