Speech – 6th Roland Clift Lecture, inaugurating the Global Challenges Forum: Welcome Address, 15 May 2019

Distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen, good evening to you all, and a very warm welcome to the 6th Roland Clift Lecture, a flagship event of the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (the CES).

We are honoured to have Joanna Yarrow as our guest speaker this evening. Joanna is one of the UK’s leading experts on sustainability, and the newly appointed Head of Sustainable and Healthy Living at Ikea Group.

CES colleagues led by Ian Christie have worked collaboratively with Joanna on IKEA’s outstanding sustainability programmes, with support from our Practitioner Doctorate Programme and the sustainability charity Hubbub.  We will be hearing tonight how this work has impacted on both IKEA’s strategy and our own academic thinking and research – to the great benefit of both organisations.

We are especially delighted to announce that tonight’s lecture inaugurates the University’s new Global Challenges Forum.

The Forum will put Surrey at the forefront of public debate on the most urgent issues facing the world today. With topics ranging across the social sciences, the Forum gathers several popular University lecture series under a single banner of common synergies and shared goals, to create an inclusive ongoing conversation.

The next lecture in the Global Challenges Forum, ‘Being Human’, addresses the important interface between ethics and science.

This new Forum was funded by philanthropic giving, with money raised through The Chancellor’s 50th Anniversary Appeal. This is significant, because it shows how we all can play a role in making a difference – in small and grand ways, as individuals and institutions, as consumers and retailers – in moving toward a better and properly sustainable future.

Dr Steve Waygood set the bar very high in last year’s Roland Clift Lecture, when he spoke about our personal responsibility to make sustainable and ethical investment choices. We also need to buy things and services in the same way – and we are really only just beginning to understand how to do this. We are immensely fortunate to have Joanna Yarrow’s experience to guide us — and privileged to have her insight into current thinking on ‘industrial ecology’ and sustainable systems.

In this regard, we are very proud of CES’s leading research and teaching in this area, which is closely aligned with the first two of the University’s broader Strategic Research Themes – Sustainability and Urban Living.  Research in these areas is critical to measuring the environmental impact of development, and deciding how we manage it.

Issues of Environment and Sustainability are the two most critical drivers of how we live on this Earth and how we leave it to future generations. Our innovative solutions will re-define industries, economies and sectors. Old habits die hard, and new habits demand tenacity, imagination and resourcefulness. Sustainability will have to be built into everything we do, and success will require a great deal from leaders and citizens alike.

Our mission as a university is to serve humanity through education and research. I am very pleased to note that the latest THE Impact ranking based on UN Sustainable Development Goals has given Surrey a resounding endorsement, by placing us among the top 100 universities in the world.  And tonight’s lecture is one important part of our commitment to the education and practice of sustainability.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Joanna Yarrow to deliver the 6th Roland Clift Lecture.