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 2011, 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 also completed a Fellowship at the Bellagio Centre awarded to him by The Rockefeller Foundation in the same year.
In May 2013, John was inducted into the Sustainability Hall of Fame by The International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) in honor of his extraordinary contribution to the field through research, publication, teaching and innovation.
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 leaders 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, across various sectors, who are pushing towards ‘zero’. It explores ways in which corporations, citizens, cities and countries can tackle the civilizational challenges taking into account our greatest challenges such as increasing population, consumerist lifestyles, natural resource availability and climate change.
John’s latest book, ‘The Breakthrough Challenge: 10 Ways to Connect Today’s Profits with Tomorrow’s Bottom Line’, co-authored with former PUMA CEO Jochen Zeitz, will be released in Autumn, 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), CSRwire (USA), Director Magazine (UK), Monday Morning (Denmark), Ideia Sustentavel in Brazil, Semana in Colombia and Guardian Sustainable Business (UK), as well as other media.
As a public speaker, John has over the years addressed several hundred conferences all over the world, and continues to do so.
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 also at University College London (UCL), and sits on various strategic advisory boards: the 2degreesnetwork; EcoVadis, Gaia Energy, Instituto Ethos, PPR’s Technical Advisory Board, Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value Advisory Board, Polecat UK, the advisory board of Biomimicry 3.8 founded by Janine Benyus, and a Cleantech Fund developed by Zouk Capital.
He is also actively advising Richard Branson’s B Team and is a member of the Jury of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge – a prize given to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.
Furthermore, John 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 recently formed Ecological Sequestration Trust.
John is also a member of the WWF Council of Ambassadors, and advisor to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, and The Climate Group‘s Clean Revolution Campaign. He is also an Honorary Fellow of The Hub.
John was a Faculty member of the World Economic Forum from 2002-2008, and 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’.
Until recently John was also on the advisory boards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and HP’s External Global Citizenship Council. He is also a past Chairman of The Foundation for Democracy & Sustainable Development (FDSD) and the Aflatoun Impact and Policy Analysis Steering Group. John was also Chair of the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), now known as UK Export Finance.
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.”
Personal website: www.johnelkington.com
Updated: January 2014