WWF UK Blog  

Q&A: A conservation journey with Trevor Hutchings


Find out from Trevor Hutchings about WWF’s exciting journey of conservation successes and the challenges faced, where he wants to take the organisation next, and what advice he would give to those who want to make positive change.

Tell us about WWK-UK – what’s your mission?

For over 50 years, our famous panda logo has been one of the most recognised and respected symbols of conservation and environmental protection. Our mission is to help build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.

WWF © Panda Banner in the snowWWF © Panda Banner in the snow

What motivates you?
Succeeding in whatever challenge I set myself. Also knowing that the world has the necessary technologies today to address climate change, and that it’s only really politics getting in the way.

What is your greatest achievement to date?
My biggest successes have always been a team effort. The best teams are those comprising a diverse mix of experience, skills and backgrounds, together with a ‘can do’ approach to getting stuff done. I have been privileged to have led great teams which have delivered transformational change on marine protection, climate change, energy policy and sustainable development during postings at Defra, DECC, the European Commission and now WWF.

Challenge © Brian FullerChallenge © Brian Fuller

What are the challenges you face?
Shifting the narrative on what sustainability means for consumers, businesses, governments and international institutions. All too often the transition to a more sustainable world is perceived as one where lifestyle, profit and growth all need to be compromised. This narrative is deeply flawed and does not inspire or mobilise the action needed. A low carbon and sustainable world is in fact a very exciting place to be – just look at how renewable energy, electric vehicles, the Internet of things, advanced manufacturing and the sharing economy – to name a few – are transforming the way we live for the better.

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
We are partnering with the National Oceanography Centre on a project to better understand how autonomous vehicles – ‘ocean robots’ if you like – can transform the way we collect data at sea. Such vehicles can complement research vessels which have traditionally formed the backbone of marine science, and potentially offset some of their costs. Improving marine management through the provision of more cost effective data collection will help ensure our seas and oceans are safeguarded and continue to provide substantial social and economic benefits to the UK and beyond.

Wind farm on ridge © Penn StateWind farm on ridge © Penn State

Where do you want to take WWF-UK next?
Unprecedented social and economic development in recent decades has been matched by a decline in the world’s natural capital. This decline has been driven by over-exploitation, and by the loss and degradation of habitats. In short we are exceeding the environmental limits of our one planet. This makes our work ever more pressing and we are constantly evolving to ensure our work delivers the transformational change required. This includes running exemplar conservation programmes on the ground, strengthening environmental governance through our work to influence governments and international institutions, and partnering with and challenging businesses to do better.

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
There are lots of things we as individuals can do. To list a few:

  • Use your purchasing power to pull through higher environmental standards, for example by looking out for MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) labelled fish or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) timber products.
  • Consider where your money is invested, does your pension scheme invest in polluting fossil fuels for example.
  • Make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible thereby cutting down emissions, and saving money on your bill.
  • Engage and challenge your local MP on climate change and other environmental issues.
  • And, of course, support us in the amazing work we do around the world by making a donation or signing up to our campaigns.
A stack of FSC sourced woodThe FSC mark is used when the tree is harvested, processed and eventually sold. © Benjamin Ealovega © WWF-UK

If you were Prime Minister/President for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do?
Bang a few heads together, notably those in Treasury to ensure we have a clear and coherent policy landscape to decarbonise the UK economy in the most cost effective way. This would help ensure we attract the inward investment needed for the UK to reap the huge social and economic benefits of the global a transition to low carbon living.

What’s the coolest project or product you’ve come across, and inspired you?
Energy storage is going to play a much bigger role in the energy system of the future. The Tesla Powerwall battery is a great example of innovation in this space and there will be much more to come. Electricity storage will unlock the full potential of renewable technologies and alongside energy efficiency and other demand side measures will help balance the grid, smoothing out peak demand and displacing more expensive renewable generation. I think the government should be doing more to bring this about, such as by mandating energy suppliers to offer a time of use tariff that would help drive the market in energy storage.

Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?
I listened to a talk by Robin Chase the other week. Robin invented Zipcar and has recently published a book called Peers Inc. It’s all about the collaborative economy, where excess capacity is utilised to transform the economics of what’s possible. While I don’t agree with everything Robin says, it’s clear that the collaborative, or sharing, economy is challenging traditional business models and if done right has the potential to drive significant environmental benefit over business as usual.

Healthy food options © WWF-UK

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?
I do enjoy having Have I Got  News for You on in the background. It certainly plays to my sense of humour, and a few years ago a magazine I was responsible for when I worked at Defra was featured as the guest publication, Shellfish News. The line was something about pulling a mussel if I recall…

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
An hour in bed before midnight is worth two hours after midnight…I think this captures much more than just the importance of getting a good nights sleep. It also underscores the value of good planning and preparation, and always keeping ahead of the game.

Children pond dipping © Spencer WrightChildren pond dipping © Spencer Wright

Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?
My Eco Hero’s are the younger generations who don’t question whether climate change is happening or whether it’s man made, or who believe it’s someone else’s problem. They’ve moved way beyond this and are in solutions mode, exploiting green business opportunities and being inspired by the things a low carbon and sustainable world can offer.

Are you with us? Find out more now how to inspire your generation and the next! Sign up to today to Go Wild.

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