John often argues that progress comes as a result of being backed into a corner, and this theory sounds about right coming from a sustainability change-maker whose success has been defined by navigating uncomfortable situations.
Since the start of his career, John has been pushing C-suite executives outside of their comfort zones in order to redefine the relationship between sustainability and business strategy. It’s the challenge of a lifetime, he agrees, but progress, he says, is always the result of a challenge.
In the first part of our interview, John shares where he’s most comfortable, his experience challenging the comfort zones of others, and why he believes we all must open our minds to solve the environmental issues we face today.
On a personal front, where are you most comfortable?
I think I’m most comfortable when I’m least comfortable, where I’m being forced to find out what the hell I’m meant to be doing on this planet and learning as I go.
One of the terms you’ve used to describe yourself is “agitator.” You go into corporate environments, these C suites, and you make leaders uncomfortable with some of their assumptions and with the impact of their businesses on the environment. Is that fair?
It’s fair. I would say that there are proper agitators. There are activists and campaigners who put their lives or their livelihoods at risk, and I haven’t had to do that. But I do take risks. Somebody once described me as the grit in the corporate oyster. So, I agitate, and if the company can spit me out early on in the process, it will. But if I stay in, sometimes, unusual things happen.
Don’t pearls come out of that process?
They sometimes do. But they can be a bit irregular.