To celebrate our 35th birthday in 2014 we asked 35 people - politicians, former interns, our partners in business and the third sector, and ex directors of Green Alliance - one question each about what they’ve valued most about working with us.
“Back in the early ‘90s, the Business Circle – the creation of Julie Hill, then Green Alliance director - was for me a revelation. Sitting down informally with peers over a meal and discussing environmental issues with government ministers, their policy advisers or senior civil servants, was groundbreaking at the time. Best of all, it was chaired by an expert NGO.
As subsequent generations of politicians took office with less and less business experience so the chance to add a dash of reality was welcome. Some twenty years later the Business Circle is still thriving, proving it has held its value.”
“What has been achieved in the last 35 years? Definitely not enough. For all the thought and inspiration which Green Alliance has created and promoted since 1979 there is still a frustrating lack of connection between ideas and action. The environment is where we all live and we need to look after it far better.
But without Green Alliance we would be in a much worse place. I have always valued their intelligent, informed and independent approach. They don't scale walls but they build ideas. That's why, in the end, they will win.”
“Political success depends in large part on money and power – and the Treasury has always controlled both. So just over ten years ago Green Alliance began a careful, deliberate strategy to increase the relevance and impact of environmental analysis on economic policy. We worked with economists to make the case for environmental taxation – which the Treasury accepted, with its 2002 environmental tax strategy.
We looked at spending too, pitching into the spending round negotiations to argue, with some impact, that public spending on the environment is an efficient investment. As our expertise developed, we held skillshare sessions for others in the environmental community, building a community of experts who are as well-versed in economic policy as they are in environmental protection. We can’t claim unqualified success, of course.
The Treasury remains a formidable opponent to many policies which would make sense economically and environmentally. But we now have the tools, expertise and credibility that we didn’t have before, and it shows in our work today. We can make the case with confidence. And that’s a huge breakthrough.”
“The thing I’ve always admired about Green Alliance, is that it punches well above its weight and delivers a lot on very limited resources.
“During my brief stint as director, our policy and political work focused on ‘greening government’, encouraging the then Labour government to put environmental issues at the heart of its philosophy and policies, and also to put in place the processes to support this.
I also left Green Alliance with a new logo, a new office and some new funding relationships – all of which endure today.”
“Business is starting to wake up to the need to look beyond environmental and social issues as a matter of CSR compliance and it is recognising the need to create new business models that balance the needs of communities, planet and economy. Some of this shift is being driven by market forces but much will come from smart policy interventions on a local, national and international level.
Green Alliance has for 35 years been one of the strongest and most articulate voices for this smart approach to policy.
Well done so far, but let’s see it as a rehearsal for enabling a paradigm shift.”
“KYOCERA Document Solutions UK has been working with Green Alliance since 2010, initially as a member of the Designing Out Waste consortium and subsequently on the Circular Economy Task Force which was its natural successor.
We have had a strong focus on resource efficiency since 1992 when we launched our Ecosys range of cartridge-free printers and are encouraged to see how much consensus has been built around this business critical issue.
We have been greatly impressed by the ability of Green Alliance to convene both like-minded peers from diverse industries and the key policymakers we need to influence if we want fit-for-business legislation.”
“What has made Green Alliance exciting to work with over the years is how they balance policy insight with a truly cross-party approach, supporting and encouraging all the main political traditions in the UK to raise their game on environmental issues.
They are the source of many of the most exciting new ideas in their area. To take one example, their work on developing an energy efficiency feed-in tariff took an innovative, pro-market approach to how we boost energy efficiency in this country and led to a trial currently being conducted by DECC.
Many congratulations on your 35th birthday and here’s to the next 35!”
“Green Alliance works successfully across the political spectrum to ratchet up ambition on the environment and has a proven 35-year track record of success. I think there are a few reasons for this.
First, they take complex, technical subject areas and make them politically salient - from resource efficiency to energy market reform. This is always incredibly difficult to do well. Second, they are trusted advisers to politicians and policy makers, despite these being difficult relationships to build and sustain. Third, they build capacity among the different stakeholders - whether new parliamentary candidates or MPs, businesses, or other parts of civil society - so that meaningful conversations can be had around environmental issues.
This helps create the underlying conditions required for progress and combined with being savvy enough to help broker real political deals, means that Green Alliance plays an important and unique role in the UK environmental movement.”
“The pursuit of environmental outcomes and that of value creation don't have to be at loggerheads, it's just that a dysfunctional free market often makes it so. Green Alliance has always understood that, and worked painstakingly behind the scenes with leaders in all sectors to craft policy solutions that bring these two objectives more into line.
The role that Green Alliance has played in thinking strategically about the challenges, addressing root causes not symptoms, unafraid of complexity and always prepared to collaborate has meant that it has remained the destination of choice for businesses wanting to advance an intelligent approach to economic and environmental policy.”
“My first day at Green Alliance began at a policy consultation in Westminster – not your average internship! This was the first of many introductions to the essential but often challenging interaction between environmental politics and business interests.
As a graduate finding my feet in the sector I was so inspired by the energy of the team at Green Alliance; such a wonderful, ambitious crowd and an approach which blended pragmatism with a real passion for the environment and for change - an approach that I still take with the businesses and organisations I work with now. Happy Birthday Green Alliance!”
“My internship at Green Alliance was an invaluable way of getting to terms with the intricacies of shaping UK government policy and politics. It was an honour to work on behalf of an organisation changing environmental policy for the better by working with stakeholders across business, the third sector and government.
In 2011, Green Alliance was able to contribute real insights on the impact of the localism agenda on climate change action thanks to its existing relationships, engagement and the strength of its team. I am proud to have been a small part of its continued success.”
“Green Alliance has been essential in linking the environmental movement with the political world. It has consistently challenged senior politicians and the political parties to give priority to the environment, and has helped co-ordinate environmental groups' engagement with politicians.
It has also put new ideas on the political and business agenda - like the circular economy and resource security - and has tried to give foreign and European policy an environmental dimension.
I hope it continues these important roles - the voice of the environmental movement would be significantly weaker without it.”
“At a time when those of us who take environmental issues seriously feel like an endangered species, it is a relief that Green Alliance continues to attract a reliably interesting and quality bunch of people to its discussions.
I was delighted to chair the Green Alliance event with Connie Hedegaard, where far from being slavish greens, both the panel and the audience were willing to challenge orthodoxies. Europe has not got everything right on climate change - its emissions are rising faster than those of the US - and a frank acknowledgement of that is the only way we are going to move forward.”
“Green Alliance’s agenda setting role on biotechnology looms largest from my time as director. We picked up the issue of genetically modified organisms before most organisations showed an interest, won changes to the Environment Act that ensured access to information and we played a role in opening out previously inaccessible scientific committees.
Green Alliance went on to stimulate debate on the handling of scientific uncertainty, work that has had lasting impact on GM policy and the politics of scientific advice.”
“It would be hard to overstate the contribution of Green Alliance to environmental policy making. For 35 years, it has helped counter tides of misinformation, influencing the political agenda and building cross-sectoral support for action around environmental concerns.
It has proven to be a wonderful connector – encouraging crucial collaborative efforts between influential voices. For decades, its wealth of top quality research and ideas have been an invaluable resource for myself and many others, and its existence is, in some ways, more important now than ever.”
“Green Alliance is important for the British environmental movement because it helps build bridges in the common cause. Whether between competing parties, or (heaven forfend) competing NGOs, honest brokers are required and Green Alliance has filled the bill.
On policy, Green Alliance is ambitious but also realistic about obstacles - and knows that sometimes you have to go round them to get to your destination.
I was grateful both in opposition and in government for Green Alliance’s sensible, solid but persistent approach to issues like the borrowing powers of the Green Investment Bank, incentives for energy saving, or electricity market reform.”
“My time at Green Alliance taught me how a small team of ambitious people can be effective at influencing the corridors of power by having a pragmatic approach, championing the positive solutions to environmental problems and creating strong alliances with other organisations to create change. And how all this can be achieved without compromising one’s independence and keeping an eye on the ultimate goal of protecting the planet.
Those lessons laid the perfect groundwork for my work at Feedback, catalysing a global movement of citizens, governments and businesses working together to solve the global food waste scandal.”
“I've always admired Green Alliance for its intelligent positioning of the environmental case, incredible contacts and ability to reach the decision makers with persuasive and articulate arguments.
It's been a privilege to be on the Board for the past few years and I look forward to being even more closely involved in future.”
“Green Alliance consistently produce thought provoking, ambitious and progressive ideas.
As an organisation we particularly value their responsive and collaborative approach to working with members.”
“An advert for volunteers in the Guardian in 1995 led to me spending Friday afternoons away from my main job in parliament in the Covent Garden office. The first time I went in I risked the dodgy lift. A mistake I didn’t make a second time.
My job was to help produce the regular Parliamentary Newsletter. I would cut out bits of Hansard and glue them onto paper before spending a couple of frantic hours unjamming the photocopier. I’d then rush to the post box so it arrived on peoples desks on Monday. I loved it.
Green Alliance undoubtedly helped me get my first job in the environmental sector (at the Environmental Industry Commission). Now, almost 20 years on, I am director of an organisation very similar in structure to Green Alliance. A different policy area but similar challenges of getting policy makers to think for the long term.”
““It’s not a competition”. That’s the message I send here in the National Trust about the importance of working in partnership with other environmental groups to solve the challenges that face us all.
With so many threats to our wildlife, ecosystems and landscapes, organisations that care about the environment have to stick together - and the public, business and politicians will listen all the more carefully if we send our urgent message with one voice. That’s why Green Alliance is so important, and why I’m celebrating its 35th birthday.”
“I was standing at the rear of a packed Winter Gardens in October 1989 when Chris Patten, then secretary of state for the environment, announced the publication Britain’s first ever formal environment policy. Michael Heseltine, also standing at the back of the hall, looked my way and lifted both his thumbs.
Our Common Inheritance overcame intense resistance from the Department of the Environment. One of the best moments came when they argued that White Papers were only written to propose legislation. We pointed to the eight White Papers on buses that had never proposed any legislation.
We knew we had won when I got a call from the deputy secretary asking exactly what was it we wanted.”
“Green Alliance proved an invaluable spring board for my career in climate change policy. During an internship in 2007, I had to opportunity to undertake research contributing to government policy and was exposed to a huge range of stakeholders in the sector – the latter leading directly to my first job at WWF.
Having worked in Government for the last 6 years, I remain impressed at the quality of Green Alliance’s engagement with decision-makers and the influence of their work in government and with partner organisations, particularly for a relatively small charity.”
“I joined Green Alliance as a policy intern in September 2012. Fresh from a master’s, I was keen to move away from academia and understand policy. And Green Alliance didn’t disappoint.
“In the space of a few months I’d researched and written sections of reports, helped organise events, and even managed to get my head around the ONS website. All this experience helped me secure a job in the policy team at the British Ecological Society, and I’m now at the House of Commons Library, providing information and research briefings to MPs.”
“Successful politics requires two kinds of NGOs: radical campaigners to dramatise issues, mobilise publics, and pull the argument towards the good; and respectable advocates to help governments get as close to it as possible.
During the 2006-10 period Green Alliance played a vital role - in a clever, highly analytical partnership with Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB, climate camp activists and others - in helping the Labour government achieve a radical overhaul of UK climate change and energy policy.
As an adviser to the government, looking for economically and politically feasible solutions to difficult problems (from the targets in the Climate Change Act to the policy of banning new coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage) I was hugely helped by Green Alliance's careful research and sensitive co-ordination of the NGO community. Not many people saw much of this; Green Alliance tended not to get the public credit. But it was an important player in a key period of environmental policy making.”
“Thanks to a great team, Green Alliance built some fantastic new alliances and programmes in 2006-10. In retrospect it feels like a golden era for political action on the environment!
We were particularly successful in securing cross party support for carbon capture and storage, a critical technology in the fight to avert catastrophic climate change.”
“Congratulations to Green Alliance on reaching 35, during which time it has developed a unique position in policy leadership.
It is hugely respected for the quality and independence of its work and the clear and accessible manner in which its results are presented.
I am sure that it will continue to make an important contribution to the broad debate on energy and the environment for many years to come.”
“The first job I applied to was at Green Alliance. While I didn’t get the job, I was offered an internship (following some pleading with the team!). The internship was the first step in my journey to getting my first green job and along the way I was immersed in green thinking and positive environmental solutions.
The single most significant thing I have taken away from my time at Green Alliance, though, is definitely perseverance. This has proven to be an essential attribute for anyone working in the environmental sector as we continue to battle the status quo, and is something I have required in spades to launch Abundance and steer it through the first two years. Thank you Green Alliance!”
“What has Green Alliance ever done for me? I met Matthew Spencer on the train back from a party conference, and can say without exaggeration that I went from political despair to a sense of unbounded possibility in about 27 minutes.
Besides being a huge research resource, Green Alliance has a sound, practical vision for the future and a generous, non-partisan, agile, imaginative approach to making things happen.”
“Great debates and parties full of brainy and influential people (the brainy ones are usually Green Alliance staff)… innovative ways of getting messages across and promoting new ideas… guiding a disparate group of environmental NGOs with different aims and interests (green, but not very blobby) so that we speak to politicians in a coherent way…
Above all, Green Alliance combines clear thinking on major problems with the political sense to sell its solutions. It is a small but extraordinarily effective organisation. It’s laid the groundwork. The task for the next 35 years is to win.”
“Many congratulations to Green Alliance for clocking up 35 years. You have been, and remain, a very effective organisation, respected by all sides for your balance and intellectual rigour.
While there is quite rightly a role for high profile environmental groups, there is also a role for one which is more behind the scenes and which everyone feels comfortable engaging with. You have often been ahead of the game, for instance in linking the economy and the environment very effectively, and people like me always listen carefully to what you have to say.
You are also a trusted source of impartial advice. I look forward to providing a similarly supportive statement when you reach 50. And 60. And 70.”
“Green Alliance is one of the most influential think tanks in parliament. It provides very strong, evidence based research underpinning our need to be smart and efficient and resilient to climate change, while also increasing productivity. These are all the elements making up the green economy!”
“Many congratulations to Green Alliance on its 35 years.
The organisation has gone from strength to strength, played a pivotal role in working alongside politicians, civil society and business, campaigning for sustainable development and helping put this agenda front and centre of political debate.
I know that in the next 35 years and beyond Green Alliance will continue to provide this leadership, and I wish it every success.”
“Green Alliance has been an annoyingly persistent (but always calm, persuasive and rational) interlocutor throughout my years in Downing Street.
I doubt that those concerned with ecology, or those concerned with climate change, or indeed those concerned with our heritage, could have a better advocate in Westminster.”
“Green Alliance’s value to a large multinational such as Alstom is clear. Strong thought leadership, helping us to refine our own analysis of a range of long term policy challenges - from policies on infrastructure, technology and skills to strategic climate change debates.
And always skillfully illuminating the drivers behind political debates that have a major impact on our markets. Here’s to another 35 years.”