Sir Arthur Norman: Industrialist who helped lead the environmental movement

Sir Arthur Norman was a leading British industrialist who lent his talent for leadership and conciliation to the burgeoning environmental movement in the 1970s and '80s. He believed it was folly for the advancement of industry and the conservation of nature to be perpetually at loggerheads. They were, in his view, actually complementary, and should work together as partners. The protection of the environment, he pointed out, is in all our interests.

In that belief, Norman, together with Sir Derek Barber, the chairman of the Countryside Commission, set up a new non-profit foundation, the UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development (CEED) in 1984, which he chaired from its outset until 1996, when he was nearly 80. Under his leadership, UK CEED won a reputation for foresight in spotting emerging issues and in its cross-disciplinary approach to research and policy development. The body was a significant forerunner in what is now known as sustainable development.

He was closely involved in conservation in Nepal as European chairman of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, for which he received that country's highest award. Healso served on the board of the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC), and as board member and treasurer of the International Institute of Environment and Development.

His greatest contribution, however, was as chairman of what was thenthe UK branch of the World Wildlife Fund (now the Worldwide Fund forNature, but still best known as WWF). Its founder, Peter Scott, knew thatthe organisation needed better business expertise, and persuaded Norman to succeed him as chairman of trustees. He chaired that body for six yearsfrom 1977 to 1984, and again for afurther three after the sudden death of his predecessor.

George Medley, the WWF's then director, remembers Norman as being "a first-class chair, someone who could listen as well as lead, who was never overbearing, and always supportive of the WWF and its staff. He was on the ball, and knew a lot about conservation, as well as running a business. He gave the WWF a new lease of life by transforming it from a charity into a fund-raising business". As Norman put it, "environmentalism is not altruism".

The son of a Somerset farmer, Arthur, usually known as "Gerry", was educated at Blundell's School in Tiverton, Devon, where, in his final year, he was head boy. On his housemaster's recommendation, he was taken on by Bernard Westall, managing director of what was then Thomas De La Rue & Co, thesecurity printers. Norman joined the company in 1934, and was entrusted with a clandestine operation to print banknotes for Chiang Kai-shek'sNationalist government in China.Norman outwitted the Japanese occupiers by pretending to manufacture playing cards. The notes were smuggled out in dust carts.

During the war, Norman served with distinction in the RAF as a pilot of glider-towing Whitley and Halifax bombers, rising to the rank of Wing Commander. In 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions after being attacked by a group of German Junkers Ju-88s while towing a Horsa glider from Britain to Morocco. He managed to shoot one of them down, before escaping into the clouds. Later on, he won a bar on his DFC while stationed in India.

Rejoining De La Rue after the war, Norman rose rapidly, becoming director in 1951, and managing director two years later. In 1964, he was appointed company chairman. Under his directorship, the company expanded into manufacturing, teaming up with the American company Cyanamid to produce Formica, and providing a security service for transporting valuables. He also established a subsidiary company for bank automation responsible for the world's first cash machine (at Barclays in north London).

In 1968, he was made president of the CBI (Confederation of British Industries), and for two years became rather unhappily involved with the industrial disputes of the time. He regarded the Wilson government's Industrial Relations Act as an abdication of direct responsibility for industrial harmony. He was appointed CBE for services to industry in 1966, and knighted in 1969.

At home in Dorset, Norman wasan enthusiastic gardener, golfer and countryman, and in later years bought what he called a leg or two of race horses. He met and married Peggy Harrington while stationed in Dorset in 1944, by whom he had two daughters and three sons, one of whom is the novelist Roger Norman.

Peter Marren

Arthur Gordon Norman, businessman and environmentalist: born North Petherton, Somerset 18 February 1917; President, Confederation of BritishIndustries 1968-1970; Chairman World Wildlife Fund 1977-1984, 1987-1990; Chairman UK Centre for Economicand Environmental Development1984-1996; DFC 1943 and bar 1944,CBE 1966, kt. KBE 1969; married 1944 Peggy Doreen Harrington (died 1982; three sons, two daughters); died 30 September 2011.


On the day he was born the actor Wallas Eaton was also born. He is best known for appearing in the BBC radio comedy 'Take It From Here' from 1949-60, and laterappeared in 'Up Pompeii!' on TV

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power