David Nussbaum (Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting, 1982) is the Chief Executive of WWF UK, and Chair of the UK Chapter of the anti-corruption movement, Transparency International, two international non-governmental organisations (NGO).
We speak to David more in depth in the latest issue of our digital alumni magazine, In Conversation, which will be available at the end of September. To ensure the latest issue arrives in your inbox, keep your email address up to date by clicking here. Exclusive to our blog readers, we asked David the following question.
What’s the most positive trend or development in creating a more sustainable world in recent years? And the most worrying?
“The encouraging trend is the increasing public recognition of the seriousness of the issues in the environment. Twenty years ago if you talked to people about their holidays, nobody would have thought about their carbon footprint. Now, when you talk to people, they might say with a slight embarrassment that they flew and they know it was bad for their carbon footprint. But people are now conscious of their carbon footprint as an idea and have a sense of responsibility.
Business can be a huge driver of change for the better
Another positive trend is that there is an increasing proportion of businesses seeing sustainability as an opportunity to increase their attractiveness to their customers. This is important because business can be a huge driver of change for the better on a big scale. Think about companies involved in timber and forest products, seafood, etc all now getting FSC or MSC certification. This is really encouraging.
Thinking about worrying trends takes me back to when I was in Africa over ten years ago, in a remote rural Kenyan village.
One of the locals in the village had rigged up a satellite dish connected to a TV set powered by a lorry battery. He was allowing the people in the village to come and watch TV for a small payment. Here’s the issue though: what were they watching? Reruns of Dallas. So here we have people living a simple low level of consumption life, having aspirations to live like people in Texas.
We’re creating huge aspirations for our kind of lifestyle
We’ve now got phones, tablets, TVs, computers, cinema screens and more, all showing people around the world a North American or European lifestyle, and they’re thinking yeah, I’d like to live like that please. We’re creating huge aspirations for our kind of lifestyle and if we don’t find ways of adjusting this lifestyle so that it doesn’t involve so much consumption, we have a big challenge.
For example, where are we going to find all the water that we consume? Not just in drinking, but the water that goes into the products that we eat, wear, the packaging, stuff in our home. It can take thousands of litres to make a kilogram of beef, because the cow may have been fed plants on grain grown in irrigated fields, and processed in factories that used huge quantities of water.
There is a big pressure on the planet as this widespread aspiration for unsustainable living standards grows. Aspiration is fine – it’s the sustainability of the aspiration that we have to solve.”
To read more from David in our next digital alumni magazine, In Conversation, make sure your details are up to date with us by clicking here, and we will send you the issue directly at the end of September.