OBE Environmentalist and founder of Friends of the Earth UK
Born: 13 August, 1946, in Bath.
Died: 11 December, 2005, in London, aged 59.
RICHARD Sandbrook was an inspiring environmentalist who, long before it was politically correct, campaigned for a cleaner planet. He was always a practical and a realist ecologist seeking consensus rather than confrontation. Sandbrook was not someone who disrupted everyday life with high-profile demonstrations but preferred to lobby governments, business and charities. Successive Foreign Secretaries have been briefed by him and have gone on record as to the succinct and reasoned case he presented. Sandbrook also advised the Prince of Wales on various aspects of his speeches and, especially, the television documentary Prince Charles made in 1989.
John Richard Sandbrook was the son of a naval officer and read biology at East Anglia University. He was president of the Students' Union but resigned when some rowdy partygoers would not apologise for some high jinks in a local pub. Sandbrook was then apprenticed to the accountants Arthur Anderson but left to found the UK branch of Friends of the Earth in 1974. As its director, he instigated several initiatives that were instrumental in educating Britain into a friendlier attitude towards environmental issues.
Sandbrook campaigned for local authorities to recycle waste and create separate collections of disposable and reusable waste. He carried out a lengthy attack on Schweppes against their glass tonic bottles: culminating in Friends of the Earth dumping a mound of empty bottles on the doorstep of the company's London headquarters. It was such dramatic action that led Barbara Ward (now Baroness Jackson) to suggest Sandbrook join her at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in 1976.
He spearheaded several important campaigns for IIED: these were mostly concerning agriculture, forestry and fisheries and his experience as an accountant proved invaluable when he met senior executives of industry about urban pollution. In 1998, along with Geoffrey Howe, he reviewed BP's social and environmental performance.
Lord Howe told The Scotsman yesterday: "Richard was an absolutely ideal partner for such an undertaking. He was perceptive, sensitive, candid and outspoken if required. He had a very wide range of knowledge, which added to the questions and insights he brought to the interviews. He was an excellent colleague and I look back on our time together with immense pleasure."
Sandbrook attended many international conferences on the environment (notably Rio in 1992) and his calm and reasoned arguments were in sharp contrast to some Green politicians. Rather than being confrontational, Sandbrook encouraged big business to reconsider their corporate responsibilities. This calm approach was particularly successful at the Johannesburg Conference in 2002 when Sandbrook set out positive guidelines to which the mining industry eventually agreed to adhere.
In 1989, the Prince of Wales was planning to make a documentary (Earth in Balance) and Sandbrook provided informed advice regarding the programme's content. The prince, prophetically, concluded: "I believe, sooner rather than later, we shall face a reckoning." The two became friends - sharing a concern for the environment with a love of plants and the Goons.
Sandbrook, who died of cancer, was a casual and relaxed individual. He walked around Highgrove with the prince, smoking his much-loved cigarettes and seldom dressed in anything other than casual trousers and an ageing blazer. But he was always excellent company, generous and full of integrity and charm.
Sandbrook advised many charities (especially Save the Children) and the UN on a project to involve business assisting undeveloped countries. He wrote several books, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1988 and made an OBE in 1990. From 1999-2003 he was a non-executive director of the Eden Project, in Cornwall. It was a county he knew and loved: he often spent summers in the West Country, fly fishing and sailing.
Sandbrook's wife, Mary Ray, survives him, as do their two sons.
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