The captain of this blazing trimaran ocean racer certainly is a frontrunner, literally and figuratively. On November 28, 2004, Ellen McArthur set sail on her trimaran for a record attempt of solo sailing non-stop around the world.  After 71 days and some hours, she had broken the existing record. She was 28 years old.

Ellen MacArthur

After breaking the solo racing world record in 2005, she founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation In 2009, which promotes the circular economy. It does this by working with businesses, policymakers, and academics. By now the foundation is the leading institute in this field. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a founding member and partner of the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy [PACE], which was launched out of the World Economic Forum.

There are so many more individuals with the vision, courage, and perseverance necessary to challenge the status quo. And who inspire their organizations and so many around them to make the transition happen to an equitable, sustainable economy that works for all.

Cathy Zoi

CEO of EVgo [the US's largest fast-charging network for electric vehicles] and co-founder and Executive Chairman of Odyssey Energy, a software start-up helping to bring distributed, renewable electricity to communities and businesses in emerging economies.

Ilham Kadri

A French-Moroccan business executive with a scientific background. Since March 1, 2019, she has been the CEO, chairwoman of the Executive Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of Solvay, a Belgian chemicals company.

Ray Anderson

Visionary founder and chairman of Interface Inc., one of the world's largest manufacturers of modular carpets for commercial and residential applications and a leading producer of commercial broadloom and commercial fabrics. Ray most unfortunately passed away in 2011.

Christiana Figueres

As executive secretary of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016, Figueres was instrumental in leading the negotiations that ultimately led to the unanimous acceptance of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Paul Polman

Chief Executive Officer of Unilever from 2009 – 2018. Under Polman's inspirational leadership, the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan was launched with the objective to decouple its growth from its overall environmental footprint and improve its social impact simultaneously.

Ilham Kadri

Ilham Kadri wants to revolutionize the chemicals industry. She is a woman on a mission and one of the world’s most powerful business leaders according to Fortune Magazine. Her mandate, the holy grail of businesses these days, is to set Solvay firmly on the path of sustainability whilst ensuring profitability.

Paul Polman

After his retirement, Polman co-founded IMAGINE, a social venture accelerating business leadership to achieve the SDG´s. He is also Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce, The B Team, Saïd Business School and The Valuable 500, and Vice-Chair of the U.N. Global Compact.

This is an interview about leading the transition of Unilever.

Christiana Fugueres

Figueres is still at the center of the climate change movement with Mission 2020, a self-described “extended network” of diplomats, strategists, and campaigners. The groups selected her for her leadership in bringing together governments, corporations, investors, communities of faith, and nonprofit groups to achieve a historic global climate change agreement.

Ray Anderson

The death of Ray Anderson in 2011 has led to sad reactions worldwide. His visionary and determined leadership has inspired many, and far beyond his successful endeavor. In this 7 minute video, he talks about the start of his journey of discovery with Interface.

Cathy Zoi

In the past, Zoi has been Chief of Staff in the White House Office on Environmental Policy in the Clinton-Gore administration. She was a manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA)], where she pioneered the Energy Star Program. She held many other high-level management positions in the energy sector. At Stanford University in 2012, she taught the course “Energy in Transition: Technology, Policy, and Politics”.

I had the privilege to have personally met several passionate, visionary, and interesting personalities in the field of sustainable development. These were extremely educational and inspiring contacts. I would like to mention some of them here:

Claude Fussler

I met Claude Fussler when he was Executive Vice President for Dow Chemical Europe. Nowadays he helps his wife Martina to run their farming, forestry, and tourism estate in Provence. Together they have committed to zero carbon. They produce most of their electricity and heat from solar, apply the most energy-efficient technologies and behaviors, and converted to electrical mobility. Their next project is to seduce their guests to move around on bikes while vacationing.

John Elkington

The book "Cannibals with Forks", published by John Elkington in 1997, has had a major impact worldwide. In it, he launched the now-famous concept of the "triple bottom line". Elkington is an author of bestsellers and a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable capitalism. Currently, he is a Founding Partner of Volans. His latest book is Green Swans. His website tracks the evolution of his role as an “Ambassador from the Future.”

Wouter van Dieren

Wouter van Dieren cannot be defined simplistically: a.o. author, television producer, and erudite sustainability expert. As a visionary environmental activist in the 1970s and beyond, he already saw the need to involve top business executives in developing solutions for complex sustainability issues. Van Dieren is a member of the Club of Rome.

Robert Rubinstein

Robert Rubinstein founded his Triple Bottom Line Investing Group already in 1998. Amongst others, he organized successful international conferences about Environmental and Social Governance and Impact Investing. He was at least 15 years ahead of his time.

Anita Roddick

British entrepreneur, human rights activist, and environmental campaigner, founder of The Body Shop. She was 40 years ahead of her time, ridiculed by mainstream business. Highly successful. She passed away in 2007. I wish to honor her here.

Marjan Minnesma

Marjan Minnesma is co-founder and entrepreneurial director of the Urgenda Foundation, an NGO that plays an important role in bringing about the Dutch energy transition. For example, purchasing a large number of solar panels directly from China [certainly not without risk], led to a price breakthrough in the Dutch market at the time. She and her organization gained worldwide fame through the successful 2015 lawsuit against the Dutch state demanding a more active climate and energy policy. Photo: Josje Deekens

Fritjof Capra

Fritjof Capra is a scientist, educator, activist, and author of many international bestsellers that connect conceptual changes in science with broader changes in worldview and values in society. His "Tao of Physics" made a deep impression on me. It explores how modern physics changes our worldview from a mechanistic to a holistic and ecological one. It is still in print in more than 40 editions worldwide. His most recent book is “The Systems View of Life”, co-authored with Pier Luigi Luisi. Highly recommended. Photo: Basso Cannarsa

Mikhail Gorbachev

As a courageous and visionary statesman, I admired him deeply back in the 1980s. And I still do. Later, after his resignation in December 1991, I became involved with his think tank, the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow. I ended up there in discussions with his staff about the goals, strategy, and structure of the idea put forward by Gorbachev to establish the Green Cross - a new international environmental organization. I thought it was a dismal plan, but it forced me to give my ideas about a transition to a sustainable society clearer content and focus.

Annemieke Roobeek

Rarely have I met someone with the versatility, decisiveness, and energy like Annemieke Roobeek, professor of Strategy and Transformation Management at Nyenrode University. She is also a successful entrepreneur and founder of various ventures, a designer of business ecosystems around challenging issues, such as Feeding Megacities, a healthy society, and the circular economy. She is a member of the supervisory board of several large corporations. She is a popular speaker. Photo: Mark van den Brink

Mark Dubrulle

Mark Dubrulle has been involved in environmental activism and environmental protection for 50 years. He has been a [co-]founder of several environmental, political, and cultural organizations. He started his consultancy in 1986, specializing in environmental management strategies & analyses, and European affairs. He lectured at several universities in Belgium, France, Italy, and the U.K. He is President emeritus of the Club of Rome EU Chapter [Executive President from 2010 - 2019].