Skip links

About

River Action is an organisation committed to addressing the severe problem of river pollution.

Our purpose is to raise awareness on river pollution and apply pressure on industrial and agricultural producers to take greater responsibility for remedying the adverse environmental impact their supply chains are having on the health of our rivers. Specifically, we are targeting those food production companies whose supply chains are complicit in the increasing volume of river pollution caused by the run-off of nutrient rich agricultural waste. We believe that the onus of responsibility lies with the large corporations who dominate the UK’s food production and retail sectors.

We are also working actively in partnership with other NGOs to promote the restoration of the funding of those government agencies across the UK tasked with the environmental protection of our rivers  to ensure that the monitoring of water quality and the inspection and prosecution of polluting industries can be significantly increased.

Our resources are drawn from the expertise and experience of a number of individuals and organisations from across the world of environment/ conservation, politics, science, the investment community, the communications & PR industry and the legal profession.

Meet The Team See Our Campaigns

Why We Are Here

Our rivers are in crisis. Repeated raw sewage discharges from water companies and the impact of ever intense agricultural practices from industries such as dairy, maize and egg production have left virtually all the UK’s rivers polluted beyond their legal limits. Threats to the biological diversity of waterways are pandemic, with many of our rivers now facing environmental challenges that threaten the very sustainability of their ecosystems.

The regulatory bodies responsible for policing the polluters appear to have become increasingly ineffective in enforcing the legally required environmental standards and penalising the major offenders. Specifically, with regard to agricultural pollution, the chief executive of the UK’s Environmental Agency stated recently that the Agency “lacks the powers and resources to tackle farm pollution”. Not one penalty has been enforced against agricultural polluters since the introduction of the 2018 Farming Rules for Water, despite hundreds of proven cases. Through freedom of information requests to DEFRA and the Environmental Agency (EA) we recently discovered that the average number of full-time staff allocated to inspect England’s 130,000 farms in each of the EA’s 14 regions is only 0.65.

River Action was created to help combat this growing crisis. We believe that it is simply unacceptable, for example, that a major dairy products processor can with impunity procure milk from dairy farmers who may be breaking regularly environmental law, whilst doing nothing to ensure those farmers are implementing the appropriate measures to mitigate environmental degradation. We believe strongly that the food production companies must step up and assume their share of responsibility for the environmental compliance of their supply chain and – where necessary – contribute financially to supporting farmers in achieving this.

We are resolved to identify these organisations and publicly require them to disclose measures taken to mitigate and address river pollution in their supply chains. Ultimately, our aim is to ensure all major food producers and retailers are playing an active role in working with the farming community to resolve environmental malpractice. River Action has initially been funded by its founder and chairman Charles Watson and also through substantial pro bono contributions from a number of individuals and organisations. The organisation is currently in the process of registering as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Campaigns

How We Work

Identify

We identify those industries and specific businesses which are either directly engaged in or whose supply chain is linked to environmental degradation

Evidence

We work with environmental and conservation groups to build a profile of those industries and organisations implicated in environmental malpractice

Confront

On a campaign-by-campaign basis, we confront these industries and present evidence where their owned production facilities and/or supply chains are responsible for environmental harm

Educate

We work with other environmental NGOs and community groups to share knowledge on appropriate nature-based solutions to address these issues of agricultural pollution and to incentivise farmers to uptake practices which mitigate water pollution

Action

We engage with a range of stakeholders – including investors, lenders, customers and relevant political and regulatory bodies. We will not hesitate to leverage political and media connections to apply pressure against environmental offenders

Lobby

We engage with government to address the failure of regulatory enforcement around agricultural pollution – with legislation to make the agri-businesses take greater responsibility for the environmental conduct of their supply chains being the optimal outcome

The rise of ESG accountability

Shareholders are getting serious about sustainability…

The rise in prominence in recent years within the financial community of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) scrutiny of the businesses to which money is a lent and invested in presents a huge opportunity to achieve positive environmental change.

An increasing number of major institutional investors are now stipulating publicly the enhanced standards of environmental compliance expected from their portfolio investee companies.

This has become something that corporate boards can simply no longer ignore and the climate for applying pressure on companies that are complicit in environmental malpractice has without doubt become more favourable.

River Action

Meet The Team

Charles

Chairman

Charles is a highly experienced business leader across the field of professional services and the communications sector. In recent years he has held a number of senior leadership roles across these industries including CEO of Financial Dynamics (2001-2012), Chairman of the Karma Communications Group (2012-2015) and Chairman of Teneo International (2015-2020).

In June 2020 he exited the commercial sector to focus primarily on environmental conservation, sustainable development and impact investment.  In addition to founding and chairing River Action, Charles is currently the Chairman of the Island Initiative, an NGO focussed on working with small island communities around a range of sustainable development issues. He is on the board of The Conduit Connect – a rapidly growing impact investment platform and is an active early-stage investor across a range of social impact and environmental technology enterprises.

Katie

Campaign and Comms Manager

Katie is a communications consultant working with clients across a range of sectors. Passionate about communications for positive impact, Katie previously worked at The Ellen MacArthur Foundation – a charity promoting the idea of a circular economy and has completed a Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) course in ‘Communicating for Influence and Impact’.

Katie studied at Queen Mary University of London and the Royal Agricultural University where she wrote her Masters dissertation on food waste related to food and drink producing SMEs in the UK.

Amy

Public Affairs Consultant

Amy is a Manager at Seahorse Environmental where she leads on work for River Action, On the Hook, the Seahorse Trust and the Ionian Environment Foundation.

She was previously the research and communications officer at the Blue Marine Foundation and has an MSc in Conservation, publishing research on strengthening the governance framework for marine protected areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Amy is also a marine campaigns advisor to the Galapagos Conservation Trust.

Francesca

Advisory

Francesca is a food policy and campaigns specialist. She is a Senior Associate in the European Climate Foundation’s Food, Nature & Climate Strategic Communications team where her work focuses on industrial animal agriculture.

Before joining the ECF she was a Campaign Manager at Oxfam GB leading campaigns on labour rights in supermarket supply chains and climate justice. Prior to this she worked at the Climate Parliament, an international network of parliamentarians, and was Co-Director of the UK Youth Climate Coalition. She holds an MSc in Food Policy.

Ruth

Advisory

Ruth leads the Greener UK coalition’s work on the Environment Bill and the setting up of the Office for Environmental Protection. Before joining Greener UK, Ruth worked with a wide range of not-for-profit and public sector organisations, helping them to engage with and influence government and parliament. Prior to that, she was deputy chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks.

In addition to her Greener UK role, she is Senior Independent Trustee of the London Wildlife Trust, a board member of Hexagon Housing Association and the lay member on COMEAP, the expert committee that advises the government on the effects of air pollutants on health.

Marina

Advisory

Marina Gibson is a truly passionate angler who was lucky enough to spend much of her childhood chasing salmon, trout and sea trout. Marina is an ambassador for Orvis Fly Fishing, Angling Trust, Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fishing For Schools. In June 2019 Marina launched The Northern Fishing School at Swinton Estate in North Yorkshire, where her and her team teach all ages and abilities the art and technique of fly fishing and connect as many people as possible to the great outdoors. Marina is a certified ‘Fly Fishers International Instructor, 1st 4sport Level 2 coach and freelance writer.

Marina is an ardent supporter of the ‘Anglers Against Pollution’ and ‘River Action UK’ campaigns and hopes that we can collectively make a difference by scrutinising organisations, raising awareness and exerting force, so that we will have clean river systems for future generations, efficient wastewater treatments and thriving wildlife.

James

Advisory

James Macpherson is the former Deputy Chief Investment Officer of BlackRock’s Active Equity business managing assets of $280bn worldwide and was for many years a senior fund manager and head of their market leading UK Equity Team. He was the senior investor on BlackRock’s Global Environmental Social and Governance ‘’ESG’’ Policy Group and was Chairman of the ESG Policy Group in Europe. His experience of holding companies to account for their actions in the application of ESG standards will be invaluable to River Action’s work.

George

Advisory

George is an award-winning writer and journalist well-known for his focus on environmental and political issues.

He writes a weekly column for The Guardian and has published a number of books including Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life. George is passionate about the state of our nations rivers and has crowdfunded to carry out a live investigative documentary into river pollution later this year.

He also narrated the viral video, How Wolves Change Rivers, based on his Ted Talk which discussed the restoration of ecosystems and landscape. George is also the founder of The Land is Ours, a campaign for the right of access to the countryside and its resources in the United Kingdom.

John

Advisory

Lord John Randall served as a Conservative MP from 1997-2015 and was Government Deputy Chief Whip from 2010 to 2013. In 2017 he was appointed as Theresa May’s special adviser on the environment during her premiership. Lord Randall was created a life peer in 2018.

During his political career, Lord Randall has always been a passionate advocate for environmental issues. He is a member of the RSPB Council as well as a Trustee of other organisations including the Human Trafficking Foundation and the Bat Conservation Trust. During his time as MP, John also sat on the Environment, Transport and Rural Affairs Select Committee and strongly opposes the Heathrow Airport expansion as well as HS2.

Isabella

Advisory

Isabella is founder and Managing Director of Seahorse Environmental, a specialist environmental PR, lobbying and corporate reputational consultancy. She has a corporate background at two of Europe’s leading communications consultancies, Burson-Marsteller and Maitland, where she headed up their environmental practice.

Isabella was Policy Adviser to Zac Goldsmith MP where she helped shape his polices; led the development of policy proposals to Government and managed his international environmental campaigns.

Isabella is Chair of UK100 and the co-founder of the All Party Group on Sustainable Finance. She also sits on the Steering Committee of the Conservative Environment Network and the International Grand Jury for Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge. In 2019, she was listed in PR Week’s 30 under 30. She graduated from the University of Southampton with a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science and completed Oxford University’s Sustainable Finance course.

Feargal

Advisory

Feargal is most widely known as the lead vocalist of  The Undertones. In recent years he has performed various roles supporting the UK’s commercial music industry, winning several awards and honours for his work in that area.

Feargal is a passionate environmental campaigner, focussing particularly on the state of rivers. A lifelong fly fisherman, he has actively campaigned against the pollution of British rivers (particularly chalk streams) and the regulations of the water industry which impact British water resources. Feargal has recently launched legal action against the government over the poor state of England’s rivers. He also gave the keynote address at the Rivers Trust Autumn Conference 2018. 

Amy

Advisory

Amy is the Head of Campaigns & Policy at Surfers Against Sewage and leads on delivering campaigns, policy and project work on plastic pollution, ocean recovery, water quality, and ocean & climate campaigns. Amy has spearheaded the #EndSewagePollution campaign, launched in 2020, calling out water companies and government on failures to address sewage pollution into rivers and the ocean, bringing together NGO’s, politicians and the public to drive action on water quality.

She has been a key driver in pushing support for the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill and amendments in the Environment Bill to improve water quality legislation; and manages the only UK wide water quality information service, the Safer Seas & Rivers Service.

James

Advisory

James is the Chief Executive of the Beaver Trust where he supports the team to deliver the organisation’s strategy and leads the national policy programme, convening a coalition of stakeholders from farmers and anglers to conservationists and landowners.

James is a naturalist, archaeologist and social entrepreneur. He has established or transformed enterprises ranging from conservation and development in the tropics (Blue Ventures), deep-sea exploration and research (Nekton Foundation) and ecotourism in Europe (Sawday’s) to climate communications (Susten8), CSR and education (Global Cool), renewable energy (Empower Community) and clean technology investment (The Research Exchange).

Contact Our Team Today

Get In Touch