The <i>MT</i> interview: Tony Juniper

Thanks to vanishing ice-caps and inconvenient truths, Tony Juniper, the boss of Friends of the Earth, is suddenly the hottest corporate date in town. But he's no PR pushover. He wants to see reponsible change in company attitudes and can spot greenwash a mile off.

by Andrew Davidson

The director of Friends of the Earth sits in a tiny pod of an office, two floors up in a brick-built warehouse off London's Old Street. Outside, the affluent city creeps ever closer - the clanging and drilling are incessant as industrial buildings left and right are converted into trendy apartments and workspaces. Inside, we could have stepped back into the 1980s. The decor is worn, three pot plants tilt listlessly on the window sill, a poster is tacked to the wall nearby, stacks of hand-written notebooks fill the shelves. Beyond, lines of earnest young women work at old computers in an open-plan space. On the back of Tony Juniper's door, a grey suit and tie hang forlorn.

'The suit's been there for years,' says Juniper. 'It's for emergencies. Like a fire bucket, you never know when you are going to use it. Ha-ha-ha.'

Juniper loves to laugh - it's an attribute that has won him friends even when he's arguing over deadly serious issues like the planet's survival. The suit is also a signal of the circles he moves in. Captains of industry, heads of government, the odd royal - all pay court to environmental issues now, and Oxford-born Juniper is a frequent port of call. As director of Friends of the Earth, Britain's most influential environmental campaigning group, he has pushed his organisation into the headlines, into Downing Street, into boardrooms and into public consciousness with a jocular drive that has taken many by surprise.

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