Interview with Julia Hailes MBE
What does the audience take away from your keynotes?
My speeches are generally, challenging, informative and entertaining. I can be provocative and am not afraid to give a different perspective.
How did you decide to focus on sustainability?
I started working for a campaigning organisation, when I returned from travelling in 1986. I was initially motivated by a desire to preserve the rainforests. But, I became interested in showing people how they could make a positive difference to the environment everyday. I co-authored the Green Consumer Guide, which went on to sell over 1 million copies worldwide – and have written eight other books, many of them with John Elkington (www.johnelkington.com).
He and I set up the campaigning consultancy SustainAbility (www.sustainability.com) in 1987. Although, I sold out of the company in 1995, I still work on Sustainability issues, from my home in Dorset – and most recently have set up an organisation, E for Good (www.eforgood.org), campaigning on e-waste (electrical waste). I’ve also co-founded a charity – Haller (www.haller.org.uk), which promotes sustainability living and agriculture in Kenya.
What is the most unique experience you have had as a result of your job?
I made the key note speech at the Green Funeral Exhibition. I’ve challenged a Japanese audience on destroying the rainforests and whaling. And, I was invited by McDonalds to speak to their senior managers in Chicago and to be ‘challenging and provocative’ – they concluded that I’d ‘sure as hell fulfilled my brief’!
Other things include visiting paper forests in Sweden, corn mills in Nebraska, tilapia & crocodile farms near Mombasa, game parks near Nairobi, as well as attending an all night conference in Norway, speaking at the Earth Summin in Rio in 1992 and carrying out an environmental audit of an African cement factory.
What are some of the simple steps which companies can take to become more green?
Increasingly companies want to become ‘more green’. But for almost all of them, this essentially means ‘business as usual but a bit greener’. I think that companies need to be bolder. They need to create a green vision, of what sort of world they want to live in, and then use their business expertise to make this happen. This may entail dropping some product lines and starting new ones, it may mean offering services rather products – but it doesn’t need to mean compromising on profits. Actually, this approach can help companies lead their sector, not just in relation to sustainability issues, but in business terms too.
What type of audience benefits most from your talks?
The best audiences are those that want to hear something a bit different – and want to be engaged. If I use slides, they’re generally pictorial – and I don’t just read my notes. If you’re looking for lots of dry statistics, details on government policy or academic texts, I’m not what you’re looking for. If you want to genuinely understand the environmental perspective and get an expert view, then I’d be a good choice.
What types of projects are you currently working on?
I’ve recently set up E for Good, campaigning on e-waste – and I have a big interest in most waste issues. I’ve also been eco-renovating my London flat, and written about it for the Financial Times and I’ve recently moved house in the country, so I’m working on eco-renovating again and plan to write about it. I’m going to Turkey next month to talk about Green Business to an audience of over 500 delegates. And I’ve been invited to a select dinner at Sainsburys to give my views on their sustainability performance.