Episode #37: Brendan May – Challenging businesses to change for good

25 June 2019

Brendan May

In this episode, I talk to Brendan May, chairman and founder of Robertsbridge, the sustainability strategy agency.

Brendan was formerly chief executive of the Marine Stewardship Council, and then managing director of Planet 2050, Weber Shandwick’s global sustainability practice.

In this interview, we talk about how he got to where he is and what he learned along the way. We talk about effective campaigning in an era of polarised politics, sustainability and climate change and a range of other very current issues.

Brendan is a thoughtful and passionate advocate, and I think you’ll get a huge amount from this interview

Show notes

What did the world look like to the young Brendan May when he left school and looked ahead to adult life? (1:42)

Brendan’s early exposure to politics and how it led him into the environment as an issue (3:26)

The value of political pragmatism (7:43)

Brendan’s move to the Marine Stewardship Council, and the earliest priorities to make it a powerful organisation for marine sustainability (9:15)

What did Brendan learn about what worked in promoting the MSC mission? (12:50)

Is Brendan optimistic or pessimistic about the future of sustainability in the oceans? (14:29)

The move to Weber Shandwick for an early version of sustainability consultancy (16:40)

What was the state of practice at that point? (18:09)

The specific features of the Rainforest Alliance, and the tension between different NGOs? (20:20)

Are the pragmatists really winning? Can we be united again in the social media age? (22:49)

How could you rebuild consensus on climate change by reframing the policy choices to be more attractive (27:07)

Are we having to fight back because of decades of flawed environmental campaigning? (30:00)

Is there a distinction between companies doing the right thing and the rise of so-called “woke corporations” (35:58)

The creation of Robertsbridge, and why it’s not a standard consultancy (42:40)

The rise of ‘flash-mob style’ activism and the challenge to the old model of NGO campaigning (47:37)

The downside of leaderless campaign movements and why they can perform a service in spite of it (51:02)

What is Brendan’s personal purpose? (52:15)

What’s one practical change Brendan would like to bring about before hanging up his gloves (52:36)

Advice Brendan would give to his younger self (53:13)

An impressive change maker Brendan has been inspired by (53:27)

A mistake Brendan made that led to a better outcome or personal growth (54:11)

A habit Brendan would like to change (54:43)

A book that influenced Brendan’s thinking (57:07)

Advice Brendan would give to young would-be change makers starting out (57:45)


Brendan on twitter https://twitter.com/bmay

Brendan on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/brendan-may-82174919/

Robertsbridge website https://www.robertsbridgegroup.com


Everything is Connected: The Power of Music, Daniel Barenboim https://www.amazon.co.uk/Everything-Connected-Power-Daniel-Barenboim/dp/0753825945/