John Elkington

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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 also completed a Fellowship at the Bellagio Centre awarded to him by The Rockefeller Foundation in 2011.

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.

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, The Breakthrough Challenge: 10 Ways To Connect With Tomorrow’s Bottom Line, co-authored with former PUMA CEO Jochen Zeitz, will be released in September 2014.

Previous book titles include:

John is also a columnist for a number of publications, including CSR Wire (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, 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 the board of Biomimicry 3.8 founded by Janine Benyus, of JUCCCE which looks at the greening of China, and Tesco’s Expert Advisory Panel, as well as the advisory board of The Social Stock Exchange launched in June 2013 by the Prime Minister of the UK.

John is an active advisor to the B Team, a not-for-profit initiative founded and co-chaired by Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz, bringing together a global group of leaders to create a future where the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit. John is also part 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.

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.”

Volans is a consultancy & think-tank which launched in April 2008 (certified as a B Corp. in March 2013) and works primarily with corporates, investors, innovators and other leaders to drive transformational change. Volans delivers thought leadership, brokers strategic conversations and designs and takes forward programs/projects that stretch organizational and culture change towards ‘Breakthrough Capitalism‘.

Twitter: @volansjohn
Personal website:

Updated: April 2014