For more than four decades The Prince of Wales has used his unique position to champion action for a sustainable future.
In the context of global challenges that include climate change, deforestation, and ocean pollution, The Prince has promoted sustainability to ensure that the natural assets upon which we all depend among other things soil, water, forests, a stable climate and fish stocks endure for future generations.
For His Royal Highness believes that economic and social development will best succeed when it works in harmony with Nature, rather than in conflict with Nature.
Over the years The Prince of Wales has launched many different sustainability initiatives aimed at delivering practical outcomes. They range from The Prince’s Rainforest Project, Accounting for Sustainability and the International Sustainability Unit, to more grassroots initiatives run by Business in the Community such as Project Start and the Mayday Network of UK businesses. As well as addressing environmental challenges, The Prince promotes a more sustainable approach to planning and designing homes and communities in ways that enhance and add to the social, natural and built environment.
His Royal Highness’s sustainability work is based on the principle that environmental challenges in our increasingly interconnected world are best met by adopting integrated and holistic approaches to sustainability.
For example, The Prince’s Rainforests Project set out to find solutions to deforestation that would be economically viable, bring rural development and social benefits for people living in and around forests, while also protecting the vital ecosystems that harbour so many of the world’s wildlife species, store carbon and sustain water cycles.
The Prince of Wales delivers the keynote speech during a WWF event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Global Forest & Trade Network at St. James Palace, London.
The Prince of Wales walks through the rainforest during a visit to Maguari Village at Santaram, central Brazil
The Prince of Wales welcomes young green ambassadors to Highgrove and has a rare rainforest frog named after him
The Prince of Wales meets staff at Gill's Plaice sustainable fish shop during a visit to Aberdyfi, Gwynedd as part of his annual Summer visit to Wales.
Assistant farm manager Sean Bailey (left) shows a piglet to The Prince during a visit to Bunkers Hill organic pig farm, King's Lynn, Norfolk, 2011
The Prince of Wales (left) and George Clarke leave the sustainably constructed Prince's House as The Prince officially opens the 2012 Ideal Home Show, Earl's Court, London
The Prince uses his position to help raise public awareness about sustainability challenges and solutions through his speeches, articles, books and films. He is also Patron of a wide range of organizations working for sustainability, offering support and encouragement for their work.
The Prince of Wales convenes many different groups, from business leaders to Heads of State and from local community initiatives to scientific bodies, in order to find the best ways of making progress in meeting complex challenges.
Video: A film about The Prince and Global Sustainability
The Prince of Wales welcomes young WWF green ambassadors to his Highgrove home
The Prince of Wales gives a keynote speech on sustainable fishing
A video message for the World Oceans Summit in Singapore
The Prince of Wales gives a keynote environmental speech at Cape Town University
The Prince of Wales launches his rebranded charity, The Prince's Foundation for Building Community
The Prince of Wales has been an environmental leader for over 40 years.
In November 2012, The Prince was recognised as the acclaimed Lifetime Achievement Winner at the 7th International Green Awards. The International Green Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award is a prestigious accolade, bestowed to individuals who have been committed to the sustainability cause and inspired others to positive action.
As well as promoting sustainability through his work, His Royal Highness has taken many steps personally to live in a more sustainable way. Around half of his office and domestic energy use comes from renewable sources such as woodchip boilers, air-source heat pumps, solar panels and “green” electricity.
The Household strives to minimise its environmental impact across its activities, including travel, energy use and the indirect impact of the products and services it uses. The Annual Review provides further information on some of this work.
Carbon emissions and renewable energy
The Household started measuring and reporting its emissions in 2007 since when it has made significant cuts by reducing fossil fuel use and replacing it with renewable energy.
• Across the residences, about 84% of energy for office and domestic use comes from renewable sources. Of this, about a half comes from on-site renewable sources and about a half from electricity and gas purchased from renewable sources;
• At Highgrove, almost 90% of energy comes from renewable sources and over 60% is generated on-site.
Some of the measures taken to reduce carbon emissions are:
• The Prince of Wales installed solar photovoltaic panels at Clarence House in 2010 and and installed a second array in 2016. There are also solar panels at Highgrove and the Home Farm.
• Biomass boilers at Highgrove, Birkhall (Their Royal Highnesses’ home in Scotland) and Llwynywermod replace fossil fuels with sustainably-managed wood;
• Ground-source and air-source heat pumps at Highgrove take heat from the ground and air and boost it to provide around four units of heat energy for every unit of electricity used;
• Energy-efficient boilers at Clarence House reduce gas consumption;
• Electricity use is closely monitored, including the use of smart meters;
• Electricity and gas is purchased from renewable sources where possible;
• Mains gas use is backed by Green Gas credits, which represent biomethane produced by an anaerobic digestion plant near Poundbury;
• Other measures to conserve energy include fluorescent and LED lighting, motion-sensitive lights and ongoing works to improve building insulation.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the first and most important stage in minimizing the Household’s carbon footprint. The Household balances out the remainder by investing in sustainable forestry and projects that reduce deforestation.
For more information on the Household's carbon footprint see the Annual Review.
• Rainwater is used to flush the toilets in the Orchard Room at Highgrove;
• A grey-water system at Birkhall cuts water use by collecting rainwater and reusing water from bathrooms;
• Reed-bed systems at Highgrove and Llwynywermod provide a natural way to treat wastewater;
• The Household also uses a range of cleaning products that are designed to reduce their impact on waterways.
• Waste going to landfill is reduced by collecting a variety of materials for recycling;
• Food waste is composted where possible or collected to be turned into fertilizer;
• Paper is saved by printing double-sided, re-using paper or using electronic communications where possible. About 99% of paper is made with recycled materials. Looking at stationery more widely, more environmentally-friendly products such as water-based ink highlighter pens made using recycled paper are used where available.
Travel, around the UK and throughout the world, forms an essential part of Their Royal Highnesses’ work and emissions vary each year according to Their Royal Highnesses' schedule of engagements. The carbon impact is taken into account during planning along with cost, logistics and security considerations.
Some of the initiatives taken in this area include:
• Organizing travel so as to reduce carbon emissions, taking into account security, logistics, cost and other considerations;
• The Prince’s Aston Martin runs on bio-ethanol made from wine wastage and a cheese by-product;
• Using low-emissions taxis when needed in London.
Organic farming and gardening
The Duchy Home Farm
In 1986, His Royal Highness decided to convert his own farm in Gloucestershire to an organic farming system. Over twenty-five years later, the Duchy Home Farm is not only a successful and viable working farm, but also serves as an exemplar for sustainable agriculture more widely. It is a mixed farm, producing a wide range of food including milk, beef, lamb, mutton, pork, wheat, barley, oats, rye, mustard as well as fruit and vegetables.
The farm is used for demonstration and research is visited by over 1,000 people each year. The farm hosts an annual Food and Farming Summer School, attended by people from farming, business, research, government and non-governmental sectors, to address some of the challenges of sustainable food production. The farm has featured in special editions of the BBC rural affairs programme Country File, and Country Life magazine.
The farm is run in a way that protects and enhances nature’s capital. All farm production results in a range of environmental and social impacts. The positive benefits, often not accounted for in an organic farming system, include:
• Greater biodiversity: most of the land is farmed in rotation producing a range of crops and livestock. The estate has over 300 acres of species-rich permanent pasture with over 80 different plant species in some fields. This encourages a wide range of insects, birds and other wildlife. Heritage varieties of cereals, apples and vegetables as well as rare-breed livestock are kept to preserve genetic diversity and therefore food security.
• Food security: working within closed cycles and reducing dependency on imported feed and fertilizer helps reduce our reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels and market volatility.
• Healthy living soil: this is a key part of nature’s capital and underpins organic agriculture. Management practices are focused on protecting and enhancing the living part of the soil. Traditional crop rotation uses legumes such as clover to take nitrogen from the air and hold it in the soil for the benefit of the following crops. Animal manure from winter-housed cattle is composted and spread back on the land recycling vital nutrients and promoting healthy soil.
• High standards of animal welfare: all livestock are kept in ways that allow them to express their natural traits; pigs and sheep live outside all year round; dairy and beef cattle are at pasture for at least six months of the year and housed during the winter when they are fed silage and hay-based diets. Keeping animals less intensively promotes health and reduces the need for medication.
• The Prince has planted 26 kilometres of hedges and thousands of trees around Highgrove and Home Farm and, in 2013 a Jubilee woodland, providing a valuable habitat for plants and wildlife.
• An array of solar panels on the roof of the dairy generates renewable electricity, about 80,000 kWh each year, saving about 40 tonnes of carbon emissions.
• A bore hole at Home Farm is used to obtain water directly from the source, bypassing the water treatment plants and distribution network.
The Prince also grows fruit and vegetables in his gardens, reducing food miles to food metres. These gardens are also managed on an organic basis. No artificial pesticides are used, reducing the amount of potentially harmful chemicals that can get into the air, groundwater or food. No artificial fertilizers are used, these consume significant quantities of energy and water in their production and are responsible for large amounts of greenhouse gases.
The Prince uses the garden at Highgrove as a conservation area for endangered varieties of plants, flowers and trees. Over 70 heritage varieties of apples are grown in the garden at Highgrove and around 200kg of crab-apples are picked each year to produce crab-apple jelly for the Highgrove Shop. There are over 120 grass and wildflower species in the wildflower meadow and 111 species and varieties of lichen were recently identified on the Highgrove Estate. Over 70 varieties of vegetables are annually grown in the kitchen garden for use in the house; these include modern disease resistant varieties and old heritage varieties.
Find out more about the Highgrove Gardens.
The Household’s environmental and social impacts extend beyond its own activities and these are considered when choosing goods and services and suppliers.
Businesses that have been granted a Royal Warrant for goods or services supplied to the Household have, since 1990, been required to demonstrate they understand and take a responsible approach to sustainability and social issues. The Household assists with the review process which considers a wide range of issues including climate change, endangered species, labour standards, genetic modification, and deforestation. There are about 170 businesses that the Household is able to engage with in this way. The Household also engages with other key suppliers on environmental and social matters. Support and advice is provided by Business in the Community, one of The Prince’s Charities.
The Prince of Wales' International Sustainability Unit
The Prince of Wales established his International Sustainability Unit (ISU) in 2010 to assist in the identification of solutions to some of the pressing sustainability challenges facing the world today.
Since its inception, the ISU has worked with a wide range of organisations and individuals on a spectrum of sustainability questions. These range from action on the illegal trade in wildlife to finding ways to curb deforestation, and from the finance needed in making the transition to a low carbon future to the identification of strategies that could lead toward the sustainable management of marine fisheries.
The ISU doesn’t run campaigns or adopt policies but works to understand stakeholder perspectives and convene leaders from the private sector, international agencies, governments and non-governmental organisations. By inviting cross-sectoral collaboration the ISU seeks to facilitate consensus and the implementation of solutions through positive partnerships.
The ISU’s current suite of priority programmes include the need to develop: i) sustainable food systems; ii) innovative financing for sustainable marine fisheries; iii) approaches to address marine plastic pollution; iv) methodologies to create economically and environmentally resilient cities; v) efforts to slow down forest loss; vi) and the positive relationships that might be found between public health and steps to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
The ISU’s activities are often based on the premise that the conservation of natural systems can be pursued at the same time as supporting development and employment through sound business activities. In so doing the ISU champions The Prince of Wales’s belief that solutions through the use of integrated approaches can be found for even the most intractable of challenges.
Visit the International Sustainability Unit's website