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An interview with John Elkington from Volans

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John ElkingtonWe had the pleasure of spending some time with John Elkington from VolansVolans undertake a broad range of initiatives and projects spanning Thought Leadership, Advisory & Strategy Consultancy, Research Labs, Talent Development, Global Exchange Programs and Trade Missions.

We asked John the following questions:

What is your definition of sustainability in one sentence?

A world fit for babies and seniors, honeybees and eels, redwoods and weeds.

Who is your sustainability hero and why?  

James Lovelock and the late Lynn Margulis, for their work on Gaia Theory—and the late Rachel Carson for her insight, inspiration and courage.

If you were running a powerful environmental NGO, which issue would be the focus of your first campaign? 

Protecting and regenerating marine ecosystems, worldwide.  Turning whalers and ‘ocean hoovers’ into artificial reefs.

What’s the worst sustainability claim you ever heard? 

81% of 766 CEOs surveyed by Accenture/UN Global Compact in 2010 saying they had already “embedded” sustainability.

What will get us out of this mess? Miraculous technology, tough regulation or self-flagellation? 

Short of an Act of God, a deep cultural rewiring of the species, which tends to happen after an existential discontinuity.

If you could approve a law related to sustainability which would be your first?

The criminalisation of Ecocide (see the work of Polly Higgins).

“Sustainable brand” – admirable ambition or ad-man spin?  

An often honourable, if also often Quixotic, attempt to drag brands into the 21st century—but it’s going to happen at some point.

What is your message to the Fortune 500 CEO’s?

Get out more. Talk to climate scientists, impact investors, social entrepreneurs and the like. Take a risky learning journey and take your top team along.

What is your favourite sustainability website?

Twitter, though most of my information comes through newspapers, magazines, books and conversations.

And… what is your dirty unsustainable secret.

My father was a professional RAF pilot from 1939 into the 1960s and I probably fly a greater distance each year than he did in his entire career.


Many thanks John. 

If you would like to find out more about John or Volans, click this link to visit their website.

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