"We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down." —Kurt Vonnegut
John Elkington is most comfortable when he is least comfortable, most engaged when he is making it up as he goes along. A pioneer in working with businesses toward sustainable development, John has been a proponent of the triple bottom line for 40-plus years, making both his corporate clients and other environmentalists uncomfortable and earning a reputation as the ‘grit in the corporate oyster.’ So, how does John use provocation to push people in the right direction—combining a responsibility to people, planet, and profit to champion systemic change?
John currently serves as Founding Partner and Chief Pollinator at Volans, a future-focused consulting agency based in London. Volans works with global companies, government actors, and innovators, moving beyond incremental change to address large-scale systemic challenges. Prior to his work with Volans, John co-founded SustainAbility and Environmental Data Services. John is a thought-leader, business strategist, environmentalist, and author, having penned several books on sustainability, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
Today, John joins Ross, Christophe and Paul to share his eel-centric environmental origin story and his journey to becoming the ‘grit in the corporate oyster.’ He walks us through the evolution of environmentalism, discussing the competing schools of thought and the value in employing capitalism to address climate change. They discuss social entrepreneurship, the term ‘sustainability,’ and Nori’s role in challenging the current system. Listen in for John’s insight on China and learn why he remains an optimist despite our present trajectory toward inconceivable warming.
[0:43] John’s environmental origin story
[5:09] John’s reputation as the ‘grit in the corporate oyster’
[6:39] The evolution of environmentalism
[12:41] John’s take on the word sustainability
[18:36] Why capitalism is crucial in dealing with climate change
[23:33] Nori’s role in challenging the system
[28:53] John’s insight on calling out bad behavior
[32:20] The significance of conversation with the financial sector
[36:16] John’s perspective on China
[39:00] John’s view of the next 15 to 20 years