From statement sustainable fashion displays to social media leverage and charity support, the British Monarchy (and royalty the world over) are putting their names, and influence, behind sustainable initiatives. This past week, celebrities joined Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, on the green carpet to celebrate the first winners of the ambitious Earthshot Prize — an award launched by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to incentivize the discovery of solutions to the climate crisis and other urgent environmental challenges. The five winners received grants of £1 million each towards the companies or causes, with the goal to award this same prize to five new winners each year until 2030.
The Cambridges were not the only Royal news in the impact world this week. Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, joined sustainable investment manager Ethic as ‘Impact Partners’, hoping to add some awareness to the democratization of investing and the opportunities to effect global change through an investment lens.
While these initiatives from the younger generations of Royals may be glamourous and (hopefully) inspiring, some older members of the Royal Family have been focused on sustainability issues for many decades. Prince Charles has been using his name to highlight environmental causes for many decades, supporting a plethora of environmental charities, and pushing the organic farming movement in the U.K. In 2019, he launched the Sustainable Markets Initiative in 2019, aiming to facilitate and collaborate around the sustainable transition of the private sector. Before him, Prince Phillip was instrumental in founding the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading independent conservation organization.
The British Royals are generally doing well in terms of a public sustainability image. However, their unique position as multi-generational family business between politicians, the private sector, citizens of their respective countries, and as significant owners of private land and enterprise, means that they really can use this birthright to bring together disparate factions around these issues. At the same time, they can generally afford to take “the long view”, having operated across many centuries and adapted their “Firm” to many new social and economic paradigms.
As the very existence of institutionalized monarchy is continuously called into question given the evolution of democracy and royal families’ series of scandals, perhaps their fight for the just cause of the environment is just an easy PR win. However, the combination of social media and the current global fascination with royalty (possibly thanks to a few high-profile weddings and televised spill-all interviews) is creating an opportunity for the rising generation of royals to shine a spotlight on the sustainable transition.
Hayley R. Mole, Senior Associate
(Coincidently H.R.M., Her Royal Majesty)
The five Earthshot prize winners of the past week will receive grant funding that can help them reshape the way we address some massive global challenges within each of the five “Earthshots”: 1) Protect & Restore Nature, 2) Clean Our Air, 3) Revive Our Oceans, 4) Build a Waste-Free World, 5) Fix Our Climate. The winners include conservationists in the Republic of Costa Rica, biofuel agri-tech entrepreneurs in India, coral restorationists in the Bahamas, urban food waste solutions in Milan and a Thai-German-Italian hydrogen fuel team.
So, what more can kings, queens, princes and princesses do? The British Royals, as the largest private landowners in the U.K., could use their custodianship of these vast estates to really push boundaries on what can be achieved in rewilding, biodiversity protection and sustainable agriculture. And maybe, as families that generally spend a fair amount of time traveling across their countries (and the world), they can set a precedent on how they’re shifting these movements towards sustainability. If the Royals can’t walk the talk with their vast resources, we can’t really expect anyone else to.
The British Royals but their names behind the 2019 Netflix docuseries, Our Planet, hosting the global premier at the Natural History Museum in London. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, this eight-part series was four years in the making, highlighting the drastic threats linked to climate change.
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