John Elkington

John Elkington's picture

Founding Partner & Executive Chairman of Volans (2008 to date) also Co-Founder of SustainAbility (1987-2008, where he remains a non-executive member of the Board) and of Environmental Data Services (ENDS, 1978), John Elkington is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development.  In 2004, BusinessWeek described him as “a dean of the corporate responsibility movement for three decades.” His first involvement in the field: raising money for the newly formed World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1961, aged 11.

In 2008, The Evening Standard named John 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.”

In 2009, a CSR International survey of the Top 100 CSR leaders placed John fourth: after Al Gore, Barack Obama and the late Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, and alongside Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank.

In August 2011, John was named among the ‘100 Global Sustain Ability Leaders for 2011’ by ABC Carbon and the Sustain Ability Showcase Asia, based on nominations and recommendations received from around the globe. And in the same year John was awarded the Spencer Hutchens, Jr. Medal by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) primarily for his outstanding leadership, as an advocate for social responsibility, and for bringing about positive social change.  John completed a Fellowship at the Bellagio Centre awarded to him by The Rockefeller Foundation.

Volans, launched in April 2008, is a consultancy and think-tank driving market-based solutions to the future’s greatest challenge, and as of March 2013 is a certified B Corp. Volans applies thought leadership, catalyses strategic conversations among global and delivers programs and projects that support organizational and culture change.  

John is the author or co-author of 18 books, most recently The Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier, published May 2012.  The book spotlights a new breed of innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and policy-makers who are pushing towards zero in such areas as population growth, pandemic risk, poverty, pollution and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  It explores ways in which corporations, citizens, cities and countries can tackle the civilizational challenges at the intersections between demography, consumerist lifestyles, natural resource availability and climate change.  

John’s latest book, Tomorrow's Bottom Line: The B Team Playbook for Market Gamechangers, co-authored with former PUMA CEO Jochen Zeitz, will be released in 2014.

Previous book titles include 1988’s million-selling Green Consumer Guide (co-authored with SustainAbility co-founder Julia Hailes), 1997’s Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business (the book which brought his triple bottom line concept and agenda to a wider audience) and 2008’s The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, (Harvard Business School Press), co-authored with Volans co-founder Pamela Hartigan.

John is also a columnist for a number of publications, including chinadialogue (China), CSR Wire (USA), Director Magazine (UK), Monday Morning (Denmark) and Guardian Sustainable Business (UK), as well as other media. As a public speaker, he has addressed several hundred conferences all over the world. He was a Faculty member of the World Economic Forum from 2002-2008.

In terms of other hats, John is a Visiting Professor at the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at the Cranfield School of Management, at Imperial College London and at University College London, and sits on various strategic advisory boards: 2degrees; EcoVadis, Gaia Energy, Instituto Ethos, Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value Advisory Board, Polecat UK and a Cleantech Fund developed by Zouk Capital. He is also a Senior Advisor to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, a member of the WWF Council of Ambassadors, a member of the Advisory Board of  The Climate Group's Clean Revolution Campaign and sits on Newsweek’s Green Rankings Advisory Board. He has also recently joined PPR’s Technical Advisory Board, the board of a new B-Corp, Biomimicry 3.8 founded by Janine Benyus, and is also on the Steering Group for Environmental Risk in Sovereign Credits (E-RISC), run by the Global Footprint Network and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).

John has served as a juror for the first Gigaton Awards, developed by Sir Richard Branson’s non-profit Carbon War Room - dubbed the ‘Oscars of sustainability’ - and sits on the advisory boards of Guardian Sustainable Business, One Earth Innovation, F&C's Committee of Reference, Recyclebank's Sustainability Advisory Council and Atkins' Futures Board. John is Chairman of the Trustees at the newly formed Ecological Sequestration Trust. He is also an Honorary Fellow of The Hub.

Until recently John was also on the advisory boards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC). He is also a past Chairman of The Foundation for Democracy & Sustainable Development (FDSD) and the Aflatoun Impact and Policy Analysis Steering Group.

John's Who’s Who entry lists his recreations as: “playing with ideas, thinking around corners, conversations with unreasonable people, reading an Alpine range of books (history to science fiction) and business and science magazines, risking life and limb as a London cyclist, catch-it-as-you-can photography, art and design, writing all hours, pre-1944 aircraft, New World wines, 20th century popular music and Johann Strauss II.”

John Elkington perspectives

The business side of sustainability

Today, many corporate boardrooms and new start-up companies fully understand both the importance and the business potential of sustainability, but it hasn't always been this way, as John Elkington writes.

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