SUSTAINABLE SISTAS: MICHELLE IVES FROM SENDLE
SUSTAINABLE SISTAS IS A BLOG SERIES CELEBRATING WOMEN WHO RUN SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL BUSINESSES OR ARE DOING IMPORTANT WORK FOR SUSTAINABLE CAUSES. WE FIND OUT WHAT SUSTAINABILITY MEANS TO THEM, CHALLENGES THEY FACE, WHAT DRIVES THEM AND WHAT THEY HOPE SUSTAINABILITY WILL ACHIEVE. PLEASE CONTACT US HERE IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE FEATURED OR KNOW A LADY DOING AMAZING WORK.
Michelle Ives is the Head of Communications at Sendle. At its core, Sendle is a parcel delivery service. But it’s so much more. It has the bold mission of disrupting the parcel industry and offer consumers an alternative to Australia Post. And Sendle wants to do that while being kind to people and the planet. It’s a startup with heart.
Michelle tells us what motivated her to move into the startup space, what her role looks like and how important sustainability is for Sendle.
Your role is Head of Communications at Sendle. Tell us about what your role entails and what a standard day looks like for you?
A random day at a startup is a real whirlwind! As Head of Communications, in a nutshell: I make sure our voice stands out amongst the crowd and speaks to small businesses.
Our unique brand voice of open, curious, productive and playful means that people love engaging with us because we make logistics, something historically sort of inflexible and drab - instead easy, human and fun.
We’re a 100% carbon-neutral door-to-door courier, which is an Australian (and maybe even world) first - and we’re doing this against a well-entrenched monopoly that already exists and has for a long time. We’ve got to stay quick and be better, so there are always lot of new problems to solve.
On any given day, I’m curating content across key communication verticals, helping build a new product or feature, refining our teams’ sales pitch, creating campaigns with our brilliant partners, making sure our support team have what they need to shine, signing off copy or making terrible jokes.
You previously worked in the fashion industry, what was that experience like and how has it shaped your outlook on fashion and sustainability?
I believe that fashion is a wonderful form of self-expression, but there’s absolutely no reason for anyone or anything to suffer in order to enact it.
When I was younger, I used to look up to the female pioneers of publishing: Carmel Snow, Diana Vreeland, Grace Mirabella - and think ‘that’s going to be me.’ Next, I’m on the cusp of graduating as a journalist and I’ve landed an editor position helming a glossy fashion broadcaster. In the beginning, it was thrilling - covering hot stories, running editorial, rubbing shoulders with people I’d never thought I’d meet. Still, I’d go home at the end of the day and feel a little ill, like something wasn’t quite right. It actually wasn’t until I met the wonderful founder of the company I joined next I realised what was missing: purpose.
Aside from conventional printing being, you know, really outdated - the work I was doing was centred very much around things I fundamentally didn’t agree with, like promoting unrealistic body image, glorifying animal skin as art and taking advertising dollars from cosmetic companies renowned for cruel testing.
I resigned soon after that lightbulb moment and joined startupland for a business with a heart, Loocl. I’ve never looked back.
Sendle has B-Corp certification, how important was it to Sendle to attain that certification?
Oh, hugely. Being a B-Corp is a badge the whole team wears with honour and pride.
Early on in our lifecycle, our CEO said no to a $1 million seed investment, because the investor asked us to denounce our B-Corp status. Seed funding is is one of the most crucial financial raises a startup can do - because it’s proving out the concept - but it was still a firm no.
Delivery shouldn’t cost the earth, and yet worldwide, logistics contributes to 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. Yuck. So, we’re doing our bit by offsetting every delivery, and I’m proud of our tenacity in that aspect of the business.
What else does Sendle do in terms of sustainable practices?
On the subject of offsetting, we actually over-offset every delivery as if it’s travelling from the eastern seaboard to Perth - basically the furthest most point in the east to the furthest most point in the west. This is for every single delivery, even ones that are going to a neighbour a suburb away. This means we’re actually carbon-negative, by a pretty significant amount.
We’ve done this from the word go, and we have no plans to stop.
Closer to home, our entire HQ was redesigned by a sustainable architect a year or so ago, using super eco-friendly wood. We’re currently also undergoing a radical shift in the way that we use our physical space every day - including digitising everything, introducing really robust recycling practices and volunteering together.
I think part of ethical and sustainable living is being kind to yourself, first and foremost. How do you unwind or practice self care?
As I’ve grown, I’ve really come to appreciate the cognitive benefits of having healthy social relationships. This is my family, of course, and my partner, my friends - people who just make me feel good, and vice versa. I found minimalism about a year ago and that totally changed my world. I simplified things in the physical world, with the stuff I had around me, but also digitally and emotionally.
Before that, I believed I needed lots of toys and money and friends to be happy and it wasn’t until I stripped that right down - no things I wasn’t physically holding in my hands at least once a week, no apps or content that didn’t serve me, no shitty people that made me feel shitty, too - I realised how much of my time, energy and money I was throwing away.
I feel like like half the bad decisions we make around purchasing or living unsustainably are because we’re impulsive and time-poor. Why are we impulsive and time-poor? Because when we’re surrounded by things we don’t need, we don’t see the the things we actually want. And so we continue to make thoughtless consumer and personal choices.
I’m really conscious about what I buy, what I devote my time to and who I let in to share that with me and I think that that has been the ultimate practice of self-love - I’m giving myself the reward of a more meaningful life.
Can you give any advice for anyone wanting to start their own ethical, green or sustainable business?
Work and surround yourself with people as passionate and like-minded as you are - it lifts you up and puts you on a higher energy vibration.
As an example, I met up with a girlfriend last week and we got talking about a topic we were both interested in. Things got colourful fast - we went from normal pleasantries to super engaged discussion and the energy was palpable.
There’s a whole bunch of theories around conscious manifesting when in a higher energy state, and I went home that afternoon and was productive like I hadn’t been for a long time.
Who in sustainable and ethical business inspires you and why?
Edgar’s Mission, The Cruelty Free Shop, James Aspey. The vegan movement is becoming so mainstream now and they’ve all been instrumental in that.
What does living sustainability mean to you?
Living a life with intention. Be intentional with what you’re doing - no matter how big or small, or how insignificant it might seem. I think when we’re mindful about what we’re doing, we slow down and make more thoughtful decisions.
Do you have a personal philosophy or motto that guides you?
“Do unto others”. That’s one from my Mum, for sure. She’s the queen of empathy.
What are your favourite resources you read, watch or listen to that has helped inform your opinion on sustainable living, inspire you or offer an interesting perspective?
I’m a doco fiend, so ‘The Minimalists’, ‘Happy’ and ‘Cowspiracy’. For books - it’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo. YouTube is an amazing cloud-based resource for learning about minimalism - I’d recommend that as a place to start if you’re thinking about making some changes.
What are some of your favourite quotes (because everyone loves a good quote)!?
Mr Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”