The First Man to Walk to Both the North and South Poles
Robert Swan, OBE (Officer of the British Empire), is one of the world’s preeminent polar explorers and environmental leaders.
By age 33, Robert Swan became the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, earning his place in history alongside the great explorers and adventurers. His 900 mile journey to the South Pole, ‘In the Footsteps of Scott’, stands as the longest unassisted walk ever made on earth. During his expeditions, Swan experienced firsthand the effects of global warming at both Poles. In Antarctica, his eyes forever changed color after prolonged exposure under the hole in the ozone layer. In the Arctic, his team survived near-death encounters in a melting ocean, prematurely caused by global warming.
These powerful experiences only helped to shape and focus Swan’s lifetime goal: working towards the preservation of Antarctica as the last great wilderness on earth. In 1992, Robert Swan was the Keynote Speaker at the first ‘World Summit for Sustainable Development’ held in Rio de Janeiro. There he addressed world leaders and was charged with undertaking a 10 year global and local environmental mission which would involve industry, business and young people.
Ten years later in 2002, Swan reported back to world leaders at the second World Summit held in Johannesburg. He had successfully completed all of his promised missions, including numerous international, youth-driven clean-up projects in Antarctica and Africa. A true visionary at heart, Swan committed to a third 10 year mission, this time to inspire youth to become sustainable leaders and promote the use of renewable energy throughout the planet.
Since 2003, Swan has led annual expeditions to Antarctica with students and business executives to focus on leadership training, environmental clean-up and education initiatives. The ‘Inspire Antarctic Expedition’ teams helped design and build the world’s first renewable energy Education Station in Antarctica, called the E-Base.
In March 2008, Robert Swan made Antarctic history again by living solely on renewable energy at the E-Base for over two weeks. Successful in the world’s harshest climate, the positive message Swan sent to the world was “This is possible in Antarctica, and surely it is possible in the ‘real world’!”
Currently Robert Swan is on a five-year global ‘Voyage for Cleaner Energy’ aboard his renewable energy sailboat, which will conclude at the third World Summit, currently expected to take place in Singapore. Swan aims to showcase sustainable living practices and transport alternatives that run solely on renewable energy.
Swan’s contribution to education and the environment has been recognized on an international scale, seen through his appointment as United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Youth and Special Envoy to the Director General of UNESCO. He was awarded the high distinction of OBE, Officer of the Order of the British Empire, as well as the Polar Medal by Her Majesty the Queen.
Robert Swan is an exceptionally gifted communicator and has an uncanny ability to motivate those around him into action. His unique insights and life experiences inspire and educate business leaders and young people around the world, and he clearly translates his icy experiences at the Poles to delicate maneuvers in the boardroom.
Swan’s real-life discussion of leadership, trust and working together never ceases to thrill, uplift and stimulate crowds, drawing standing ovations throughout the globe.
Robert Swan has shown through his walks to both Poles that individuals have the power to over come obstacles and achieve their goals, whatever these may be, through perseverance, determination and commitment. He raised significant funds for his South Pole expedition and again for his North Pole expedition.
On the Environment
Robert has witnessed the damage that man has caused to the most delicate of the world's environments first hand. "I've been there. I've walked under the hole in the South Pole's ozone layer and had the skin peel off my face. I've walked on Arctic Ice that was melting two and a half months before it should have because of the greenhouse effect. But my message is one of hope, not of doomsday."
A leader must make decisions, sometimes tough ones, and have the courage to stick to them. In the Arctic there is no desk to hide behind.
On Global Understanding
Robert Swan has convinced people and companies around the world to sponsor or join his expeditions. He has involved young people from all corners of the planet in his expeditions and also led the youth team to the Rio Earth Summit.
We live in an age of advanced communication technology, yet many people still find little time to communicate effectively. In an hostile environment like the Arctic you need to explain your thoughts, feelings and actions, just to survive. Effective communications in business is equally vital.
Great feats are rarely achieved by individuals in isolation: more often it is a team effort. A team which understands its strengths and weaknesses and pulls together to face the challenge will achieve the seemingly impossible.