Annual Roland Clift Lecture 2022 – Welcome

Good evening, everyone. 

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the University of Surrey on this very special evening. 

Thirty years ago, our University opened the multidisciplinary Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) since when it has grown into a centre of excellence – that has a great international reputation.

Its success was founded on the University’s multidisciplinary approach to finding practical solutions – in this case in the fields of environmental sustainability and new approaches to sustainable development.

I’m proud to say that very same ethos thrives today.

Recently, we have established a pan-university institute, for sustainability, that brings together expertise from a large number of disciplines from science and engineering, to social and health sciences. 

Our new institute is a kind of synthesis centre, drawing on our strengths within the three faculties at Surrey, to develop solutions to the global challenges we face as a society.

I’m pleased to say that – with perfect synergy – tonight’s event is co-hosted by CES and the University’s new Institute for Sustainability (IfS).

A little later Professor Lorenzo Fioramonti, who joined Surrey in September as the IFS’s first Director, will share his vision for the Institute.

Before then, tonight’s lecture – ‘A Journey in Sustainability – Looking backwards and ahead’ will be given by Roland Clift himself, the Founder of CES, who has travelled from Canada to be here tonight.

In a moment, current CES Director Professor Richard Murphy will formally introduce Professor Clift but before he does so, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Roland and his pioneering work.

Professor Clift is a pioneer whose work and broad contributions on advisory bodies to governments and commercial companies has had a significant global impact.

A few years ago, he spoke about his ‘Road to Damascus’ moment in 1991 when he met Professor Walter Stahel, a pioneer of the Circular Economy, at a conference in California.

By his own admission, Roland had been – in his own words – “getting increasingly unhappy with addressing environmental problems just by trying to develop new technologies.”

He returned to Surrey after hearing Walter speak with a fresh perspective – a bigger perspective – namely, that the value of a technology is determined at least as much by the system and context in which it is used as by its techno-economic performance.”

This anecdote is a reminder of how important it is to escape the minutiae of research that we all get lost in at one point or another, and step back and see the bigger picture.

Roland, of course, became a leading thinker in industrial ecology and sustainability and it gives me great pleasure to now hand over to Professor Murphy to explain how…