Interview: Nigel Topping – High-Level Champion for Climate Action & Former CEO of WE MEAN BUSINESS
At Champions Speakers, our director Jack Hayes was thrilled to sit down with Nigel Topping, the UK’s High-Level Champion for Climate Change and former CEO of WE MEAN BUSINESS.
In our interview, Nigel explained the relationship between politics and climate change and the biggest hurdle we must overcome to live more sustainable lives.
Read our exciting interview with a true climate champion and discover the sustainable practices that businesses across the globe must adopt.
What role does politics play in tackling climate change and what can political figures do to drive sustainable change?
Jack: It will take a global effort to tackle climate change, what role does politics play in the fight for a sustainable future?
Nigel: “Well, I mean, politics is huge because ultimately politicians set the rules of the game.
“Although the private sector can innovate, the overall pace of change will be dictated by policymakers – so, their role is huge.
“What they can do is a couple of things. One, bring constituencies with them, so bring voters and businesses with them, because policy will not grow faster than markets and voters.
“Keep making the case that this is in our long-term interests, that it will be creating jobs and improving health. Then, set the clear long-term policies so it’s very clear what we’re going to do over 10, 15, or 20 years; it makes it much easier for us all to manage the adaptation and innovation over time with very clear short-term policies.
“But with the end dates, like when we burn the last lump of coal in the UK or sell the last internal combustion engine, it is very helpful to set those end dates because then people can organise their lives around them.”
As the CEO of WE MEAN BUSINESS you worked with global leaders to accelerate action on climate change, which achievement are you the proudest of from this role?
Jack: You are an integral figure in the fight against climate change; as the CEO of WE MEAN BUSINESS, which achievement are you proudest of?
Nigel: “Our part in bringing a very positive business voice to Paris and securing the Paris agreement, that was a really crucial moment of global solidarity.
“It was because the conditions were created for businesses, cities, civil society, all the countries of the world from the very big to the very small, to come together and do something that really transcended selfish individual actions.
“I think whatever small part I played in securing the Paris agreement would be my proudest achievement.”
What will be the biggest hurdle to overcome in our fight against climate change?
Jack: As a sustainability speaker, you regularly attend corporate and industry events to share your incredible guidance. In your opinion, what do you believe the biggest hurdle is in our fight against climate change?
Nigel: “Our belief in ourselves, our ability to imagine what we can do differently, radically differently. We find it very difficult to imagine that the future could be very different from the past.
“I think it’s unimaginative to decide that it’s too late, we failed, or it’s impossible to transform as fast as we need to. I have huge faith in the innovative capability of humans when we decide to do extraordinary things.
“So, a failure of imagination is the biggest threat we face.
#RaceToZero is committed to halving emissions by 2030, why is it important for businesses, investors, and governments to work together to tackle climate change?
Jack: The #RaceToZero campaign focuses on greenhouse emissions, why must businesses and organisations work together to embrace renewable energy?
Nigel: “No one can do this on their own, everything’s interconnected. Businesses respond to investors and customers and governments and vice versa.
“So, it’s important that we act with the appropriate urgency because this is an inevitable transition. We know that not dealing with it is going to be disastrous in terms of economics and human suffering, that’s inevitable.
“It will only happen in a controlled way if we get on with it together. We often talk about radical collaboration – you can’t win this race on your own.”
What is the biggest change businesses can make to become more environmentally friendly?
Jack: To conclude this interview, a message for the business owners reading. In your opinion, what is the biggest change organisations must make to be more environmentally friendly?
Nigel: “Well, I reject the idea that this is about being environmentally friendly, I think that’s a 1990s framing. This is not about being environmentally friendly, front and centre, this is about survival and thriving as a business.
“This is an inevitable change. If you don’t embrace it, you’re going to lose because you’ll suddenly find all your competitors are running away from you so fast that you can’t catch up.
“Yes, the consequence, in the end, will be that we’re not destroying the environment that we rely on. So, the consequences will be environmentally friendly. But if you’re thinking that this is whether or not to do something environmentally friendly, you’ve already lost because you’re framing it wrong.
“People want to trust brands. The brands that aren’t delivering a zero-carbon future won’t be trusted, so they’ll die. And the ones that are will be trusted and they’ll grow. You just can’t fight this anymore. The consequence will be environmental friendliness, but you can make these decisions with a very hard-headed business head-on. You don’t have to be a tree hugger!”
Book Nigel Topping
Contact the Champions Speakers agency to provisionally enquire about Nigel Topping for your event today. Simply call a booking agent on 0207 1010 553 or use our online contact form for more information.
Jack Hayes was appointed Director of the Champions Speakers agency in 2012 becoming one of the youngest Directors in the UK. A year later, Jack became a founding member of the European Association of Speakers Bureaux (EASB) collaborating with speaker... Read more
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