As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the current year and the one to come. This year has been one in which the public consciousness has become alert to the environmental problems we face – from microplastics to agrochemicals. Meanwhile, the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman brothers saw many consider where we’re at with banking and where we want to go.
To mark the end of the year, we asked customers and friends – such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Natalie Fee and Guy Singh-Watson – for their reflections on 2018 and their predictions for 2019. Find out what key figures in sectors including food, farming and environmental protection have to say.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, TV chef, sustainability champion and owner of River Cottage
“I feel like it’s a been a big year for big conversations about food – and this is no bad thing. Food is, rightly, a provocative subject. Often the conversation has centred around veganism – and that’s a good place for it to go. I’m not a vegan but I’ve been telling anyone who’s listening, for some time now, that collectively we all need to eat much less meat, fish and dairy – for the good of the planet, for the welfare of our farm animals and for the benefit of our health.
“Plants should therefore be front and centre, not just for vegans and vegetarians, but for omnivores too. And we will always have time for vegans and vegetarians at River Cottage, because we always have time for people with principles about food. And because we love cooking and eating plants!”
Find out more about River Cottage
Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage
“This year has been an incredible ride on plastic campaigning. We’ve managed to engage and empower hundreds of thousands of citizens to take action with Surfers Against Sewage, from the beach front to the front benches of Parliament. Next year, we have some big plans for plastic pollution. We’ll increasingly use this highly tangible gateway issue to take the public on a journey through global issues, from climate change to the need to protect great swathes of our ocean for the future health of people and planet.”
Find out more about Surfers Against Sewage
Kate Arnell, TV presenter and eco-blogger
“I always feel like starting a new year’s resolution in the depths of winter is a bit of a challenge, but I think it's a great time to set intentions for the year ahead and consider what aligns with your values. For me, living a zero-waste lifestyle is largely about habit change – remembering to use reusables, refusing disposables and planning ahead a little.
“These changes don't happen overnight but start practising as soon as possible and, like any new habit, it soon becomes second nature. Finally, begin with the easy stuff – it sets you up for little wins and builds confidence to later tackle the bigger tasks.”
Find out more about Kate Arnell
Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford
“More conventional farmers have been willing to shake my hand in 2018; as the environmental and economic sustainability of chemical farming becomes increasingly questioned and alternatives sought. Not many are about to follow my path as a committed organic grower, but more and more are questioning their own paths and acknowledging that there are important lessons to be learned from organic farming, especially about soil health.
“Ten, or even five years ago, a doctor enthusing about the importance of our gut biome to human health would have been ostracised; today it’s deemed indisputable by the mainstream. Acknowledgement of the importance of a healthy soil biome is on the same trajectory; within the next five years it will be acknowledged that the future of us and our planet depends on it.
“The grip of Sygenta, Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and Dupont on global agriculture is weakening as farmers question and take back control. Being conservative should not mean being a pawn of an agrochemical company. It should mean looking after your soil.”
Mya-Rose Craig (AKA Birdgirl), environmentalist and ornithologist
“2018 has been pivotal for the nature, conservation and the environment sectors understanding the need for diversity. My message went out to thousands through Chris Packham’s People’s Manifesto for Wildlife and People’s Walk for Wildlife in September. The response has been fantastic, including from those in Parliament. I hope that 2019 will be the year that diversity becomes a priority. Without everyone working together, we’ll not succeed in making the UK sustainable or carbon neutral and so save our planet.”
Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea
“This year so much that we’ve been working on has come to fruition. Who would have thought that single-use plastics would have finally reached people’s consciousness in the way they did? In the background though we have a huge industry – with close links to the fossil fuel sector – that is failing to take a responsible approach to plastic production and products.
“As a Triodos customer, I love knowing that my savings and my business account aren’t supporting the type of businesses that produce and promote single-use plastics. In 2019, our campaigning on this issue will continue in earnest. For me, it’ll also be an exciting one as I have a new book due to be published, called How to Save the World for Free!”
Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association
“It’s been a fascinating year. The UK’s decision to leave the EU has presented us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape our food, farming and countryside policy into one that puts public health and the natural environment centre stage. It does feel as though this is the time for the Soil Association and our many partners to step up and present the solutions we have worked on over the decades, in a bold and compelling way.
“I have no doubt that together we can make the most of this opportunity to pioneer a better world for all of us. I’m excited, and naturally rather nervous, given current Brexit chaos, to see what the coming year will bring.”
Bevis Watts, managing director at Triodos Bank UK
"This year marked 10 years on from the financial crisis, giving us an opportune moment to pause, reflect and take stock of whether our current banking system is serving the needs of society and helping to create a fair and sustainable future for all of us.
“Many people are still feeling disconnected from the values of the bank they are with. But at Triodos we offer the chance for people to see their money directed into things that benefit them, their community and society in the long term.
“Alongside our existing range of current account, saving and investing options, I was proud that we also became the first regulated bank in the UK to launch our own crowdfunding platform and an Innovative Finance ISA. Next year, we are committed to keep financing change in the UK and campaigning to change banking for the better – watch this space!”
John Steel, CEO of Cafédirect
“We haven’t done enough, but let’s not dwell. Let’s be optimistic. 2018 was full of uncertainty, but in uncertain times humanity is at its strongest. More and more, it feels like people see the value of caring - for each other and for the planet. Although there is much to do, much is being done. On every day in 2019 let’s take a step in the right direction. At last it feels like the time is now. Let’s make sure it’s not too late.”
David Sproxton, co-founder and executive chairman, Aardman
“We are living in very turbulent times, politically, socially and economically, with people feeling insecure and uncertain. How can we, as small businesses, reduce these concerns and give people a sense of purpose and certainty? Thinking locally, even running businesses with an international outlook, helps considerably.
“How can we make our own employees feel more secure in their work and have a sense of purpose? Can we use more local supply chains, and can we help build the skills we need from the locality? Are there financial mechanisms, like the Bristol Pound, which might contribute to these aims? Are there financial institutions to engage with who hold similar values to our own businesses, who are not set on a course to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients? Triodos is a different sort of bank to the conventional big institutions and could well be a glimmer of hope in this age of uncertainty.”
Fran Boiat, executive director at Positive Money
“2018 was a critical year. September marked a full decade since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a pivotal moment in a global financial crisis, the effects of which we are still reeling from today. It was our chance to raise awareness of the systemic change needed in the money and banking system so that it can support a fair, sustainable, and democratic economy. The Change Finance campaign really built momentum. And it is not just about the UK, so I was pleased that Positive Money Europe launched in 2018, and in 2019 we will launch Positive Money US. The stakes are high, but if the last ten years have taught us anything, it’s that if we aren’t in the game, we definitely can’t change things.”
Matthew Clayton, managing director, Thrive Renewables
“The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns that we have just 12 years to turn the climate change ‘supertanker’ around. Additionally, it places responsibility for action, not just with governments and international companies, but with us, individuals. While this is a terrifying call to action, it validates Thrive’s mission, and further motivates us to continue to provide individuals with a way to come together and deliver positive impact.
“At Thrive, we are determined to play our part in transforming the UK’s energy system to become cleaner and smarter. In 2019 we will be absolutely focused on delivering new sustainable energy capacity for the UK, without support from the government. We will be working with communities and businesses to install renewable generation, energy storage and even demand management systems – lowering the cost of energy and making more green electricity available to everyone on the grid.”