King Charles III – from passionate campaigner to The Climate King 

On Saturday at 11am in Westminster Abbey the service will begin for the King’s Coronation.

For many including myself this will be the first coronation seen and it is sure to be a spectacular event. No matter if you’re a royalist or not we have seen in recent years how royal celebrations have brought the country together. Many are sceptical as to whether King Charles will attract the same loyalty as his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, but one thing is for sure, he will be different. 

Many described the former Prince Charles decades ago as “eccentric” and “dotty” but looking back, he pioneered awareness for climate change. He put pressure on world leaders and CEOs in the private sector to accelerate their efforts in all things environmental. Some of this may have been overshadowed over the years by personal conflicts, however he has never wavered from his mission to protect our planet. 

As early as 1969, the former young Prince of Wales wrote a letter to Harold Wilson, our Prime Minister at the time, about his concern over salmon stocks in the Scottish rivers. Then a year later he made an inspirational speech warning of the dangers of pollution and how we needed to urgently deal with the cost of cleaning up pollution, as well as preventing it in the first place. If only we had listened and acted sooner.  

Despite the lack of global action, the former Prince never gave up. His passion for the great outdoors started from a very young age, this was when he developed an interest in farming. Then in the 1980’s Charles began to transform Highgrove, his Gloucestershire estate into an organic farm. This was long before organic became popular and the principles truly understood by the general public, however despite this Highgrove was a huge success. Over time Highgrove became the business known Duchy Organic which is now a recognised brand sold in Waitrose. 

Highgrove House – Image: Chris Jackson /

A patron of sustainability causes

As well as creating his own organic haven, Charles is patron to many associations linked to climate change and sustainability including Surfers Against Sewage and The Campaign for Wool. He is not just a patron by name but a true supporter. As an active surfer and lover of the sea Charles spoke out publicly in the 1980’s about the UK dumping sewage into the North Sea. He is also fully supportive of The Campaign for Wool’s focus on the biodegradability of wool which means it doesn’t culminate in our oceans or landfill. 

In his quest to do even more, the former Prince Charles launched The Sustainable Markets Initiative in 2020. This initiative was aimed at kickstarting the private sector into action focusing on a more sustainable future. Today more the 500 global CEOs are part of this initiative including some of the world’s largest financial institutions. The only bigger global sustainability stage is COP (Conference of the Parties) attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). So when COP26 was held in Glasgow in 2021, there was only one person to open the conference. Addressing world leaders, Charles  issued an urgent call to action:

I can only urge you, as the world’s decision-makers, to find practical ways of overcoming differences so we can all get down to work, together, to rescue this precious planet and save the threatened future of our young people.

From King Charles’ COP26 opening speech

For me this says it all. Collaboration really is the key and we need to find ways to break down the competition barriers and do the right thing TOGETHER. 

Image: World Economic Forum

The politics of sustainability

On the eve of the coronation our King is constrained to be politically neutral, however passion doesn’t die and even this week he has vowed to remain true to constitutional practices. I hope King Charles doesn’t see environment and conservation as political and continues his mission but either way I am sure there will be many ‘active discussions’ with our Prime Minister on what we can do better.  

There are many views on the coronation celebrations and public opinion is split on the future significance and role of our Royal family. This becomes even more emotive as we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis and the cost of the coronation celebrations are undisclosed but estimated by the UK media to be somewhere between £50 million and +£100 million. So what value does the coronation bring to the UK, the wider commonwealth and around the world? I’m not sure I can answer that question but I do believe our King brings with him a desire for change, climate change.  

Even in the coronation celebrations, sustainability is at the forefront of the King’s considerations. Here are some of the gestures that definitely show a sign of our King’s beliefs in recycling and re-use: 

  • Invitations to the coronation were printed on recycled card 
  • Re-using vestments like the coronation glove 
  • Going against tradition and not having new, King Charles will be wearing his grandfather’s ‘Colobium Sindonis’ and sword belt 
  • Wearing the ‘supertunica’, a full length coat of gold silk made for King George V 
  • Chairs of Estate made for Queen Elizabeth II will be used in the ceremony 
  • Central St Edward’s chair made over 700 years ago will also feature in the ceremony 

What this means for the future is yet to be unravelled, as monarch King Charles will not be able to air his views quite so openly, however I very much hope his passion for sustainability and climate change are still be seen and heard by many. He may however choose to pass this mantle to his eldest son, Prince William, who founded The Earthshot Prize in 2020 with the mission to “urgently encourage innovative solutions to help put the world firmly on a trajectory towards a stable climate, where communities, oceans and biodiversity thrive in harmony by 2030”. 

However, not for the first time King Charles could break with tradition and continue on his mission which he started well over 50 years ago. 

I am definitely not from royal decent but I do share a passion for the great outdoors which I too developed at a very young age. The King and I share a mission, to protect our planet and educate all to raise awareness and make a meaningful difference. For obvious reasons our King has a much greater voice heard worldwide but this should not deter us from fighting the same fight and raising awareness. The former Prince Charles has been described as a ‘one person NGO’ and I couldn’t agree more, a true sustainability pioneer.

I just wish the world had been ready to hear his pleas decades ago and then we might not face the same challenges as we do today. 

Gillian Garside-Wight, Aura

Congratulations on your coronation Your Royal Highness, although you may not be able to publicly challenge world leaders on sustainability and climate change in the same way, I am sure your passion will not fade. Keep flying the sustainable flag Sir! 

Key takeouts 

  1. Don’t be afraid to make a stance, even if the vast majority are not ready to hear it 
  1. Use your influence to it’s full potential, no matter how big or small your audience 
  1. Support others in their causes, together we can make a difference 
  1. Sustainability should be built into everything you do, not bolted on 
  1. Your role and duties may change over time but passion for your beliefs will continue 
Gillian Garside-Wight Consulting Director

About the Author

Gill leads our consulting offer, with over 20 years’ experience in the packaging industry, strategically developing packaging strategies, roadmaps and packaging solutions to meet the needs of clients, consumers and the planet. She has worked with many global retailers and household brands on projects spanning sustainability and innovation to supply chain optimization. With a real passion for sustainability, her quest is to educate, influence and drive a circular economy wherever possible while complementing creativity, technical functionality and commercial realities.

Gill grew up on a tiny island in Scotland and this is where her passion for sustainability started. She loves nothing more than (trying) to grow her own veg and exploring nature with her son.