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Global Action Plan

Trewin Restorick, CEO of Global Action Plan, a group which helps businesses, schools and households reduce carbon emissions

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CAMPAIGN HERO: Trewin Restorick, CEO of Global Action Plan

Matilda Lee

22nd February, 2011

The founder of the carbon reduction charity Global Action Plan on past failures, launching the UK's first on-line carbon calculator and why we must work with the corporate sector to create change

What has been your most successful campaign to date?

It has to be setting up Global Action Plan. It has been an amazing journey from sitting in a front room with just a computer and virtually no money through to an organisation employing 50 odd people delivering a massive range of environmental behaviour change activities. There have been three underlying principles to our approach. Firstly, we believe that lasting changes in behaviour and values best happens when people take action in groups they trust and respect - this group interaction enables people to test assumptions and choose the solutions that best meet their beliefs. Secondly, we believe that positive and interactive communication is the best way to stimulate people to act. Finally, we think measurement is essential both to motivate people to act and to celebrate achievements.

What has been the least successful campaign to-date?

Hard to know where to start as there have been a few! We launched the UK's first ever sustainable lifestyles magazine called Ergo back in 2000. It looked fantastic but didn't work financially as the idea was slightly beyond the imagination of virtually all the advertising industry at the time and shops didn't know where to stack it on their magazine racks. I think we were also the first organisation to launch an on-line carbon calculator in the UK and I can remember having lots of bemused conversations with journalists and organizations about why we bothered and what it was we were seeking to achieve.

What gets you out of bed when you are at your lowest?

Pure stubbornness and irritation. I have constant brain whirr about what we need to do better and differently to achieve the level of environmental change that I think needs to occur. I am also in a constant state of exasperation that the environmental movement has not yet been able to communicate the significance of the issue or what benefits a shift to a more sustainable future can offer society.

Corporations work with them or against them?

I realise that this is not a universally supported view but I think that we absolutely must work with companies. Personally, I think that parts of the corporate sector are way ahead of others in understanding the significance of the challenges we face and are seeking to address them constructively. I also think that the corporate sector will create the innovative solutions that will rapidly change the economy. As with any sector there are laggards and disruptors and it is the role of Government and civic society to identify and force these companies to change.

What is the best way to motivate people?

This is the fundamental question we grapple with every day. We try to communicate in an honest, authoritative and open manner. We believe it is important for people to be presented with evidence that enables them to reach their own conclusions. We constantly seek to highlight the positive and communicate in a way that is innovative and involves humour. We also realise the importance of working with strong and cohesive social groups. We try to avoid being preachy and don't use messages of doom, gloom and despondency.

What is the best way of reaching politicians?

We have had a history of good relationships with politicians. I don't think there are any special techniques it is just a question of investing time in building relations, sticking to your principles, accepting that there will be points of agreement or disagreement and building friendships.

What is the most important thing to avoid when campaigning?

Campaigns works best when you have a very specific objective, know exactly who you need to reach to create the change you want and then use the most appropriate techniques to communicate your ambitions. Many campaigns seem to use standard approaches, which are not always appropriate. Holier than thou messages are also a fantastic way to disengage people.

Most important thing the Government could do this year?

Our Government needs to set out a strong and compelling narrative for the shift towards a more sustainable future. They must be consistent and not constantly change policies as they have done recently with both the Carbon Reduction Commitment and Feed-in tariffs. Greater support needs to be provided for the transition to a new economy including ensuring young people have the skills that they will need to flourish in a very different future. Finally the environmental justice agenda needs to be addressed ensuring that those who are most at disadvantage are not adversely impacted by the changes that will occur and that people are actively involved in shaping their future.

Most important thing individuals could do this year?

Global Action Plan does not use the prescriptive approach for what individuals should do as each one of us has circumstances and values, which vary enormously. Personally, I am making a real effort this year to reduce the carbon footprint of my diet as I feel this is one area where I can make significant improvements.

What makes a good campaigner?

Strong and consistent beliefs. A determination to succeed sometimes against all the odds. Passion, humility and humour. An ability to persuade others of the validity of the cause through great communication skills and authenticity.

What campaign has caught your attention recently?

I love the Clothes Exchange partnership between Oxfam and Marks and Spencer. It is a relationship where everybody benefits and which incorporates the environmental, social and financial elements of sustainability. It has already helped prevent over 2,500 tonnes of clothes going to landfill sites and has raised an extra £3million for Oxfam.

Who is your campaign hero?

It has to be Andrew Lees, Campaign Director at Friends of the Earth, who died tragically young whilst filming a documentary in Madagascar. His memorial quotation summed him up perfectly "At some point I had to stand up and be counted. Who speaks for the butterflies?" I worked with him whilst I was at Friends of the Earth and loved the fact that he was stubborn, passionate, occasionally intensely irritating but a mesmeric communicator. Whatever Andrew talked about there was always a knowing twinkle in the eye reflecting a wonderful sense of humour that lurked under his iron-fisted campaigning approach.

Further information:

Global Action Plan have worked with 4,000 young people to build a vision what living in a more sustainable way in 2020 will look like. This vision is launched on the 24th of February and is entitled 'Greenprint to 2020 - Young people's vision of a sustainable future'

 

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