Pioneer of ethical business dies

A pioneer of ethical business who dedicated his life to environmental issues and social reporting has died.

Alistair Townley, founder of Ethical Performance magazine, died on Thursday 30 October, aged 51.

His friend and colleague, Pete Mason, co-founder and editor of Ethical Performance, said Townley was a pioneer of environmental journalism, who helped move the green movement forward.

‘Alistair got into green issues when he was a gardener and he transformed himself to become a pioneer of environmental journalism in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s,’ he said.

‘When he founded Ethical Performance, it went from strength to strength. It was spreading the word of social return on investment, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social entrepreneurialism. CSR was always going to take off, but without Ethical Performance, there would have been no central place for people to get the information they needed. It made him a social entrepreneur in a sense.

‘I wouldn’t say he was an activist, but he definitely oiled the wheels of the movement.’

Townley set up Ethical Performance with Mason in 1999 after a career working on numerous publications, including the Green Gauge newsletter and Green Magazine, which was sold in supermarkets and gave advice about ethical shopping.

His interest in social responsibility came with his involvement with Ethical Investment Research Services (EIRIS).

This vast career made Townley a key figure in the movement and he was respected among his peers, who included high-profile names such as Anita Roddick of the Body Shop and television horticulturist David Bellamy.

Mason said: ‘He was always coming up with ideas and he was very dedicated to his work.

‘I think he would like to be remembered at his countryside home in Stodmarsh, Canterbury, surrounded by his work and his family.’

Tim West, editor of Social Enterprise, paid tribute to Townley: ‘Alistair was a true pioneer both as a publisher and in his passion for ethical business. When it launched in the UK nearly ten years ago, Ethical Performance broke new ground, recognised a new marketplace and managed to marry good journalism and commercial knowhow with a commitment to making a difference.

‘Alistair and Pete’s magazine, and the other publications and initiatives they developed around it, established their publishing company Dunstan’s as a real force for change in the way business is done on an international scale. For this and for being a talented but genuine businessman in a world over populated by sharks and cynics, Alistair deserves our huge respect and applause.’

Townley is survived by his partner Jane and their two daughters, aged 11 and 13.

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