Esteemed climate author John Elkington on the roles businesses can play

By Deloitte

From kingfishers to green swans – In conversation with bestselling author John Elkington. John has been at the forefront of corporate responsibility and sustainable capitalism for decades.

‘Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.’ We love this quote by Harry S. Truman about the power of books. They provide stimulation, comfort, energy and solace to keep us going, especially in challenging times. And our changing climate is a challenge like no other.

It gets even better when a book has been recommended to us. We’ve been lucky enough to speak to inspiring leaders in the climate debate who’ve suggested some great reads to us. And our people have been sharing what they’re reading too. One recommendation that kept coming up was Green Swans, the latest book by John Elkington.

Here’s our conversation to help keep you inspired and level-headed in equal measure for the task ahead. You might want to pick up a book or two of his when you’re finished reading too.

“I was born in a mill-house on an island in a tributary of the Thames. From an early age, I was impressed by nature. My mother said that I was fascinated by a family of kingfishers that used to sit on the kitchen windowsill. I always thought one’s memories started from two or three years old, but there’s this incredibly powerful image in my mind from when I was just a baby – an Amazonian-like waterfall, with all sorts of channels, canals and river sluices – that hasn’t quite left me ever since.

My father was a Battle of Britain pilot who stayed on with the air force, so we travelled a lot. First off was Northern Ireland, where we lived on a farm – my father refused to live on bases. It was like being inside a medieval painting. I recall walking past the old flax ponds in the dark and suddenly feeling this wriggling feeling around my ankles; thousands of baby eels. It was one of those moments where you’re in shock but also acutely aware of how you’re linked to something much bigger.

My childhood and teen years exactly coincided with the growth of environmentalism. When we came back to the UK after some more travels, I was sent off to prep school. When I was a shy 11-year old, I asked all the other boys for their pocket money to give to the World Wildlife Fund in its first year, 1961.

Find out more on their website.