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My CISL: David Rice, Fellow

David RiceI first experienced the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership in the late 1990s when we in BP approached what was then the University of Cambridge Programme for Industry to put on a series of one-week workshops in sustainable development for our most senior managers as part of their executive education. 

I found myself being drawn into a new world. I was struck by the effect on and change in those managers. I was struck by the power of bringing together academics, business people and advocates in a place and an atmosphere that led to open questioning and discussion.

Many years later, I've 'gone over the wall', I'm now a Fellow of CISL.

With CISL I've worked with people from most sectors of business, at levels from CEO to new young staff, from some of the world's most well-known companies, with academics in economics, engineering, philosophy, geography, development, physics, ecology, even Islamic studies, and some I've forgotten, and with civil society representatives from leading NGOs, religious organisations, think tanks, with governmental organisations, health organisations, the UN, the World Bank, regional development banks.

I'm part of the Faculty, a tutor, on public, graduate and customised programmes. I give talks on global system pressures and trends, energy, poverty and social development, storytelling, listening, leadership and ethics. CISL continues to give me the opportunity to develop my thinking in these areas, to explore new topics and work with others in and outside the University.

"To be frank, when I started working with CISL I thought it would be a small and probably short-lived part of my life. But CISL has a way of engaging you. For me the stimulation has never worn off. I find myself sitting in, or often talking to, rooms of smart people who have real impacts on lives and ecology, and real opportunity to change things." 

Apart from the privilege of spending time in this company, I continue to learn from students and colleagues. CISL is a powerful convenor of effective people and thinking, a catalyst for doing things better. That's why I'm here. That and because I simply enjoy it. 


David is an independent adviser on the social and environmental impacts of business. He joined BP in 1979 as a research geophysicist and in his 27 years there held positions as an exploration and production geophysicist, Head of Basin Modelling, Head of Geoscience Training, Exploration Manager in China, commercial analyst, strategic planner, and political adviser.

In 1998 he was appointed Director, Policy Unit, and Chief of Staff for Global Government and Public Affairs, and the BP Group Policy Adviser on Development Issues. He instigated for BP a number of relationships with NGOs and helped develop and implement policies with respect to climate change, human rights, indigenous people, HIV, social investment, and more. He was an initiator of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights for the oil, gas and mining industry.

Since leaving BP in 2006, David has worked with companies, NGOs and academics on social and environmental issues. He is Chairman of the Azerbaijan Social Review Commission, an independent body funded by BP which includes leading Azerbaijani NGOs and international human rights lawyers, established to monitor the social impacts of BP’s oil and gas activities in Azerbaijan.