He has been involved in successful environmental campaigns across Australia since 1985. From 1997 – 2010 he led The Wilderness Society (TWS) in Australia transforming it into Australia’s pre-eminent nature conservation organisation. Under his leadership TWS experienced a period of unprecedented organisational growth and campaign success.
When Alec left TWS in 2010 it had grown from an organisation with 7,000 members, $1million in revenue and 28 staff to a $15 million organisation with 45,000 members and 200 staff.
This growth in resources was more than matched in environmental outcomes. Up to 1999 TWS had helped protect 5 million hectares of Australia’s natural heritage, by 2009 this figure had increased to 32 million hectares.
Some of the individual campaigns which involved both domestic and international work lead by Alec include:
- Inscription of Australia’s Sub Antarctic Islands (Macquarie, Heard and McDonald) on the World Heritage list.
- Closure of the Jabiluka uranium mine in Kakadu National park. Alec led a global campaign involving banks, shareholders, IUCN, World Heritage Committee and direct actions which ultimately damaged the share price of then owner North Ltd to a point where they became a takeover target. The effectiveness of the campaign was acknowledged by new owner Rio Tinto which decided to close the mine.
- Blocking the creation of a nuclear fuel dump in Northern Australia
- Encouraging customers of the southern hemisphere’s largest woodchip company (Gunns Limited) to shift their purchasing policies away from High Conservation Value forests
- Successful advocacy in Europe which ensured that any JV or funding partner for a proposed pulp mill development by Gunns Limited would insist on high environmental standards including native forest protection
- Forcing Gunns to withdraw from a 4-year legal battle against 20 defendants over the largest slap suit in Australia’s history ($6.8million) in which Alec was defendant number one. At the time of launching the legal action Gunns was a Billion dollar company whose shares were valued at more than $4 dollars per share. By the time Gunns dropped the court case and payed The Wilderness Society $350,000, Gunns shares had dropped to 62 cents and the company was on the point of financial collapse.
- Bringing Gunns to the point (on 9 December 2010) of accepting that it should cease native forest logging and seek a social and environmental licence for its activities. Under increasing pressure the CEO resigned along with some key board members, by this time the shares had dropped to 26.5 cents. In relation to the fierce public debate, on forest protection, Gunns new CEO Greg Le Strange said “In this area I believe that the Industry has been out-thought and outplayed, with the ENGO’s using three key leverage points:1. Public Emotion. 2. Multi level government involvement. 3. Certification – Market Action”
Alec’s has an extensive set of international networks established through his work through IUCN and the World Heritage Convention and World Wilderness Congress
His awards include the Australian Humanitarian Award on behalf of The Wilderness Society in 2000 and Wild magazine’s Environmentalist of the Year award in 2001.
He was recognised as one of ’20 Global Wilderness Visionaries’ by the World Wilderness Congress in 2010.