The government’s long-awaited 25-year Environment Plan is due to be published this month. We asked Henry Dieudonné-Demaria, Secretary to the Natural Capital Committee at Defra, about his role in creating the plan and what we, as individuals, can do to make a difference.
Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about the Natural Capital Committee – what’s your mission?
I look after the independent experts advising our government on how to create a ground breaking 25 Year Environment Plan.
What drives you?
Making a difference. Working in public service is an amazing opportunity to help people.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
When the Plan happens, my very small part in it will be right up there for me.
What are the challenges you face?
There are huge pressures on the environment, and few easy answers. Lasting progress takes co-operation, empathy and skill. And a lot of patience.
What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
The Committee have been advising closely on the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which the government has said it will publish very shortly. This is a once in a generation opportunity to make a lasting improvement to the environment, and this gets me up in the morning.
It is one thing to have a plan, another to deliver lasting change. The Committee have an ambitious programme of work to support the implementation of the Environment Plan and turn ambition into reality. I suspect and hope that this will keep me very busy.
What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
Turn up. From the national to the local, everything gets decided and done by those who show up. It’s never been easier to find out what is happening, connect with like minds and make a difference. Find something that matters to you and roll up your sleeves – you will make new friends, feel good about yourself and have fun.
How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?
Natural capital is about understanding the true value of nature and putting this at the heart of the choices we make – in development, in investment, in conservation. The Environment Plan is about taking a much longer view of how we should protect nature; for future generations as much as for our own. Together, these can help us all – from national governments to local communities – build a deeper and more skilful relationship with nature.
Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?
For the head, Peter Singer; for the heart, Mary Oliver.
What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?
I am lucky to be married to a very talented singer, so my reward for cooking dinner is to hear some lovely old-time jazz floating up from the studio. Given the ropey standard of my cooking, it’s a good deal.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
It is not necessary for you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.
For anyone working in public service, or to protect the environment, we can become disheartened by the scale of the challenges we face. I reflect on this often, and Rabbi Tarphon’s words remind me to focus on the good I can do, one day at a time.
Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?
Heroes aren’t so helpful, I think – the idea that only heroes can make a difference can put people off. The biggest changes in my lifetime in civil society, in democracy, in government, have been about people finding new and better ways to work together to achieve change. The opportunity is for everyone to know they can get involved in the issues they care about.
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.