Niall Dunne is the Chief Sustainability Officer for BT and also sits on the advisory board of Positive Luxury. However there is a lot more to Niall Dunne than meets the eye, this week’s My Positive Life glimpses a character that has not only tried and failed time and time again, but celebrates the achievements that come from failure. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll also discover a passion for surfing, world travel, philanthropy, whisky, athleticism and an iron will that is gradually learning to become more malleable. Be inspired by Niall Dunne.
One word that describes you?
In your own words, what do you do?
I’m a revolutionary and a humanist. I see corporations as the most powerful platforms for social and environmental change and have given my life to working within them to help us achieve the kind of impact that Guevara, Gandhi & King had using capitalism the same way they used the tools and platforms of their day.
Who is your greatest influence in your career/life?
The people I meet every day, community heroes inspire me the most. Most recently a young man called Wanderson Skrock in the oldest favela in Rio (Moro de Provedencia) who turned his back on drugs and violence to help empower his community through digital inclusion working with CDI.org.br. Or a wonderful lady called Geeta Dharmarajan who founded Katha.org and is doing amazing things using technology & revolutionary teaching techniques to help India educate its 25 million homeless children.
Which is your favourite part of your job?
Achieving the “ripple effect”. Where people you touch in some way and/or empower directly or indirectly emerge as leaders and change agents in their own right, taking your idea and morphing it into something that is unique and meaningful to them and ultimately rendering it more powerful.
Which is the part that you enjoy the least?
Coming eye ball to eye ball with apathy.
What is your greatest achievement?
All of my failures are my greatest achievements. I failed academically and as an athlete before I failed with my own business and in Accenture and Saatchi & Saatchi. All of these great life events have made me who I am but also resilient and fearless.
What was your Plan B?
Given my Plan A was to win an Olympics I think I am on around Plan H now. One bit of feedback that I got in my early days in Accenture was that I needed to “stop writing non-negotiables with myself”. So, what I took away from that was that I needed to be more flexible and less binary and uncompromising around setting plans and being unflinching in their delivery. Plans change and the more tolerance you have to those changes yet stay through to your purpose and values the more successful you will be.
What is your most prized possession?
Having rebooted my life on more than one occasion I’ve learned to leave wardrobes & trappings all around the world and start again from nothing. I think there is great freedom associated with enjoying possessions but not feeling any great attachment to them.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
When I left Dublin to go on an athletics scholarship to Manhattan College in 1994 one of my friends and mentor, John O’Connor gave me a picture of some huskies & a sled in the snow which said “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. I think if anything defines how I have tried to live, that has been it.
Please complete the sentence… I could not live without…
Favourite restaurant? In which city?
Sustainability and consumption are two words you will hardly find in the same sentence – which brands do you think are good quality and are doing their bit for people and the planet?
Do you support a charity or cause?
Personally I love the work that the Saint Vincent de Paul do with the homeless in Dublin but at BT as part of our Better Future Strategy we work closely with many charities, Childline, Children in Need and Comic Relief to name a few.
What’s on your Xmas wish-list?
Simplicity surrounded by family.
What is your personal luxury?
My surf board or my nespreso machine in my office. If god invented whiskey to prevent the Irish from ruling the world I think he invented nespresso to ensure we got over it pretty quickly.
What steps do you take to make your life more positive?
Use social networks to evaluate brands before I make a purchasing decision and try to celebrate brands that are making a difference.
What does positive luxury means to you?
It’s the start of the consumer spring. A consumer empowered movement away from conspicuous consumption to much more conscientious and considered forms of consumption. This will be the new normal inside a decade.