Isabella Gornall will sit on the international jury for this year’s Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge. Along with fellow industry experts, she will be tasked with assessing the pitches from our top five finalists, before selecting this year’s runner-up and winner. No easy task, it's nonetheless one that Isabella is well placed for: as founder and managing director of Seahorse Environmental Communications, she runs political campaigns for UK- and EU-wide change across conservation, circular economy, and renewable energy. Ahead of the October final, she discusses why policy matters to start-ups and what sets Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge apart.

Please start by introducing yourself.

My background is in Environmental Science. Early on, I realised that policy can bring the biggest change in terms of environmental gains. My first job was in Brussels, working in EU environmental lobbying, before coming back to London to work first with a back bench MP, and then as Zac Goldsmith’s environmental policy adviser. I left to set up an environment practice for a PR agency. Having done that for 18 months, I felt I could do it on my own. Seahorse Environmental Communications now has seven members of staff and 11 clients - it’s thriving!

Who do you work with, and what’s your scope?

We won’t take on any clients who we don’t feel meet our environmental values; we work on a case by case basis. We work on political campaigns with the potential to drive environmental standards across the country. They include Greener UK, which is the coalition fighting for a green Brexit; as well as People and Nature. We also work with brands like e-cargobikes.com, which is a fantastic startup behind the most amazing electric cargo bikes, now being used by major UK retailers to replace big diesel vans used for online deliveries. For them, it’s about ensuring they have the right regulatory landscape in which to operate, as well as PR to increase engagement.

What will you be looking for from this year’s finalists, and how will your experience inform your judging approach?

Policy is all about creating the fastest and most effective solution to a particular environmental problem. In my day job, I get to see lots of different proposals, so for Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge, I’ll be looking for the idea that will have the biggest impact, and is most applicable to whichever area of the environment it's targeting. That could be something consumer facing that can be rolled out globally, or industry focused.

And what about attributes of the teams themselves?

Speaking as someone running a startup, you have to have huge drive and passion for your product and its outreach. My mottos are “happy staff, happy clients;” and “hitting the numbers” - in that order! You’ve got to understand your business model - without those attributes, you’re not going to be able to properly grow, meaning even if you fantastic idea, it may not last. The winners need to have clear indications of longevity.

What sets Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge apart?

Firstly the credibility and expertise of the team behind it - there’s no “greenwashing” and that’s something I apply to my own business. Second, these are all solution-based ideas, and there’s nothing more exciting than that! When you look across today’s environmental issues - from emissions, plastic, circular economy, to conservation - we need a range of solutions to be able to achieve change. There’s no one silver bullet in terms of protecting the environment so it's really nice to see finalists aren’t all from all one sector. Third is positivity: a lot of environmental campaigns rely on fear-mongering. But to focus on these finalists’ positive solutions communicates that there are people willing to come up with new ideas. We need to keep optimistic and motivated to drive change. Competitions like this can do that.

What are you most excited about for this year’s competition?

I’m really looking forward to learning about these new ideas! I’ve been through the shortlist, there are so many things I had no clue existed. It’s fascinating to think about the impact they could have. I’m also looking forward to meeting the other jury members, it’s an exciting group of people. It will be interesting to see whether we all agree on one winner, or whether we’ll have different views. I’m looking forward to push ideas around, hear what everyone thinks, and use all of our collective experience.