Sir Jonathon Porritt, a sustainability champion who was listed as one of the Top Climate Change Speakers in the world, took part in this interview to reflect on his incredible career. As the former co-chair of The Green Party and co-founder of Forum for the Future, Jonathon has dedicated his long and influential career to protecting our planet.
What drives you to advocate for sustainability?
“Well, I’ve been at it for nearly 50 years. So, I joined the Green Party in 1974 – I joined lots of organisations in the early 1970s.
“I’m still trying to work out why the world is so utterly stupid when it comes to understanding environmental issues and how critical it is to the future wellbeing of all humankind. I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the last four or five years working, particularly with young people, so that drives me.
“These days, I’m trying to support the work of young people’s organisations and make sure we don’t leave the world in even more of a mess for them than we’re currently likely to do.”
What has been the highlight of your career?
“Well, I guess because so many things have flowed from it… I was involved in the Earth Summit in 1992 – so a long time ago, for sure – and I spent more than three weeks out in Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit.
“It was really a crucial time for me because it enabled me to see exactly how many people were beginning to see the world differently, were beginning to understand the nature of the challenges ahead. That included businesses, it included a huge number of other sectors in society, including religious and faith leaders, who were gathered in great numbers in Rio.
“And for me, coming off the back of 20 years of campaigning with the Green Party, it opened up a different perspective on how to accelerate change in society and to do that, basically, by working with that kind of energy rather than constantly- well, not working against it, but constantly campaigning to stop people doing bad things.
“From that point on, it became obvious to me that it was just as important to enable people to do good things rather than stop doing bad things. And that’s pretty much what I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life doing.”
What are your top tips for corporate sustainability?
“Companies have any number of opportunities to do what they need to do. The first is basically to make sure that sustainability is a completely integrated thing across all their platforms – as well as environmental issues, that’s critical, sustainability is not the same as environment.
“It involves as much about social justice, economic issues, governance issues as it does about environment and climate and resources, things like that.
“The second thing they must do is get serious about their climate change strategy. We are in a climate emergency, as we know, so there’s literally no time for companies to be messing around any longer.
“They must work out precisely what they can do in that regard, and they need to do it as scientifically as possible. The whole idea of a science-based target, or a science-based target initiative, is for companies to get their heads around what that target looks like and then get it delivered.
“The most important thing of all, in some respects, is they must work out how they’re going to make their strategy come alive for their employees.
“All these successful examples of corporate sustainability include really good creative ways of getting employees involved in whatever it is that they’re doing. In fact, if you don’t do that, it’s very hard to persuade individuals that this is absolutely part of their own professional careers.”