Described by the The Times as a ‘suave political insider’ John Sauven, 55, trained as an economist before setting up his own printing company and working in publishing. He joined Greenpeace in the early nineties and has been executive director since September 2007.
Before that he was the director responsible for Greenpeace communications and specialized on solutions and working with business.
With a background in forests he was instrumental in getting protection for the Great Bear temperate rainforest on the west coast of Canada. It was an epic battle, mostly fought in the marketplace between logging companies, timber traders and their retail customers in Europe and North America. It also involved pushing the industry as a whole to accept Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified products that guaranteed legal and sustainable products, now widely recognised in both the timber and paper sectors as the mark of sustainability.
It was from the lessons learnt in the Great Bear campaign that similar tactics were used elsewhere including in Indonesia, the Congo in central Africa and the Amazon. John Sauven coordinated the international campaign to secure a moratorium on further destruction of the Amazon by soya producers. It involved eventually bringing together a huge alliance of US and European mulitinationals (most notably McDonalds) along with Brazilian counterparts involved in the soya producing, commodity trading and food retailing sectors. It was one of Greenpeace's most successful campaigns to protect large areas of the world's last intact rainforests providing both climate and biodiversity protection.
He also helped develop Greenpeace's "Greenfreeze" campaign (greenfreeze technology is now a global refrigeration industry standard) to protect the ozone layer from disappearing because of our use of CFCs and other ozone layer destroying chemicals. John’s recent highlights include leading activists in the invasion of the Land Rover factory – an action credited by the Financial Times with changing the 4x4 industry in the UK. John also famously bought a plot of land to in the path of the proposed Heathrow third runway.
John Sauven believes Greenpeace's ongoing work on solutions with companies may win fewer headlines, but the effort to evolve new, more sustainable business models is where the future will be won or lost. This is particularly the case with climate change where cleaner, more efficient products, processes and ways of producing energy need to be brought to market by government regulation and company innovation.