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New leadership in place for Practical Action

By Practical Action On 09.09.2021 Press release

Sarah Roberts, Chief Executive Officer at Practical Action

Sarah Roberts has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Practical Action.

She was appointed unanimously by the board of trustees, took over the role on September 1 and will be the first woman to lead the organisation since its inception.

Sarah succeeds Paul Smith Lomas and will lead more than 600 staff working with thousands of the world’s most vulnerable communities in South Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Chair of Trustees at Practical Action, Yvonne Pinto, said: “As the world continues to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and the pandemic, there is no better person to lead Practical Action than Sarah Roberts.

“She is a proven leader who combines business acumen and courage, a deep knowledge of our sector and the vision and ability to bring people and partners from all sectors together to collaborate effectively.”

Sarah joined Practical Action as Director of Impact and Influence in 2020 after 11 years as CEO of the Ethical Tea Partnership. During that time she oversaw its transformation from an audit focused organisation to one that convened the private sector with a variety of partners to drive systemic change in the sector, reaching one million people in tea communities.

Through her previous consultancy and development sector roles Sarah has developed and led a range of multi-stakeholder partnerships to drive large-scale change and supported companies to improve their social and environmental performance.

“She is a proven leader who combines business acumen and courage, a deep knowledge of our sector and the vision and ability to bring people and partners from all sectors together to collaborate effectively.”

Sarah said: “I’m excited to lead Practical Action because I’m a passionate believer that our core vision for a world that works better for everyone is needed more than ever. We were founded on Fritz Schumacher’s twin beliefs of economics as if people matter and living within the world’s planetary boundaries.

These founding beliefs, coupled with a deep understanding of the communities we work with to find sustainable, scalable solutions to the challenges they face, still guide our work today – 55 years on.

“Delivering economic and social change with people and planet at its heart is essential to the wellbeing of everyone, especially now as we face up to the twin challenges of the Covid19 pandemic and climate change.  These urgent problems need both innovation, and a systems focus so that change is embedded and sustained.

“Practical Action has shown how rural and urban environments can work better, even in the face of climate change, and we have demonstrated how renewable energy can transform lives and create more productive farming.

“It is my ambition that by 2025 Practical Action links the experience and evidence gained from working directly with over 6 million people in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, to global initiatives and bold, innovative partnerships that inspire lasting systemic change that goes far beyond our programmatic footprint.

“This is urgent work that cannot wait. The voices and actions of local communities are critical to realising our ambition of a more resilient, fair and sustainable way of living. This is something that is as important in my personal life as in my professional one. My main mode of transport is my bike and everywhere I live I have been involved with groups working to make safe cycling and good access to sustainable transport a reality for more people. This continues today in my role as trustee of our local climate action group in my home county of Derbyshire, England.

“One of my first initiatives as Chief Executive Officer will be to chair a new regenerative agriculture hub designed to support our ambition to make agriculture viable in the long term, improving food security, soil health, biodiversity and delivering dignified livelihoods for the half a billion small holder farmers, and all those who rely on it. We will support companies who are trying to move to more regenerative practices in their supply chains develop the approaches that work on the ground and can be embedded in their practices.

“I would like to pay tribute to the adaptability, innovation and team-work shown by our staff and the communities we work with in difficult and uncertain circumstances over the past 18 months and to thank partners, funders and supporters who have worked with us to make it all possible.

“To lead the organisation as it builds more partnerships that work to change the systems that keep people vulnerable and disadvantaged is a privilege and a huge opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with Sarah, please contact Andrew Heath on 07800 884267.