WATCH: Jonathon Porritt’s inspiring Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech
edie's Lifetime Achievement Award-winner Jonathon Porritt, founder-director of Forum for the Future, delivered a rousing call to action to the private sector to "recarbonise" the planet by forging partnerships that pull carbon out of the atmosphere and assist with the ongoing net-zero transition.
Porritt was the official Guest of Honour and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Awards in London on Wednesday evening (5 February).
Delivering an opening address to an Awards audience of more than 600 sustainability, energy and environment professionals, Porritt built on Mary Robinson’s keynote speech at the Sustainability Leaders Forum by stating that sustainability professionals should be viewed as “emancipated champions of hope”.
Porritt, who received a CBE in January 2000 for services to environmental protection, also claimed that 2020 was shaping up as an extraordinary year for climate action that would redefine business attitudes towards sustainability.
“2020 is an extraordinarily rare inflexion point in the history of humankind,” Porritt said. “New technologies are transforming markets across the world and most of it is about decarbonising the economy.
“There are converging elements that offer a prospect of authentic hope, which could change things in an astonishingly short time.”
Porritt is the second person to receive edie’s Lifetime Achievement Award, following from ex-Unilever chief executive Paul Polman in 2019.
Specifically, Porritt noted the potential to match the rapid decarbonisation pledged by businesses and governments with a need to “recarbonise the planet” by investing in nature to act as carbon sinks.
He also heralded the work of Greta Thunberg and the climate strikes movement, claiming it was the “fastest social progressive movement the world has ever seen”, and that it wouldn’t stop at seven million young people raising their voice for climate action.
Finally, Porritt posed a question to the hundreds of businesses in attendance at the Awards.
“What is the voice of business going to say?” Porritt asked. “If you’re simply going to go along with the kind of ideology orthodox that has dominated the last 30 years, I advise you to keep quiet.
“If you’re going to acknowledge that we have to do this as a combination of forces between government, the private sector and civil society and you want your voice to be heard…that’s what leadership is going to look like throughout this decade.”
In addition, Porritt is president of Population Matters, president of The Conservation Volunteers, a non-Executive Director of Willmott Dixon Holdings, and a director of Collectively, an online platform celebrating sustainable innovation and is involved in the work of many NGOs and charities as Patron, Chair or Special Adviser.