Dr Jem Bendell is a full Professor of Sustainability Leadership and Founder of the Initiative for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria (working part-time) as well as Founder of the Deep Adaptation Forum and the co-Founder of the International Scholars’ Warning on Societal Disruption and Collapse.
He focuses on leadership and communications for social change, as well as approaches that may help humanity face climate-induced disruption. Despite misrepresentation of Prof Bendell by reformist environmentalists, who may seek to marginalise preparations for a breakdown of industrial consumer societies, Bendell has never predicted near term human extinction, and has continued to support carbon cuts and natural drawdown for over 25 years. He never described himself as a ‘doomer’ and supports opening up to a wider agenda of harm reduction, beyond either giving up on social change, nor sticking to failed tactics, policies and ideologies. He articulated this approach to staying with the total trouble of our times, while being creatively engaged in positive change, in a joint article with a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion. Neither is Prof Bendell an anti-vaxxer. Noticing the failures of the orthodox response, his arguments since October 2021 are for a smarter approach that empowers citizens to make responsible decisions, rather than only relying on passive consumption of pharmaceuticals.
A graduate of the University of Cambridge, he had twenty years of experience in sustainable business and finance, as a researcher, educator, facilitator, advisor, & entrepreneur, having lived & worked in six countries. Clients for his strategy development included international corporations, UN agencies and international NGOs. The World Economic Forum (WEF) recognised Professor Bendell as a Young Global Leader for his work on sustainable business alliances. With over 100 publications, including four books and five UN reports, he regularly appeared in international media on topics of sustainable business and finance, as well as currency innovation. His TEDx talk is the most watched online speech on complementary currencies. In 2012 Professor Bendell co-authored the WEF report on the Sharing Economy, which has since led to some rather strange statements from that organisation about ownership and happiness. Previously he helped create innovative alliances, including the Marine Stewardship Council, to endorse sustainable fisheries and The Finance Innovation Lab, to promote sustainable finance. In 2007 he wrote a report for WWF on the responsibility of luxury brands, which appeared in over 50 newspapers and magazines worldwide, and inspired a number of entrepreneurs to create businesses in the luxury sector. In 2017 he worked in frontline British politics, applying his knowledge on leadership and strategic communications to helping the office of the leader of the opposition in the general election campaign that removed the government’s majority (co-developing the narrative for the campaign, and co-writing speeches for the leader and the shadow chancellor).
The bio is all past tense, as since 2018 Jem moved into a new phase of work in light of the latest climate science and the viral impact of his Deep Adaptation paper. Now Jem uses his time to promote responses to climate chaos that might reduce harm while upholding universal values.