Sydney Festival - Can consumption become sustainable?

Sydney Festival is joining forces with Unilever to present a lively and thought-provoking panel discussion with international and national panellists to debate the topic, Can consumption become sustainable? The event is free to the public on Tuesday January 24.

Billions of people around the world aspire to a better quality of life and to enjoy everyday products such as soap, shampoo and tea. But can we really consume more without going beyond the earth’s natural limits? The same question can be posed to events, major celebrations and general life in the city, which use large quantities of resources in power, transport and infrastructure.

What can organisations like Sydney Festival and Unilever, as well as individuals, government and non-government organisations, do to make economic growth and consumption sustainable? Is it possible to use sustainable practices to increase the culture and lifestyle of a city, and our greater world?

The discussion will be chaired by broadcaster, author and comedian Adam Spencer, with panellists:

Dr Val Curtis, Director, Hygiene Centre, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Jon Dee, Founder and Managing Director, Do Something! and 2010 NSW Australian of the Year

Ingrid Just, Spokesperson/Head of Media, CHOICE

Gavin Neath, Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Sustainability, Unilever

The event follows Unilever’s global sustainability debate series across London, Rotterdam, Delhi and New York. The series was prompted by recent studies showing that while most people say they are concerned about sustainability issues and want to live sustainable lifestyles, there is still a gap between good intentions and taking action.

Sebastian Lazell, Chairman of Unilever Australia and New Zealand said, “This event is a wonderful opportunity to bring together sustainability experts to engage in some healthy and thought-provoking debate and, in turn, to inspire festival-goers to take small actions that can help us all live more sustainably.”

Sydney Festival has been actively working towards sustainable event production for some years, with Josephine Ridge, Executive Director, commenting, “With the 2012 Festival, we have made a commitment towards fully understanding our impact and to implementing policies and actions that will move Sydney Festival closer to its vision to be the most sustainable major performing arts festival in Australia. 

We are delighted to have found in Unilever a partner that shares our belief that we can all make a difference and we hope that debates such as this will serve to further inspire our audiences to support us in achieving our goal.”


Adam Spencer

Adam Spencer began his career in radio by winning the Triple J Raw Comedy championship in 1996. From there, Spencer co-hosted ABC Triple J’s breakfast time slot with Wil Anderson (1999-2004) and currently presents ABC 702 Breakfast. Spencer holds a first class honours degree in Pure Mathematics and has an immense interest in science. These passions lead him to hosting the ABC programs, Quantum and FAQ from 1998 to 2001. 

Other television credits include hosting Hit & Run for Foxtel’s Comedy Channel; hosting Joker Poker for Channel Ten; two series of Sleek Geeks with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki for ABC TV; and team captain on ABC TV’s sports show The Trophy Room. Spencer’s book, Little Book Of Numbers, (Penguin, 2004) has been translated into many languages around the world, with his second book due for release in 2012.

Jon Dee

Founder and Managing Director, Do Something! and 2010 NSW Australian of the Year Jon Dee is one of Australia’s most influential figures on environmental issues. He was the 2010 NSW Australian of the Year and is the Founder and Managing Director of the Australian advocacy organisation, Do Something!. Dee initiated the lobbying campaign that led to Australia's three year phase-out of incandescent globes and has been the driving force behind the campaigns to ban plastic bags and phosphates in laundry detergents. As an author, Dee’s Sustainable Growth has become the definitive sustainability guidebook for Australian business.

Internationally, Jon is best known for co-founding Planet Ark with Pat Cash. He also founded National Tree Day with Olivia Newton-John, an event that has planted 16 million trees. He also instigated The 10% Challenge,,, World Environment News, National Recycling Week and

In 1989, Dee founded Rock Aid Armenia – a music fundraiser for which he recruited the help of rock bands including Pink Floyd, Queen and Bon Jovi. To recognise Dee's ongoing work in the Armenian earthquake zone, the President of Armenia awarded him The Order of Honor in 2009, the highest honour that Armenia can bestow on a foreign citizen.

Dr Val Curtis

Director & Reader in Hygiene, The Hygiene Centre London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Dr Val Curtis is Reader in Hygiene and Director of the Hygiene Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Trained in Engineering, Public Health and Anthropology she is one of the world's leading experts on hygiene. She makes regular media appearances and has over 50 published papers. She helped to show that handwashing is one of the most effective means of saving lives and preventing disease in developing countries. 

Curtis helped found the Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap which every year organises Global Handwashing Day. She is currently writing a book about the evolution of Disgust.

Gavin Neath

Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Sustainability, Unilever Gavin Neath is the Senior Vice President for Global Communications and Sustainability at Unilever. As part of this role he is responsible for coordinating and driving the company's sustainability targets and initiatives. Neath joined Unilever in 1977, working in the UK, France, Belgium and South Africa. From 1998-2004 he was Chairman of Unilever Foods UK, followed by Chairman of Unilever UK until 2006.

He was also President of the Food and Drink Federation and a Member of the Development Board of the Royal Court Theatre. In 2007 Gavin was awarded the CBE for services to the UK food industry.

Ingrid Just

Spokesperson/Head of Media, CHOICE Recipient of the Winston Churchill Fellowship for journalism in 2007, Ingrid Just (pronounced Youst) has won numerous awards and recognition for excellence in journalism and communications.

Just’s current role as the spokesperson and Head of Media for CHOICE, Australia’s consumer organisation, sees her making regular appearances on prime time television news programs across all networks as well as programs including Sunrise, Today, 7PM Project, The Morning Show, A Current Affair and Today Tonight. She features regularly in daily newspapers across the country and is a sought-after guest on radio talkback and news and current affairs programs throughout Australia.

Just’s work also involves constant liaison with corporations together with government and other not-for-profit organisations. Additionally Ingrid is responsible for the development and implementation of CHOICE’s multi-channel media and communications strategy. Before working in media management/spokesperson roles, Just was a broadcaster for ABC radio, during which time she hosted national and state-wide talkback/interview programs on ABC’s Local Radio network.


Unilever works to create a better future every day. The company helps people feel good, look good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and good for others. As one of the world’s leading fast-moving consumer goods companies, Unilever’s portfolio features some of the world’s best-known household names. In Australasia, their brands include Flora, Lipton, Bushells, Dove, Rexona, Vaseline, Omo, Surf, Continental, Chicken Tonight and Streets.

Unilever is proud to support Sydney Festival on its sustainability journey, having recently launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan which is Unilever’s commitment to developing new ways of doing business that will halve its environmental impact whilst increasing its positive social impacts. For more information about Unilever’s global Sustainable Living Plan please visit

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