Free public lecture by Professor Roland Clift, University of Surrey

Thursday, 01 April 2010
1pm-2pm Case Room 2
Owen Glen Building
University of Auckland

Download: Presentation by Professor Roland Clift (2.52 MB PDF)


Roland Clift is Distinguished Professor of Environmental Technology and Founding Director of the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES). His research specialisation is in the broad field of Environmental System Analysis, including Life Cycle Assessment, Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Energy Systems.

Prior to his present appointment, Professor Clift was Head of the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Surrey for 10 years. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and of the Royal Society of Arts, and an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Waste and Environmental Management. He is also Visiting Professor in Environmental System Analysis at Chalmers University, Gothenburg, Sweden and a Director of the Merrill Lynch New Energy Technologies investment trust. In 2003, he was awarded the Sir Frank Whittle medal of the Royal Academy of Engineering “in recognition of an outstanding and sustained engineering achievement contributing to the well-being of the nation”.

In 2005 he completed a 9 year term as a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, and acted as Expert Adviser to an enquiry by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in “Energy Efficiency”. In 2006, he was appointed a member of the Science Advisory Council of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Professor Clift was honoured in the 2006 New Year’s Honours as a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the environment.


Whereas past efforts to move the economy onto the path of sustainable development have generally focused on improving the sustainability of producing goods and services, attention is increasingly turning to sustainable consumption. Life Cycle assessment (LCA) is one of the key tools in assessing the environmental (and social) aspects of consumption. Product labelling is one of the most conspicuous public applications of LCA, starting with the introduction of Ecolabels to identify products with good environmental performance and, more recently, labels to show specific aspects of environmental performance such as contribution to climate change, the so-called carbon footprint of a product. Evidence for real impact on consumer behaviour is slight, so that those driving the introduction of consumer labels are the retailers, who are the real “gate keepers” in the supply chains of consumer products. It is clear that the introduction of carbon labels has been driven by retailers, influenced at one remove by consumer pressure groups and NGOs, so that future pressures on producers will also be dictated by retailers. It remains unclear whether real control over supply chains and consumer spending will move from retailer to consumer. Serious improvements in the sustainability of consumption will depend on fundamental changes in behaviour. Increasing scarcity of some key materials, particularly metals, will also force new approaches to managing material use focussed on “closed loops”. This could be particularly problematic for a relatively small and isolated economy.