Laura’s Life Journey so far
From Copenhagen to the Amazon to the world of Business
I grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark with parents who always instilled in me that we need to take care of our environment. They were very politically active (on the left-wing) in their 20s and although organic produce was not a ‘thing’ in the 1980s, my dad took his bicycle (we didn’t have a car) to the nearest farm to buy the greens we needed. They signed me up for Greenpeace early on, raised my brother and I to contribute and pay back to society, and our holidays were spent camping in the Mediterranean or Scandinavia on a very low budget. I loved collecting rocks, being in nature, running (I did athletics for many years), playing soccer, day dreaming in my room by myself (being the introvert that I am), practicing the saxophone, and acting in various amateur plays.
As a kid I helped campaign for buying up pieces of the rainforest to protect the Amazon from deforestation and promised myself to go there and work as soon as I was old enough. So as a 19-20 year old I went to the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon to work as a volunteer. I loved being in the rainforest learning from real shamans about plant medicine and ceremonies, destroying snipers huts, replanting trees and nurturing new seedlings. But I was too impatient to stay and was eager to change our societies at a more systemic level and change the way corporations worked and operated. So I went back and took a Masters degree in Political Communication and Leadership after a Bachelor in Business from London and Copenhagen.
Trying to mobilize global corporations for a strong deal on climate change
After a few jobs as a project manager within advertising, marketing, and public affairs, I was finally back on my life path when a lucky turn of events made me the Project Director of the Copenhagen Climate Council. An organization I helped create that was dedicated to engaging the business world in the climate policy negotiations leading up to the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen December 2009 (the COP15).
I spent 3 years working with some of the best policy designers, activists, CEO’s, politicians and scientists travelling the world raising awareness about the critical negotiations of the successor to the Kyoto Protocol. It was a truly fascinating time of my life learning from the best at a very young age. I sit in on critical political negotioans and helped facilitate discussions between US, European and Chinese energy utilities and collaborated with the key global players in the field.
The COP15, in itself, was a political collapse of absurd proportions. The negotiations broke down (ruined by huge egos, in my opinion) and 190 Heads of State fled the scene, leaving behind utter chaos and desperation. And many depressed people, myself included.
Revitalize momentum in the field of sustainability
After the COP15 I took a long break from climate policy and focused on how business leaders could successfully transform their business-strategy to a low-carbon economy. I interviewed global CEO’s and Chief Sustainability Officers to get first-hand knowledge of the successes and failures, challenges and opportunities in the strategy and implementation process. I wanted to know how we could scale action more quickly than in the political arena.
I moved to San Francisco and threw myself into developing a project that had a clear goal of revitalizing the momentum that had been built in the lead-up to COP15 by changing the way we communicate and involve people. I wanted to make the agenda exciting by focusing on the amazing lifestyle that sustainability has to offer, the solutions, the potential. While writing a book for the project on how to communicate about a sustainable future (The Guide to Sustainia) an idea began to grow in my head. I wanted to turn this approach into a solutions-focused organization that made sustainability exciting and tangible for people – not just the elite. With great partners and the help of the Scandinavian think tank Monday Morning (which had also been the birthing place for my other projects), the result was that Sustainia was born.
Fast-forward 5 years of heading Sustainia while also becoming a mother to my amazing girl Roxie born in 2013. Giving birth to both an organization and a real-life-baby within a year was equally exciting, empowering and challenging. Motherhood gave my work a deeper sense of purpose (and the meaning of love all wrapped up into a tiny human being). Meanwhile creating Sustainia has definitely been the most exciting experiences of my career to date. It was a huge privilege to create a global platform that gave voice to thousands of sustainability entrepreneurs around the world while also revitalizing the sustainability agenda. Personally Sustainia provided me an incredibly steep learning curve, the courage to embrace feminine leadership, an amazing team and colleagues, a chance to speak on world-class stages and interesting partnerships and projects (read more here).
When my life drastically changed from one day to the next
Then in July 2015 I was in an accident which caused a minor traumatic brain injury that took me years in silence and away from work to heal. For the first year I was living in an emotional and physical hell - not being able to cope with any sounds, lights, or moving objects yet alone play with my daugther. I was constantly dizzy, had double-vision, and was extremely fatigued. I couldn’t read, write, watch TV or even listen to audio-books. All I could cope with was silence. It was a crazy and challenging time, but also created the space and the silence that ended up becoming a cherished and fascinating inner journey.
More than a year of almost total solitude and stillness with no input does something to you. It has made me incredibly focused on what my mission in life is and what I spend my time on. It has developed a deep sense of inner satisfaction that I’ve never felt before as I’ve always rushed towards the next big goal, never really slowed down or being present. When you neglect yourself in the process you’ll miss out on a sense of joy, flow, creativity and happiness to your work. And I’ve come to realize that they are the most important drivers and ingredients to build and shape the kind of world I believe in. We cannot build thriving societies if we withdraw our wellbeing from the equation.
I now know the importance of being in balance and catering to your soul’s true calling - that inner voice that many people numb or silence in their hectic day-to-day life. The voice I could suddenly hear loud and clear when my world became completely silent for months on end.
[If I’ve made that sound like a completely blissful experience, trust me it really wasn’t. It was full of anxiety, fear, worry – losing yourself and all your abilities and skills for such a long time is a pretty scary and messy thing. But I decided to make the best of it and see how much I could possibly grow as a person during such a challenging time. I started to find excitement and pleasure in the smallest things and turned the challenge around to a positive experience.] I talk about this experience in this TEDx talk and in many interviews you can find here.
Inspiration from the living systems of nature
My years in solitude, silence and nature gave me new insights and perspectives on my mission in life. I started asking myself questions like:
Why don’t we learn more from the intelligence of nature?
Why have we separated ourselves from our own inner wisdom and the wisdom of natures living systems?
Why don’t leaders realise that the stress and friction we see in society is interconnected? That we cannot have outer sustainability without inner sustainability?
Those questions led to years of studying, researching and exploring new facets of my field of sustainability integrating anthropology, psychology, biology and the wisdom of nature. It also led me to my co-author Giles Hutchins and he and I quickly connected and started co-creating a new regenerative leadership approach, which we soon decided to also convey in a co-written book.
So today I work with amazing partners in the Regenerators Collective teaching Regenerative Design, Leadership and Living, I host my podcast Cracks Of Light: Leadership for a thriving world, I give keynotes on topics I'm passionate about, and ponder on how we best redesign and co-create a world where purpose, people, planet & profit collectively thrive. A truly regenerative world.