Episode #18: Beccy Speight – Why ancient woodland matters for the future

22 January 2019

Beccy Speight

In this episode, I talk to Beccy Speight, the chief executive of the Woodland Trust.

Beccy is an energetic champion for practical environmental change. She is an articulate campaigner and an inspiring leader, drawing from her years of business experience and her management of key parts of the National Trust estates. 

In this interview we talk about how she got to where she is, and the lessons she learned along the way. And we get into some detail as to why the preservation of ancient woodlands is so important, and why we need to up the ambition on the country’s planned tree-planting.

Beccy is an inspiring example of what can be achieved when people with leadership skills and solid business nous turn towards tackling a key social or environmental issue. I learned a huge amount in our discussion and I think you will too.

Show notes

What did the world look like to the young Beccy as she left school and faced the world as a young adult? (1:34)

How Beccy ended up moving to London to work for a management consultant led by a “mad genius” (4:00)

Were there any foreshadows in those early times of the values that would become such a feature of Beccy’s work later on? (5:28)

Did she see her potential future as being solidly in the private sector at that point? (6:37)

Why Beccy ended up trying again in joining the National Trust for a challenging job that stretched her from the start (7:50)

The early challenges of running a major National Trust property (9:51)

How Beccy pushed for more of a campaigning edge at the National Trust and why cause-driven people are often frustrated in their early career (11:03)

Beccy’s arrival at the Woodland Trust, and what she found when she got there (14:55)

The purpose and the origin of the Woodland Trust (16:35)

Why the interest in holding onto ancient woodland isn’t just about sentimentality (19:45)

What are the main causes of destruction of ancient woodland? (23:00)

The impacts on woodland from climate change (24:43)

How resilient will our national species be in the face of the changes? (26:13)

The best ways to go about increasing forest cover in a way to maximise the benefits (29:03)

What are the chances of upping the ambition on tree-planting? (31:29)

 The role that the private sector can play (33:00)

Beccy’s message to the aspiring sustainability leaders in business (33:51)

The opportunities and dangers for the agenda from the forthcoming Brexit conclusion (35:33)

The other work the Woodland Trust does with people, in schools and woodland users – and generally pushing the issues up the political agenda (37:36)

Beccy’s personal purpose (39:10)

One practical change Beccy would want to bring about before hanging up her gloves (39:55)

Advice Beccy would give to her younger self (40:35)

Two impressive change-makers Beccy has been inspired by (41:01)

A mistake that led to some better outcome or personal growth (43:10)

A habit Beccy would like to change (44:11)

A book that has had a powerful impact on Beccy’s life (44:30)

Advice Beccy would give young people who are starting out and what to be successful whilst also making a positive impact in the world (46:00)



Beccy on twitter 

The Woodland Trust website 

What has nature ever done for us? Tony Juniper 

Beccy Speight will be appearing on Day Two of edie's Sustainability Leaders Forum next month, to discuss what the future of business leadership in regards to sustainability, CSR and energy will look like.

Use code MALLEN20 when you register to receive 20% off your ticket price.