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20 questions with… Ben Goldsmith



Ben Goldsmith answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.

Goldsmith is an environmentalist, philanthropist and a partner at sustainable investment business WHEB, which he co-founded in 2002.

We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?

My mission is to demonstrate that investors and businesses can make more money being green than not, thereby unlocking private capital for building the clean, green world we all want to live in.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

David Attenborough.

How would your friends describe you?


What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?

Watching fox families playing at dawn in the woods behind our house on the edge of Richmond Park as a child.

Who or what inspires you?

My late uncle Teddy, my brother Zac, individuals that devote their lives to fighting for a greener, better world, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, all conservationists.

What really grinds your gears?

Plastic waste, particularly lying littered on beaches, in ditches, stuck up in trees and hedges, never to decompose or go away.

Describe your perfect day.

A warm, sunny spring day spent at my little farm in Somerset, outside, all day, walking, swimming, messing about, fishing, making things, eating and drinking, and perhaps a fire outside when it gets dark.

What do you see when you look out your window at home?

My neighbour sitting on his window sill in his boxer shorts having his morning cigarette and staring up at me as I take my morning pee.

What do you like spending your money on?

Travelling (with entourage of children, my girlfriend and friends) to interesting, exotic, naturally wonderful places.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?


What’s your favourite book?

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono.

What’s your favourite film?

The Shawshank Redemption.

You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?

Take back from the EU control of Britain’s fisheries, put in place a sound, science-driven quota system, create a network of “replenishment zones” or “marine protected areas” and sit back to watch nature rebound.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

Ray Mears, obviously. (This answer was changed without my consent, by my girlfriend.)

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?

The best: “Always trust your gut.” The worst: “You don’t need to wear a box batting in an indoor cricket match.”

What would you like to be doing five years from now?

Financing the green industrial revolution.

What’s your biggest regret?

Not having spent meaningful time working abroad somewhere interesting before starting my business and a family.

What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?

Join a top notch, world-changing green organisation as a regular cash supporter.

What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?

A broad recognition by business and governments that a healthy environment represents the “natural capital” which sits at the core of everything we do. This is our balance sheet. And it needs protecting so that it can continue delivering the income on which all economic activity depends.

What’s your favourite quote?

Jim Slater: “I never repeat gossip… so listen carefully.”

Ben Goldsmith is a partner at sustainable investment business WHEB.

Further reading:

Ben Goldsmith on fixing the environmental crisis through philanthropy

Green versus grey infrastructure

The long goodbye to fossil fuel subsidies

Green Dragon: Ben Goldsmith

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013


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