Secrets of the Pioneers: Anna Guyer
Anna Guyer, founder and director of Greenhouse PR, speaks about the accelerating transition to a sustainable and green economy. The interview is part of a series published in a report, Secrets of Pioneers, Delivering a Decade of Green Growth, jointly published by Greenhouse and BusinessGreen on 9th November 2017. Previously, Anna was a Board Director at Hill & Knowlton and Trustee of Transition Towns. Where were you in 2007? I founded Greenhouse in 2007, with a mission to work with pioneers and entrepreneurs to create positive social and environmental change. This was a personal response to a powerful film made by the Christian NGO Tearfund, which told the story of families across Africa who could no longer live or farm on their land due to the huge impact of climate change. It was a life-changing moment and I decided that, however daunting the task, the focus of my work needed to be addressing climate change and helping to create a more sustainable future. In the ten years since then, Greenhouse has worked with energy pioneers using renewables and battery storage to create a smart, cost-effective, low-carbon power system; transport pioneers launching electric and hydrogen cars and low-carbon alternatives to diesel for HGVs; food pioneers promoting organic food and sustainable agriculture; and financial pioneers educating capital markets and investors about climate risk. We have used our communications expertise to help organisations have more impact, raising awareness of the solutions they offer and why they are needed. We have enabled them to reach policymakers and investors, customers and consumers, encouraging people to wake up to the potential of the new green economy. Where do you expect to be in 2027? By 2027, I hope to be living in a world that has embraced not just the urgent need for a green economy but also its huge potential. Today’s disruptive innovations and the fast-developing sharing economy are transforming the way we live and work, and with the current pace of change, so much is possible. But we will still be living in an unsustainable world. Ten years from now other challenges such as water shortages, air quality and biodiversity will all be much higher up the agenda. Greenhouse will still be working with the pioneers developing extraordinary solutions to these problems. There will still be just as much need to frame clear powerful messages about why their solutions matter to people, business and the economy, and to offer a compelling vision of a sustainable future. Even small organisations can have a global impact when a powerful proposition is communicated well – just look at the influence of Carbon Tracker as it has brought the concept of the carbon bubble and stranded assets to policy makers, influencers and investors on a global scale. What is the most important lesson you have learned over the past 10 years? Do what you can, where you can. Don’t procrastinate – get on and do it. And surround yourself with others who share your values, who want to support you in your mission. The new green economy is a sharing, collaborative economy, full of intelligent, passionate and fascinating people. So always learn from those around you and collaborate and support others wherever you can. What is your vision for the green economy in 10 years’ time and what do we need to get us there? I want us to create a thriving, smart, green economy that will be regenerative and restorative for both people and for the planet. We need governments and businesses to understand and recognise the value and importance of ecosystem services, and become more accountable for their decisions and our footprint in the world. We need financial markets to invest in the solutions that exist, shifting billions away from funding unsustainable activities. There is growing awareness of ‘climate risk’ but not enough recognition of ‘climate opportunity’. And ordinary people need to recognise that their money can have real impact. We can all help shape the future by choosing where we save and where our pension is invested. There are many funds that support renewables, protect resources such as water and forests, address social inequality, and still get a good financial return. Will the world be on course for two degrees in 2027? I think we have the knowledge and technological capability to get there. The growth of renewables is now unstoppable. Combined with battery storage and electrification of transport, creates huge opportunities for transformation. But governments and policy frameworks have a huge part to play. They also have the frustrating potential to slow everything down. If you could invest in one clean technology through to 2027 which would it be and why? Solar power and battery storage - these are disruptive technologies which are growing exponentially as costs continue to fall. They are fundamental to decarbonising our economy and they offer real benefits to individuals and communities. We are well on the way to decarbonising power, but our electricity system will also need to support rapid growth of electric vehicles over the next decade and beyond. This will create even more demand for solar and storage. But I also have to champion the protection of scarce resources - and in particular water and timber. It is possible for us all to invest in the things that we care about. Water is going to be such a critical issue that investing in its protection is critical. What advice would you give to a sustainability professional starting their job today? Recognise the power of good communications. We need to share a positive vision of the future with networks of influencers and decision makers, mobilise support and accelerate the transition. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? I feel lucky to be a natural optimist, and I surround myself with people who help me to sustain that. I am fortunate to work with entrepreneurs and pioneers – people pushing the boundaries of what’s possible – who by their very nature, see a problem as a reason or a catalyst to find a solution. Hope is a powerful motivator. It’s too easy to feel powerless when confronted with the challenges we face - that’s why we need to give people a positive and encouraging vision of what the future can look like. This interview is the last of more than 20 which make up a report, Secrets of the Pioneers: Delivering a Decade of Green Growth. We have already featured interviews with many other leaders from the sector, including Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Mike Barry, director of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer, and climate scientist Dr Emily Shuckburgh. These interviews and many others are available on the blog. This year marks the 10th anniversary of both BusinessGreen and Greenhouse PR, the specialist communications agency which supports businesses, entrepreneurs and campaigners working to create a green economy. At Greenhouse, we support a wide variety of organisations pioneering new standards of sustainability across multiple sectors. Whether it’s fashion, finance or farming, we’re always on the look-out for new opportunities to reach our clients’ target audiences. If you’ve got a great story and need our help to tell it, we’d love to hear from you.