Champions Speakers: Jonathon Porrit

Discover how businesses can embrace sustainable practices, in this exclusive Q&A.

JONHATHON PORRIT, a true climate change champion, sat down with BBeyond Magazine to discuss his incredible career in sustainability. As the co-founder of Forum for the Future and former member of the Green Party, Jonathon has dedicated his life to protect our planet from climate change.

How did you become a sustainability advocate?

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.

Out of your sustainability advocacy, what has made you the proudest?

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, 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, like religious and faith leaders, who were gathered in great numbers in Rio.

And for me, coming off the back off 20 years of campaigning with the Green Party, it opened up a different perspective on how to accelerate change in society. 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. That’s pretty much what I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life doing.

Do you think that businesses are doing enough to protect our planet from climate change?

Well, they’re certainly moving a lot further and faster than they’ve done before. There’s no question about that. Oddly enough, particularly in the last few years, despite the pandemic, corporate sustainability has been prospering!

But it’s very mixed. You get some sectors where companies are doing a lot. If you look, for instance, at the fast-moving consumer goods sector, you can see companies doing enormous amounts to persuade their consumers that they really do care about this stuff.

If you look at some of the more common intensive sectors, for instance, the water industry or cement manufactures or steel production, you can see them gradually waking up. But it’s taken quite a long time for them to commit to the kind of targets that they now need.

So, it’s a sector-by-sector thing. But overall, if you think back maybe ten years ago, you would have had a huge amount of what was described as ‘greenwashing’. These days, there is a lot less greenwashing, but you genuinely do have a lot of companies seriously intent on getting their act together.