John Elkington is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development. John co-founded SustainAbility with Julia Hailes in 1987, served as Chairman from 1995-2005, and has been a Board member throughout. Previously, he worked with TEST (Transport & Environment Studies as a Senior Associate, 1974-78), co-founded Environmental Data Services (ENDS) Ltd in 1978 (where he was Founding Editor and later Managing Director), and John Elkington Associates in 1983.
In 2004, BusinessWeek described him as “a dean of the corporate responsibility movement for three decades.” In 2008, The Evening Standard named him among the ‘1000 Most Influential People’ in London, describing him as “a true green business guru,” and as “an evangelist for corporate social and environmental responsibility long before it was fashionable.”He is currently the Founding Partner & Executive Chairman of Volans, a future-focused business working at the intersection of the sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation movements. His latest book, The Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier, is available here.
One word that describes you? Indescribable.
In your own words, what do you do? I have been an environmentalist since 1961, when I raised money for the new WWF, aged 11. I have worked with business on environmental and sustainability issues for 40 years. I am a writer (18 books to date), speaker (over 600 conferences to date) and advisor (sitting on some 30 boards or advisory boards).
Who is your greatest influence in your career/life? So many: I tried to capture some of them on my personal website, spanning everything from family and education to music. http://www.johnelkington.com/influences/
Which is your favourite part of your job? Thinking, reading, conversations, design and travel.
Which is the part that you enjoy the least? Addressing the traditional, financial bottom line. Anything that feels repetition, like being a hamster on a wheel. Getting to the point where I know what I’m doing.
What is your greatest achievement? Probably getting new terms into the language, some of which I coined (environmental excellence, green consumer, triple bottom line), some of which existed but were more or less unknown when we adopted them (e.g. sustainability, way back in 1987).
What was your Plan B? I didn’t have one. What is your most prized possession? Probably the altimeter from the WWII Hurricane my father Tim was shot down in during the Battle of Britain.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? The best way to predict the future is to create it. I think that came, indirectly, from Peter Drucker.
Please complete the sentence… I could not live without…The ultimate essential and the ultimate luxury, love. Favourite restaurant? In which city? Wherever I happen to be with good food, good company and good conversation.
What is your personal luxury? Cameras. Currently a Leica D-Lux 4.
What steps do you take to make your life more positive? Cycling. Working with young people. Seeking out innovators and entrepreneurs with unreasonable ambitions. Sleeping.