Image of Katy Talikowska who will join Pinwheel
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Gavin Sheppard (Pinwheel author)

Gavin Sheppard

CAMPAIGN: Rupert Howell-backed climate start-up Pinwheel recruits AMV client chief

Pinwheel is fronted by Howell with former Smart Energy CMO Gavin Sheppard and is backed by one-time home secretary Amber Rudd.

Pinwheel – a climate change-combatting tech start-up founded by former ITV managing director Rupert Howell and Gavin Sheppard, the former chief marketer of Smart Energy UK – has hired Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's Katy Talikowska as its chief growth officer.

Talikowska, one of Campaign and AMV’s 50 Trailblazers of the Future in 2018, has spent more than a decade at AMV, latterly as chief client officer, and will join Pinwheel in May.

The start-up, which is targeting brands to invest in "planet repair projects" that they can use to engage staff and customers, has raised more than £1.5m from investors, including Finsbury founder Roland Rudd and former CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn. Its board, meanwhile, features former home secretary Amber Rudd and former Dyson strategy director Shantha Shanmugalingham.  

Talikowska will lead Pinwheel's work with corporate clients, "ensuring that their sustainability activity is impactful for the planet and creates value for brands", as well as leading marketing and communications. She will bring Pinwheel's headcount total to 10, with Pinwheel also looking to recruit for several tech roles in its development team.

Howell, who was one of the founders of ad agency HHCL and more recently group development director of Mirror publisher Reach until he left in 2019, is co-founder and chair of Pinwheel.

Other staff include chief financial officer Robin Price, formerly of HHCL and McCann Worldgroup, chief product officer Marcus Reidy, who was at Ipsos, chief impact officer Robert Cheesewright, who worked at the government, and head of engineering Dan James. Other investors include TrustPilot's Tim Weller, Uber and Moonpig non-executive director Susan Hooper and former HMV and Reach executive Simon Fox.

Sheppard, who stepped down from Smart Energy UK at the end of 2019, told Campaign that Pinwheel has signed up several clients, "including global brands", which it will announce in the coming weeks.

"We're targeting businesses who are investing in sustainability but want that investment to work harder for the planet and harder for the brand, and businesses who want to demonstrate genuine and impactful leadership in sustainability," he said.

Pinwheel was soft launched at COP26 last year. In essence, it enables brands to engage with staff and customers by choosing where corporate sustainability investments are made. The Pinwheel platform allows companies, their staff and customers to see the impact their investments are making on eco initiatives.

"So instead of being told that a tree has been planted on your behalf or your purchase is being 'offset', you'll have a say in how your share of an investment is made and you'll be able to engage with the impact," Sheppard said.

"We launched a beta D2C platform earlier this year to test the core tech. We have since been building B2B platforms, one of which launches with a major client next week. Having built the B2B tech, we will be taking it to brands in the second half of this year. Katy will lead this work."

Pinwheel is working with various sustainability initiatives, spanning carbon removal, biodiversity, habitats and waste removal, including a collaboration with Queen guitarist and staunch environmentalist Brian May and his Save Me Trust re-wilding scheme.

Sheppard stressed that Pinwheel's remit would be broad. "The environmental crisis is broad and complex – it's not all about carbon – so our response must be as well," he said.

"The truth is that brand investment in sustainability often fails to cut through to staff or customers and often fails to be impactful for the planet. It's hard to think of a brand that doesn't claim to plant a tree with every purchase."

Talikowska said: "I am thrilled to be joining Pinwheel at such a pivotal moment. Pinwheel is founded on the very simple insight that corporate investment in sustainability often fails to be impactful for the planet or create value for the brand. Rupert, Gavin and the team have created a compelling solution to that problem, and I look forward to joining them to take it to the market."

Sheppard added: "Katy has formidable experience as a communicator and client partner. I cannot think of anyone better to take Pinwheel out into the world to drive value for brands and impact for the planet."

This article first appeared in Campaign on 4 May 2022