‘The time for polite challenge is over’: Why professionals are taking part in climate protests in London this week
London’s biggest climate action gathering since 2019, the Big One, is taking place this weekend. We spoke to some of the thousands of professionals who will be stepping away from their day job to demand more credible and rapid government action for a sustainable future.
This weekend (21-24 April), some 100,000 people representing more than 200 organisations will be gathering in Whitehall to tell representatives of the UK Government, as they return from the Easter recess, that the general public wants to see more robust policymaking in response to the climate and nature crises.
Many of these organisations are campaign groups (such as Extinction Rebellion and Stop Rosebank) or NGOs (such as Friends of the Earth, the Transport Action Network and Mums for Lungs).
But there many organisations representing businesses and professionals are also set to attend. Patagonia and Ecotricity are each sending a team, and other organisations supporting include Business Declares and NHS Voices.
edie will be bringing you live multimedia coverage from the ground on Friday (21 April) in partnership with Business Declares, amplifying the calls to action from sustainability professionals to Ministers.
Ahead of the event, we spoke to just a few of the professionals who will be stepping away from their day-to-day to-do lists to explore their reasons for taking to the streets. Here is what they said.
Business Declares spokesperson and sustainability consultant, Verel Rodrigues: “More than 200 business leaders and employees are joining Business Declares at the Big One.
“The science couldn’t be clearer – we need to shift away from fossil fuels, but the current Government is set to approve more than a hundred new oil and gas projects that will lock in carbon emissions and that would defy the UK’s 2050 net-zero target. The climate crisis poses a significant risk to businesses, which is causing business leaders, investors, and other industry professionals to wake up and call for change.
“Businesses are ready to act now and accelerate our plans to drive the green transition – but we need the government to enable the right conditions and environment, through a shift in policy and stricter regulations.”
Triodos Bank UK’s chief executive, Bevis Watts: “The UN and world’s leading climate scientists have issued a final warning that we are on the verge of climate catastrophe. Yet money continues to be funnelled into the fossil fuel industry – knowingly driving the world closer to climate disaster.
“The time for polite challenge and having hushed conversations in back rooms is over. We will not achieve a greener future without coordinated and urgent action from our Government.”
Guy Singh Watson, chief executive, Riverford Organics: “The tragedy of our impending self-destruction is that citizens are ready to act; business is ready to act; the technology exists to deliver solutions at a cost most would accept. But only governments can provide the framework for the action that could yet save us”
Sunita Ramani, account manager, Greenhouse Communications: “I work at Greenhouse, an agency committed to tackling the climate crisis by supporting our clients with impactful environmental communications.
“While our day jobs are very aligned with the themes of ‘The Big One’, my colleagues and I feel it is vital that we show up to actions like this and unite with people from across a wide range of businesses, organisations and communities. We recognise the importance of collective power and stand behind the demands of ‘The Big One’, including the call for an immediate end to all new fossil fuel licenses.
“As a business Greenhouse not only supports ‘The Big One’, but has actively encouraged us to attend this and similar actions during work hours.”
Myfanwy Neville, partner and board member, BKL: “I’m joining in with The Big One because I’ve started to lose faith that the government are looking at the long term bigger picture. This is the first time I’ve joined a movement like this.
“I’m an accountant and tax adviser to SMEs and it seems the Government is depending on the trickle-down effect to create a change in the SME world but it isn’t trickling down quickly enough. We need a significant culture shift to create the change we need, but that needs good leadership – my thinking goes, if the country’s leadership doesn’t stand up, then business leaders need to stand up instead.”
Andy Marshall, director, Harrison Brands London: “I will be participating in tomorrow’s event because I believe that Extinction Rebellion (XR) has shifted their focus towards engagement rather than just disruption. Our governments have failed to address the urgent needs of our planet and society. It is crucial for us to showcase our collective strength in numbers.
“While I am frustrated by the lack of commitment towards climate change, we must come together and collaborate for a better future. We need everyone – businesses, individuals, organizations, activists, politicians, pacifists, families and the media – to stand up and make necessary changes to combat this crisis.”
Hermione Taylor, founder and chief executive, Do Nation: “Do Nation is attending The Big One simply because our economy depends on it. Climate change is everyone’s business; for job security in the future we need climate stability and energy security now.
“It’s not only students and climate activists who see the problems. The disruption of day-to-day work and life due to extreme weather is a mainstream concern – 74% of the UK population are worried about climate change and employees are switched on; eight in 10 people want to take action on climate at work.
For more than a decade, Do Nation has mobilised communities to take climate action in their daily lives. When we started out, eating less meat or buying green energy was a radical act, which we helped to normalise. But things have moved on, and it’s now more clear than ever that these personal actions alone are nothing like enough.
“We need our Government and businesses to step up their ambition, enabling the energy and passion of the people to be channeled into driving really meaningful systemic change.”
Andrew Griffiths, director of policy and partnerships, The Planet Mark: “I’m attending The Big One with Business Declares to make it crystal clear that professionals and businesses have exactly the same demands of government as citizens do, namely to take immediate and meaningful action to tackle the climate crisis.
“The past few years could not have made it more apparent that climate change is a huge risk to the economy and business environment, and that nations and organisations who have taken steps to become more sustainable fare better in times of crisis.
“There must be a substantial step change and increase of commitment from the Government to support a robust net-zero transition and put an end to new fossil fuel licences, which don’t actually provide a credible solution for our energy security concerns given that they take 10-15 years to develop. Renewable energy is a faster, cheaper, better and more sustainable solution that must be embraced far more convincingly by government in line with International Energy Agency recommendations – this is our moonshot challenge!”
Ethar Alali, chief executive and founder of Automedi: “Business is the keystone. Without it, society can’t deliver improvements for people and planet. As the founder of a cradle-to-cradle doughnut economy company, I had to be here. We recycle plastic waste that would otherwise be burnt, into products in as little as 25 minutes.
“Climate action and profitability are not mutually exclusive. I was speaking at a manufacturing and supply chain conference yesterday to an audience who were all enthused about the potential for better societies for people, planet and profit.
“Our team made a very deliberate decision to build the organisation from the ground up to deliver all 17 Sustainable Development Goals all at once. Part of that aim enables climate justice and fairer societies. So we’re here under that aim to stand in collective solidarity with others with similar aims, to demand the government act fast on climate change. Business doesn’t have to be bad.”
Elliot Coad, chief executive, Ecologi: “There’s no single avenue to solving climate change. It requires action in a number of ways, from a variety of industries and players. Businesses form a key part of the solution.
“Taking to the streets provides an opportunity for businesses to educate and advocate for climate action on a global level. We’re using Ecologi’s collective voice, made up of over 18,000 businesses, to promote a more holistic approach to addressing climate change.
“By merging business and society towards the same end goal, we’re transforming thinking into action, and empowering businesses to harness their potential.”
Claire Brady, head of sustainability, Stand: “Right now, we need everything, everywhere, all at once if we are going to create the scale and pace needed to address climate change and biodiversity loss. Stand recognises there is role for mass events like this to grab attention and engage lots of people, alongside businesses using their weight and trailblazing better ways of doing things.
“The path to positive change requires a diversity of voices from individuals, industries, as well as policymakers. Our role as communicators is to help amplify positive solutions and shape an optimistic narrative for a sustainable future that moves us beyond divisive and polarised arguments for and against sustainability and closer to a shared understanding of the benefits it will bring to not just the planet, but to all of our lives”.