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john elkington speaking in sydney.
John Elkington in Sydney, 2003

Some favourite slides

Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti project

At school, Bryanston, I recall being asked to stand up for five minutes in front of the class and speak without pausing on an object placed in my hand - it happened to be a matchbox. I managed, I think, but was never a natural public speaker. The very idea that I would have spoken at or chaired over 500 major events by my early 50s would have seemed outlandish to me when clutching that matchbox.

When I first started public speaking, in the 1970s, I probably tended to hide behind my slides. My first real public speech was at the Architectural Association in London, in 1974. I was reporting on a trip Elaine and I had made in 1973 to architect Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti project in Arizona. It went rather well, but like any speaker I have also made plenty of mistakes along the way. Even so, after a while I found I really quite enjoyed engaging audiences.

The largest group of people I ever spoke to was a 3,000-plus plenary session in Vancouver many years back: I felt just a glimmer of what Mussolini must have felt, and hated it. But unlike Mussolini and his ilk, I have learned to genuinely enjoy taking questions - and learning from what other participants have to say.

No, I don't always know the answers, but the process of public debate is one I have come to enjoy quite considerably. It has been a remarkable privilege to share these platforms with some of the world's most extraordinary thinkers and doers.

Some recent speeches

I have spoken at or chaired over 500 conferences and other events throughout the world, among them:


Toyo Keizai Publishing
Tokyo, 02 November (keynote)
London School of Economics
London, 21 October
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Paris, 17 October (with Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, in celebration of 30th anniversary of Paris office)
Henley Management College
Henley, 12 October
VW AutoUni
Wolfsburg, opening keynote in first full session of AutoUni, 04 October
Yale University
New Haven, 29 September (keynote)
Portland, 27 September (keynote)
Royal Society of Arts Manifesto Challenge
London, 21 September
6th International Sustainability Leadership Symposium
Zurich, 8-9 September
Dow Europe's 50th Anniversary in Benelux Region
Rotterdam, 01 September (keynote)
Manchester, 30 August
Westminster Sustainable Business Forum CSR Conference
London, 21 June
WWF Summit
Vancouver, 31 May (keynote)
Vancouver Board of Trade
Vancouver, 31 May (keynote)
— WWF China
Beijing, 20 May
— Fortune 500 Global Forum
Beijing, 18 May
— China Business Council for Sustainable Development
Beijing, 18 May
— Fujitsu Research Institute
Tokyo, 16 May (keynote)
— E-Square
Tokyo, 13 May
2005 SustainAbility/Edmonds Management Series in Australia and New Zealand
Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney, May (keynotes
New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development
Auckland, 04 May (keynote)
South Korean Business Council for Sustainable Development
Seoul, 09 May (keynote)
Haas School of Business
Berkeley, 08 April (keynote)
Skoll Forum on Social Entrepreneurship
Oxford, 30 March
London, 10 March (keynote)
Imperial College Centre for Environmental Technology
London, 02 March (keynote)


Global Action Plan Conference,
House of Commons, London, 19 July
European Institute of Industrial Leadership,
Brussels, 28-29 June (keynote)
The Conference Board Business & Sustainability Conference, New York, 10-11 June (keynote)
Department of Trade & Industry Conference
on UK Sustainable Development Strategy, London, 13 May
First Middle East Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility, Dubai, 25-26 April (keynote)
Specialty Coffee Association of America Annual Conference, Atlanta, 22 April (keynote)
Performance Track (PTPA) Conference,
Baltimore, 21 April (keynote)
The National Environmental Assistance Summit,
US Environmental Protection Agency, Baltimore, 20 April (keynote)
Guardian and Observer CSR Conference
London, 25 March (Master Class)
London Business School
Business Ethics & CSR Course, 12 March (keynote)
Imperial College Business & Environment Seminar
10 March (keynote)
ESADE Business School,
Barcelona, 17-18 February (keynote)
University of Oxford Environmental Change Centre,
Linacre Lecture, 12 February (keynote)
World Economic Forum,
Davos, 21-25 January
Cambridge University,
Downing College/CU Entrepreneurs, 13 January (keynote)

And I spoke at events organised by such companies as AstraZeneca (France), Danone (France), Nike (USA), Sony (Japan) and Volkswagen (Germany).

2003, Paris
United Nations Environment Programme 20th Consultative Meeting with Industry Associations, Paris.

2002 and 2003
World Economic Forum summits in Davos and New York.
The New York meeting in 2002 was extraordinary, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The security at the event was unbelievable, with vast white-painted trucks filled with sand parked at each road junction around the Waldorf-Astoria hotel to ward off car-bombers. At the 2003 event, back in Davos, I spoke at and/or chaired four sessions. Am back on the agenda for 2004. I feel both privileged to be involved, but also a huge sense of responsibility to get the key issues across on behalf of those who aren't there.

2001, 2002 and 2003
The annual summit of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
These have been some of the most exciting conferences I have attended. The social entrepreneurs involved are some of the most extraordinary people on the planet. That's why Pamela Hartigan and I are planning a book on the subject.

1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003
SustainAbility and Edmonds Management held a sustainability conference series in Australia (and now New Zealand). The 2003 theme: 'Beyond the Triple Bottom Line: Boards, Brands and Business Models'.
This series of conference tours organised by Murray and Dobrina Edmonds kicked off with a tour on environmental reporting, moved onto the triple bottom line (launching the concept across Australia and New Zealand with all the energy of an invading species like rabbits, cane toads or possums) and most recently spotlighted the challenges now surfacing in such areas boards, brands and business models.

Chaired sixth Greenpeace Business conference. Also spoke at the first and second Greenpeace Business Conferences, London, 1996 and 1997.
I have always had a huge soft spot for Greenpeace and all their works, although I can't say I support them totally on every issue. But their impact has been profound over the years and this series of conferences helped bring their thinking into the heartland of business. A key feature has been the series of CEOS who have trod the boards, including John Browne of BP (in the session I chaired), Bob Shapiro of Monsanto and Bill Ford of Ford.

1990 and 1998 (plus others)
Several of the Globe series, in Vancouver.

1998, Zeist
Addressed the Rabobank 100th anniversary conference.

1995, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
UN Global 500 Corporate Environmental Excellence Conference.

1994, Zimbabwe
Second Southern African Industry Conference on Environmental Management (SAICEM 2).

1993, Rotterdam
Second World Industry Conference on Environmental Management (WICEM 2).

1993, Cambridge, MA
Greening of Industry conference.

1990, Paris
20th Anniversary OECD Environment Committee Conference.

I also lecture at business schools (e.g. IMD, INSEAD, London Business School) and universities (including to MSc courses at Bath University and Imperial College).