Sarah Wilson on why business leaders should give their money away

sarah wilson

Sarah Wilson built the I Quit Sugar empire from scratch, but is setting her sights on the climate crisis now. Source: Rob Palmer

Australian entrepreneur Sarah Wilson has officially handed over her I Quit Sugar empire so she can channel her magnanimous superpowers into another big issue — the climate — and will donate all proceeds of the sale to charity, she confirmed.

Wilson has sold the brand, IP, trademark, e-books and social platforms that she built from scratch to an investment company founded by ex-Pedestrian’s Chris Wirasinha and Corey Young, who is expected to continue the I Quit Sugar movement independently of her.

When asked whether she would like to see other entrepreneurs consider parting with their often hefty proceeds in the name of charity, Wilson says, well, why limit the question to only our leaders?

“Most Australians can afford to donate 10% of their income. I’d argue many could donate a lot more,” she told SmartCompany.

“There are a number of effective altruism models that show this is very possible and I’d encourage all entrepreneurs to consider donating a percentage or to commit to a threshold where anything over that is ‘shared’ with people in need.”

It comes four years after Wilson closed down the online program in 2018, selling parts of her online recipe arsenal to celebrity trainer and ex-Bachelor hunk Sam Woods to raise money for her charitable efforts.

So who’s on her charity list? In the past, Wilson says she’s given to buy-one-give-one social enterprise Two Good Co and bicycle charity movement World Bicycle Relief, and has also been a keen collaborator whether it be charities who need awareness or worthwhile projects that need a boost.

“This time I’ll be working via effective altruism models,” she says.

And anyone can do likewise, Wilson says. There’s a myriad of great websites that are bursting with worthy projects that really need funding — like givewell.org.

Wilson says giving is in our DNA as human beings, but too often our “neoliberal model” discourages us from our altruism, something we should strive to rethink.

Besides, it just feels good to give.

“Giving is not just about the moral imperative, it is also the most reliable happiness or wellness hit you can get,” she says.

“Giving does incredible things for the morale of a leader and their company.”

I Quit Sugar began as Wilson’s own undertaking 11 years ago, but quickly grew into an international movement — her first book of the same name was a New York Times bestseller, and she went on to author 13 more books since then.

In 2013, Wilson launched the online program which had 25 staff, and it quickly grew to become Australia’s largest wellness site, and one of BRW’s fastest-growing startups.

Wilson’s foray into mental health further cemented her Midas touch. Her book First, We Make the Beast Beautiful took the NYT bestseller list by storm, and was described as the “best book about anxiety” author Mark Manson, of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck fame, had ever read.

Her latest book, This One Wild and Precious Life, and podcast Wild with Sarah Wilson, show what she describes as her “radical kind of hope, it’s optimism plus action” for our way through the looming climate crisis.

“The more we get fired up, the more we give and care, and look like we’re having fun doing it, the more others will do the same,” she says.

It’s a positive contagion approach she took “getting people of sugar, reframing anxiety and now with climate activism”, she says.

Junkee co-founder Tim Duggan says the Wilson way is one to set your watch to — she has this knack for identifying “trends before other people joined her, like with her work with the anti-sugar and no-waste movements, her open struggles with anxiety and her activism for the climate crisis,” he says.

“I really admire anyone who puts their money where their mouth is in the way she does.”

From a business point of view, Duggan says, there’s a shift towards balancing profit and purpose — “at one end are companies that don’t think at all about their environmental and other impacts who are being disrupted and won’t exist in the future”.

“In the middle are companies like Who Gives A Crap who donate 50% of their profits, and at the other end are business leaders like Sarah who donates 100% of her profits from the sale to charity.”

He says he finds it moving, but all businesses don’t need to part with chunks of cash to take a lesson from Wilson’s success story.

“The lesson for leaders is that you should be doing what you can and continuing to move along the scale.

“For some people, this can also include donating your time or resources to help non-profits achieve their goals.”

When asked about the one lesson Wilson would like people to take from her advocacy and good work, she says: “I’d love all of humanity to simply connect with our one wild and precious life more… to be less attached to possessions and limiting rules.

“When we are connected to save something, we do everything we can to save it.”

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Tristram Morgan
Tristram Morgan
2 months ago

What an excellent article Sarah! We absolutely need to do more as business owners to promote sustainable practices, and generate greater social justice and equality. Not only is it the only civilized way to go, it’s also self-serving as there is no point in amassing a personal fortune while the planet steadily becomes uninhabitable for our species!

Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson
2 months ago

Thank you and agree re going to one’s grave with cash instead of conscience!

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