Zoe Greenwood, our Head of Climate, Environment and Conservation attended day two of the Blue Earth summit on 14th October. The Blue Earth Summit aspires to redefine the way we approach life and work. It took place in Bristol, UK. Here she rounds up her experience (noting she didn’t attend all of the sessions).
It’s nice to go to a conference online, you can keep your slippers on and pop out to pick the kids up from school, but nothing really beats going somewhere and interacting with people face to face. The Blue Earth Summit delivered a host of thought-provoking sessions, TED style talks in quick succession alongside workshops and panel events (and I really appreciated the slick technology and the trees!). The great outdoors was ever present, in their imagery and offers of surfing and climbing lessons as part of the conference, reminding us all why we care.
I was lucky enough to be there on day 2 where, Mike Barry, sustainability expert, opened with the reality check that business compliance just isn’t good enough and radical transformation is where it’s at, and while I am sure I heard him say this about 15 years ago, I think our definition of transformation has moved on a lot since then (Oxford HR’s client Forum for the Future has a lot more on this). Reducing scope three emissions is a top priority for Mike (visit our friends at Manufacture 2030 for help there).
Later, Richard Walker OBE, CEO of the supermarket chain Iceland, brought this to life with his own version of corporate activism alongside a dose of brutal honestly about how hard it really is to embed sustainability into a supermarket business model – Iceland committed to removing plastic entirely from their shelves by 2022 but have since had to back track due to the scale of the challenge. Their decision to eliminate palm oil caused controversy and respect in 2018, but the war in Ukraine has forced them to reintroduce it. Richard’s sincerity, and clear passion to do more, was refreshing in the face of corporate green wash and green hush. Richard’s book The Green Grocer is a recommended read and for more on plastic check out Will McCallum’s How to Give Up Plastic (the new Co-ED of Greenpeace UK).
This, however, was not just a conference for the mainstream, but also a place where entrepreneurs and innovators gathered to share stories and illuminate ideas. The practical element of this was satisfying in a sector that likes to talk. The always inspiring Karla Morales-Lee, ambassador for She Changes Climate, brought us real life stories of everyday change from within the Warrior Women Network (her podcast is outstanding and aims to shine a light on ‘ordinary’ intersectional women doing extraordinary things to fix society and planet). Tom Ferris of the CIC Trash Free Trails is working to get everyday folks who love to cycle and mountain bike, out on the trails collecting litter, recording it and taking others along with them. It’s a great initiative and there are ways to involve schools and children as well; it’s based in the UK but has a global formula.
In what was quite a UK centric conference, the eloquent Abraham Bugre reminded us that for climate youth activists in Africa, it is about action more than talk and protests. Many of them are working directly on innovation projects to lessen negative environmental impacts on people and planet. Like Abraham’s own project to capture plastic before it hits the ocean in Ghana – saving both our seas and creating local income generation. Abraham is also leading the Africa Youth Mobilisation for COP Campaign, launched by YOUNGO, which aims to ensure meaningful participation of African youth at the annual Conference of Youth (COY) and UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP) – including for example, offering both funding and necessary training in advance. To offer support contact Abraham at email@example.com and for more on how young people are engaging with COP27, visit Force of Nature to learn about their Climate Cafes.
Everyone who stepped onto the Blue Earth Summit stage had something insightful, authentic, or motivating to say, too many to summarise here. There are two single statements that have resonated in my mind the most. The first from George Lamb of Wild Farmed, “our efforts to democratise food systems start with culinary literacy as much as environmental literacy”. As a parent I keep dwelling on this and it what it means. As a UK citizen, I am off to M&S to buy my loaf (explained here https://wildfarmed.co.uk/). The second statement from Hugo Tagholm (new executive Director and Vice President of our client Oceana), “Water and air, the two essential fluids on which life depends, have become global garbage cans”. Silence in the room.
So, thank you, Blue Earth Summit for having us. I feel like this is a conference where I could have kept my slippers on and probably turned up with the kids as well, but above all it was the right mix of alarming and inspiring. An extremely hard balance to strike right now.
Zoe joined Oxford HR in 2018 after 16 years working in the charity/NGO sector. She has worked with a wide variety of organisations in the sector including UNAIDS, Plan International, Practical Action, Global Canopy, Ethical Tea Partnership and WWF to name just a few, placing Executive Directors, Directors, Trustees and Senior Managers.
She is especially interested in leadership for a sustainable future and passionate about discovering and developing for-purpose leaders. Through her work at Earthwatch, the international environmental NGO, Zoe completed assignments in India, Ghana, Kenya, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Costa Rica and Malaysian Borneo where she has collaborated with local organisations, global NGOs and climate scientists and to design and deliver nature-based behaviour change programmes alongside conservation and research projects. She has spent many years engaging with the corporate sector to embed sustainability thinking into their operations and culture and has worked across fundraising, field management, emergency response, communications, HR and L&D throughout her career.
Zoe has a postgraduate degree from the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (University of Cumbria), she is a trained coach and facilitator and has significant experience of bringing groups together to consider the skills and competencies needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She is Co-Founder of Climate Change Coaches Ltd and a mother of two young children.