The first Zeronauts Roll of Honor follows the profiles below. To begin with, we spotlight below eight people (from Canada, Japan, The Netherlands, the UK and the USA) listed in the book's Roll of Honor (pages 44-46). Further profiles will be posted later, increasingly spotlighting people working towards zero but who we didn’t know about when the first Roll of Honor went to press.

Ray Anderson

The Zeronauts is dedicated to the memory of Interface founder and CEO Ray Anderson — who is also listed in the 2012 Roll of Honor as one of two deceased Zeronauts, the other being Buckminster Fuller. John Elkington's obituary and appreciation of Ray for the Guardian Sustainable Business website can be found here. John's filmed appreciation of Ray, done for the 2012 Guardian Sustainable Business Awards, can be found here.





Zero is the border between positive and negative. It is where good meets bad, undesirable meets desirable, sustainable meets unsustainable.

At the very least, humans need to use no more of the Earth's resources than they renew through their actions. For, if we do use more, eventually our Earth's resources will run out. And this is what is already happening at an alarming rate as we explode towards 10 billion inhabitants.

I once had an interesting discussion with [zoologist] Jane Goodall. She looked at me quizzically and said "Zerofootprint? But there is no such thing! Not even a Chimpanzee has a Zerofootprint!"

She then proceeded to tell me about Chimpanzees and Baboons. A Baboon goes to a fig tree, plucks a fig and throws it on the ground if it is not ripe. A Chimp gently presses the fig - and if it is ripe plucks it.

Well I guess we are all baboons.

In fact, when I started to think of Zerofootprint I originally called it "Give Back More". The idea was simple. We use up stuff to get to do what we do. To get us back to zero - or even through onto the positive side - we should find ways to give back more. I suppose it was an altruistic version of offsetting done right.

I was also struck by Bill McDonough's mantra - not to make things less bad but making them intrinsically good - but how? We use energy, more and more of it, and that will not change. How do we get it to have zero impact? The answer is, we make zerofootprint the goal and we, as creative souls, will find a way to get there - I am convinced of it.

The core challenge is to get us all to see that this is the goal we should now strive for.

Ron Dembo, Toronto, Canada
Founder & CEO, Zerofootprint


The term zero with regard to chemistry is challenging. During my career, I have heard, and even said that 'There is no such thing as zero. If you look hard enough, you can detect almost anything'. That may technically be true, but we shouldn't let that mindset keep us from using zero as the guide for our journey. Whether aspirational or achievable, zero is the right target for a lot of things in our world.

John Frazier (Beaverton, USA)
Sustainable Chemistry Director, Nike Corporation


Following his first visit to the Olympic Park, John Elkington joked that we really had "zero ambition" when it came to wasteÑand we should be proud of that. Having stopped myself from taking offence, I realised how right he was.

To have a target of zero to work with is both challenging and liberating.

Yes, Phil Cumming in our team has worked tirelessly with sponsors, caterers, technology providers, venues teams and others to ensure that everything that we bring on to our venues at Games time will have an identified after-use. Events may be temporary but they are not a license to throw away. And when things do end up as waste items, we are ensuring that they will fit into one of our three waste streams Ð dry recyclables/compostables/non-recyclables.

Our very simple, 'zero' mandate is also liberating. The fact that we are collaboratively working towards an ambitious zero target, creates opportunities for people to come together to think of creative new ways of designing out waste, avoiding packaging and carbon emissions.

That can range from the huge reusable crates that were used over and over again to deliver all the Olympic stadium seating, to the reuse of packing boxes by the technology teams to ensure that all the 1000's of computers that are needed at our venues to display real time Olympic and Paralympic records are brought on and removed off in the same boxes.

Being given the chance to be a Zeronaut has been inspiring and I look forward to it becoming the norm. In the meantime, I feel proud to be part of a "zero ambition" team that has worked tirelessly to put everything in place before what is set to be an incredible Games.

Felicity Hartnett (London, UK)
Sustainability Partnerships Manager, London 2012, http://www.london2012.com/about-us/sustainability/index.html


Gunter, you were in on the ground floor of the Zero Revolution. How did that happen?

"In 1991, I published a first article on the need to create a zero emissions and zero waste society. Then, in 1994, the United Nations University agreed to embark on a 3-year research program to imagine the competitive business models that permit us to respond to the basic needs of all living species on earth."

Are we making progress?

"Nowhere near as much as we had hoped Ð or now need. Despite the fact that the lawyers have searched for global agreements engaging every nation, nearly two decades have now gone by with no international agreement anywhere in sight.

"That is why I am honored to be part of a group - ever expanding and ever more passionate - that makes it happen on the ground. We proceed with clarity and unconditionality Ð and while 'Zero' was long considered impossible, it is emerging as self-evident.

"That is the power of the Zeronauts! Soon the evidence will be inescapable."

Gunter Pauli (Tokyo, Japan)
Designer of the Blue Economy (going beyond Green) and Director of the ZERI Foundation


Imagine a world where we don't have to regulate toxic chemical usage and discharge because they just doesn't exist. In effect that is what a commitment to 'zero toxics' means. With any bold, and some would say unachievable, vision we are required to hold the creative tension between that vision and the current reality, develop a deep understanding of the complexity and strive for innovative solutions.

'Zero toxics' is a classic systems challenge and a key aspect of working with and trying to effect change in large scale, complex systems with multiple stakeholders is that no one stakeholder has control, and rarely does any single stakeholder have the means to shift the entire system. So the only option is deep collaboration.

The stakeholders in the part of the system Nike engages with include the brands, multiple tiers of suppliers, equipment manufacturers, chemical companies, service providers, governments, communities, consumers, environmental NGOs, providers of capital and academic research institutes. In terms of the wider 'Race to Zero', thus far we have seven brands committed to the vision of zero by 2020 and a great deal of interest from other stakeholders. We have mapped this system and its dynamics in detail, and now know where the key leverage points for change are to be found.

A successful outcome will require very different behaviors from all the stakeholders involved. We will need the usually highly competitive brands to work together in a way that is unprecedented, service providers to collaborate on delivering solutions, chemical companies to be more transparent about their formulations and suppliers to team up to share best practices. We need governments to regulate appropriately and the campaigning NGOs to shed light on the real laggards, rather than nitpick at those who have stepped forward with substantive commitments.

Above all we will need to listen deeply to each other, something Nike has learned a little about over the last 15 years.

Sarah Severn (Beaverton, USA)
Director of Stakeholder Mobilization, Nike Corporation


In a subject where we rarely deal in cut and dried absolutes, the notion of 'zero' has a refreshing ring of certainty to it. What can be clearer than no, nothing... zero? It slips off the tongue so easily. In 2004 we said: "we will send zero Games-time waste directly to landfill". If only it was so simple! Well, yes it can be, but people need to know that we mean it and that they need to work with us to do it.

For most organisations sustainability is something they come across and attempt to adopt in incremental steps over a long timeframe. Gently does it; step by step and don't rock the boat...

We are all too used to ambitious and wonderful plans withering under the heat of cost-conscious project managers, marginalised as project delivery gets serious and policy U-turns. That's one form of zero: nil, or precious little sustainability outcome.

It's therefore nice to be able to talk about starting from scratch with a brand new organisation and project to deliver; only here we have sustainability as part of the official mandate from day one. This is the story of the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and how we actually are delivering real sustainable progress.

The great advantage of a fresh start was not having the baggage of corporate history and established processes to hold us back. The risk, of course, was that without such processes and support structures, we might not have got started at all.

The Games, however, have a different dimension. First they have to happen; they are a project of immense national importance, both economical and reputational, with an immoveable deadline. They are also planned and delivered under intense public scrutiny. That all helps to concentrate minds, and our sustainability ambitions were also enshrined in the Host City Contract of 2005.

Obviously this is the same for all host cities. However, in London's case sustainability was fundamental to making the project work in any meaningful, long-term sense. Uniquely, we also had a sustainability team in place, literally from day one. Nobody in those early days could ignore it or not know about it and so it became part of our organisational culture.

This first became tangibly evident in our procurement programme with the advent of the ground-breaking LOCOG Sustainable Sourcing Code. This laid the ground rules for our suppliers and licensees and made it abundantly clear that we expected those companies bidding for our business to show that they could deliver sustainable goods and services. It also galvanised the sponsorship market and our commercial programme flourished in part because of the added value of a strong sustainability programme.

In seven short years, from a standing start, we have seen the introduction of a new sustainable management system standard for events Ð BS 8901 Ð which was inspired by London 2012. This is now morphing into the global standard ISO 20121 to be launched in June.

We have created a bespoke methodology for assessing the carbon footprint of major projects and events, and we have developed guidelines on the use of temporary materials, both of which were hitherto unexplored yet crucial aspects of the sustainability of events.

We have also turned our attention to creating an innovative Food Vision, to embed sustainability into the hospitality catering sector; similarly we have defined new approaches to waste management in our Zero Waste Games Vision; and through our Active Travel Programme we are encouraging masses of people to cycle or walk to the Games.

One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of delivering 'zero' is watching the development of the clever companies that are working with us and revolutionising their business practices for the long term. Not only are we reducing our costs and impact but we are also inspiring others. Zero is simple to say, hard to do but rewarding in so many ways.

David Stubbs (London, UK)
Head of Sustainability, London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games, http://www.london2012.com/about-us/sustainability/index.html


Ralph, you have become a leading proponent of Zeronautics. Why?

"My journey towards Zeronautics began in 2005/2006 when I was working with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and saw a growing gap in the area of Sustainability Reporting. My question: How could you assess the positioning of a given company's sustainability performance against a real benchmark?" (This issue was addressed by the Sustainability Context Principle in GRI G3.)

"The indicator section of G3 wasn't able to capture this need due to the lack of globally accepted and applicable 'denominators'. To date, we can only measure efficiencies and relative levels of performance, and can only get a sense of whether organizations have become 'less bad' in their material focus areas. What is missing is a core definition of what is actually 'good'."

But why is zero-based thinking needed?

"We are all somehow flying blind. I was immediately excited when I heard about the Zeronauts book project, at a GRI event in Rome in late 2010. Since then Deloitte Innovation and Volans have worked together to work out how to implement the book's agenda into the day-to-day world of companies."

"Much is going on that seems to be headed towards the idea of what the book dubs a 1-Earth Economy, with buzzwords and phrases like 'sustainable capitalism', 'beyond GDP', the 'circular economy', to mention just a few. I came up with the term 'Zero Impact Growth' as the minimum 'North Star' for our work, a door opener and conversation starter as we work towards measurable and commonly accepted denominators."

"I especially like the embracing character of the emerging discipline of Zeronautics, which I see as a complementary development to the many existing initiatives in the 'Sustainability Quilt'. I value the opportunity to use Zeronautics as a reality check in terms of individual and organizational effectiveness. The goal has to be a jointly agreed upon Zero Impact Growth Framework."

"We need many more Zeronauts, in all areas of society and in the corporate world. As Yogi Berra once said: 'You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.' A first step will be our Zeronauts Symposium in Rotterdam on 5 June 2012, Earth Day. Encouragingly, the event is more than sold out."

Ralph Thurm (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Deloitte Innovation; previously COO at GRI and the Head of Siemens AG's Sustainability Strategy Council.

The 2012 Roll of Honor
Shai Agassi, Better Place
Morten Albaek, Vestas Wind Systems
Ray Anderson (1934-2011), Interface
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
Janine Benyus, Biomimicry Guild
Michael Braungart and Bill McDonough, Cradle-to-Cradle and MBDC
Larry Brilliant, for his work on smallpox
Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute
Susan Burns and Mathis Wackernagel, Global Footprint Network
Gary Cohen, Health Care Without Harm
Gretchen Daily, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University
Ron Dembo, Zerofootprint
Pooran Desai and Sue Riddlestone, BioRegional
Peter Diamandis, X Prize Foundation
Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
Buckminster Fuller, geodesic engineer and champion of "ephemeralization" (1895-1983)
Bill and Melinda Gates, Gates Foundation
Al Gore and David Blood, Generation Investment Management
John Frazier, Santiago Gowland, Hannah Jones and Sarah Severn, Nike, for their work on "Race to Zero"
Greenpeace International, zero toxics and zero deforestation
James Hansen, NASA Goddard Center for Space Studies
Godert van Hardenbroek and Eelco Rietveld, Formula Zero
Paul Hawken, environmentalist, author and entrepreneur
Peter Head, Arup/Ecological Sequestration Trust
Martha Johnson, General Services Administratiuon
Jerry Linenger, former Astronaut and Cosmonaut, Circle of Blue/Volans
James Lovelock, independent scientist
Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute
Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism Solutions
Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers and William W. Behrens III, Limits to Growth team
Herman Miller, Inc.
Elon Musk, Tesla
Ramez Naam, Microsoft
Gunter Pauli, ZERI
Michael Pawlyn, Exploration
Karl-Henrik Robert, The Natural Step
Richard Sandor, Chicago Climate Exchange
Allan Savory, Savory Institute
Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek, Factor 10 Institute
Jeff Skoll, Global Zero
David Stubbs and Felicity Hartnett, London Olympic and Paralympic Games
Pavan Sukhdev, TEEB
Paul Tebo, former DuPont "Hero of Zero"
Ralph Thurm, Deloitte Innovation and Zero Hub
Mechai Viravaidya, PDA
Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute
Matthew Wright, Beyond Zero Emissions
Muhammad Yunus, Grameen movement
Jochen Zeitz, Puma/PPR
Zhengrong Shi, Suntech Power

Buy the book

The publication details for The Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier are as follows:
ISBN: 978-1-84971-397-9 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-0-203-12135-1 (ebk)

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To buy the book in the UK, please click here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Zeronauts-John-Elkington/dp/1849713979

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