Say hello to John Kraus, the IGS’s first Executive Director!
John joined the IGS in March, in a new part-time role that will further support the Society and its members to achieve their goals.
John has had an eclectic career. He has worked as a diplomat for the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and as Director of Urban Affairs and Head of Sustainable Urbanisation at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
He combines his new role in the IGS with being Founder and Managing Director of Net Zero Directors, which provides consultation to company boards on sustainable business practices with a focus on climate risk and low carbon transition.
Here, he shares a bit about his background and his hopes for his new role.
Congratulations on becoming Executive Director! What interested you about the IGS?
I’m a great believer in the scope for human ingenuity to provide for populations’ needs in ever more efficient and sustainable ways. It’s hugely encouraging to see the rise in public awareness and the growth in political will to “build back better” from the pandemic. But real difference comes from delivering the sort of practical solutions that geosynthetics offer.
You’ve had a very interesting international career. How do you think your previous roles will inform or shape your approach to working with the IGS?
I’ve had a varied career, not all of it on my CV. I started life as a physicist, so I understand the scientific principles behind geosynthetics, and the value of experimental testing. While studying I had summer jobs in instrument engineering at a large chemical factory, and went on to spend a couple of years working on academic research using mathematical modelling techniques.
More recently I led the academic research programme at RICS, much of which we delivered through a Trust, similar to the IGS Foundation.
My career has focused on building collaborative relationships between governments, business and civil society, seeking the opportunities to achieve more together. I have worked in government and in a commercial environment. I have also been fortunate to experience living outside the UK, which greatly shaped my perspectives. I am a member of two professional bodies, the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, and the Chartered Management Institute. I’m also a member of the Royal Society of Arts. All these organisations focus on sharing knowledge to solve real problems by spreading ideas and practices across sectors. This helps to keep my skills up to date and gives me a customer viewpoint of membership organisations.
What challenges do you think the geosynthetics industry is facing at the moment and over the next decade?
There are key drivers common to many industries, professional bodies and similar organisations operating in the built and natural environment. There has been an overall erosion of public trust in established bodies and increased scepticism in expert opinion, and even science itself is being challenged.
We are also reaching a tipping point in investment, where environmental, social and governance issues are rising up the investor agenda. In common with other sectors, there will be a growing need to attract and retain more diverse talent, and be seen to do so.
And technology will play a big part. With increased deployment of sensors, we will see an explosion in the generation of data. This has already led to significant innovations in other sectors such as real estate.
What is the IGS’s role/place in this?
The IGS has a key role to play in ensuring that choices continue to be based on well-founded evidence. The IGS can be the authoritative voice. It needs to work hard to ensure this voice is heard by policy-makers and others, in ways that they understand, at the right time and place to have an impact.
What are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to continuing my engagement and interaction with chapters, committees and individuals over the next few months. I have made a start, but there are many people still to meet!
I’m also looking forward to experiencing IGS’s flagship events for myself. They will provide the perfect opportunity to see how the Society’s many parts come together. But I’m also realistic that we need to keep our plans under constant review given the current circumstances and the uncertain path out of the pandemic. In the meantime, it’s been great to see so many virtual events and webinars hosted by our chapters.
I’m also keen to support the growth and impact of the IGS Foundation in widening the reach and understanding of geosynthetics. Sustainable business is close to my heart so I’m eager to support the IGS’s ambitions here too.
Outside of work, what are your passions and hobbies?
My children, the green industrial revolution, and trying to keep fit.
Do you have any messages for members and other stakeholders?
I’m here to listen. I’d love to hear from you and know the value you see in the IGS. What are we doing well and what can we do differently? What are the issues you are facing now and expect to face in the future?
How can members get in touch?
Please connect with me via LinkedIn here or email