“Entering the world of entrepreneurship was a new career challenge for me, and it has been extremely fulfilling. Today our team at Upswing is fortunate to work with clients in many industries who are committed to building sustainable, inclusive and resilient businesses across Canada and beyond.” -Allison Murray, CEO at Upswing Solutions
It’s hard to believe that Upswing Solutions was founded exactly five years ago. To celebrate our anniversary, we asked our CEO, Allison Murray, to share what inspired her to create Upswing Solutions, what these past five years have been like and what her vision is for the future.
Let’s dive into our interview with Allison:
What inspired you to create Upswing Solutions?
After working overseas for 20 years, I returned back home to Nova Scotia in 2016. At that point in my career I had mostly worked for large global brands such as T-Mobile, DHL and Vodafone leading their sustainability strategies.
Initially working as a freelance consultant in Nova Scotia, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of companies in Atlantic Canada that were building sustainability into their long-term business strategies. I saw a real opportunity to help companies improve their positive impact while growing their business.
Entering the world of entrepreneurship was a new career challenge for me, and it has been extremely fulfilling. Today our team at Upswing is fortunate to work with clients in many industries who are committed to building sustainable, inclusive and resilient businesses across Canada and beyond.
What differentiates Upswing from other consulting firms?
Upswing is unique because we connect the technical aspects of environmental and social impact to business strategy. We advise our clients on how they can strategically adapt their operations to thrive in the clean and inclusive future economy.
One of our goals at Upswing is to help our clients create value that is shared with their stakeholders, beyond the traditional business model of focusing solely on shareholders. This is now necessary for companies who want to remain competitive, as investors, customers and employees are demanding action on climate change, inequality and labour standards.
Throughout my career the conversations with businesses were always about the “why”, focusing on the business case for change. A couple of years ago this started to change and CEOs and business leaders shifted the conversation to the “how” – they understand this is no longer a nice-to-do and they want to learn the steps to get started on this strategic transformation towards the clean economy.
What has been your experience in the last five years? What has worked well and what are some of the challenges you have faced?
In the first two years, it was only me working on projects. From time to time, I would also bring in associates to support in different capacities. My plan was to grow in 2020, which was my third year in business, however the pandemic hit and immediately all business came screeching to a halt, like it did for so many small businesses.
Despite this challenging time, people encouraged me not to give up. COVID-19 was revealing numerous issues made worse by climate change, in addition to major social inequality. Businesses had a huge role to play in being part of the solution. Our services were going to be needed again, I just had to be patient.
At the end of 2020, I made the scary decision to invest in the business. Luckily, it worked out, and by the end of 2020 we started to get very busy! This led to major growth in 2021, which allowed us to hire more team members and welcome even more clients—a wonderful, and very different challenge to navigate.
Now in 2022, more companies are offering sustainability and ESG services and talent attraction has become challenging across industries. The economic situation the world is facing right now is also bringing some uncertainty. Despite this, we’re seeing companies and governments staying focused on the need for action on climate change and the path towards net zero. There is no time to lose.
One of the major benefits of growing during COVID is that we were able to become a fully remote company, and we are proud to welcome team members and clients across Canada.
Looking forward, where do you see Upswing five years from now?
I see Upswing continuing to grow and making an even bigger impact. One of our goals is to be able to effectively demonstrate the impact that we’re having with our clients to address climate change and advance the clean, inclusive economy.
We’ve spent a lot of time building our presence in Atlantic Canada and are branching out now to work with large Canadian brands. In the next five years, I’d like to see Upswing’s presence continue to grow across Canada and internationally. We’re collaborating with more organizations that offer complementary expertise, enriching the services that we offer to our clients.
Ultimately, I hope that we continue to be a partner of choice for our clients.