Practitioner Spotlight--Peter Penning

Practitioner Spotlight--Peter Penning

January 8th, 2018

Name: Peter Penning holding a goat

Peter Penning


Lisbon, Portugal

Practice Area:


Area(s) of expertise:

Sustainability, notably water stewardship, climate change (it's real), stakeholder engagement, and monetization.

About Me in 140 Characters:

I’m a Dutchman, a Portuguese resident, and a convinced European. I have a lovely wife, three adult children, and a toy poodle called Wolfy.

Favorite Thing about Being a Sustainability Practitioner:

The diversity of topics which force you to continue learning and developing.

What is the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?

I have built and operated a chemical factory in Malaysia in the late 90’s. That’s not sustainability, but the project actually led to my career in sustainability as I learned a lot about the topic while working in Melaka.

Considering the factory in Malaysia actually burned down (twice), I’d say helping to build a major beverage company's water stewardship program with and then implementing it in hundreds of bottling plants around the world was the most interesting project overall. Antea Group and our Inogen colleagues have worked in more than 300 watersheds on every continent, except Antarctica (penguins shuffle, but don’t buy water stewardship services). We started this in 2004 and are still at it, but now also at a great number of other clients, and more and more in non-beverage segments.

What area(s) of Sustainability are you most interested in? Why?

I’m very fond of water stewardship. Not only was I part of the first pioneering teams to work on it, but water is so fundamental to our lives that it’s hard to find anything else with the same impact or importance. Life on this planet is based on the solvent water. It's of a circular nature, which also means that unlike climate change and other topics like resource depletion, it’s actually possible to be fully sustainable with water. Of course, it will still require more knowledge, better management practices, and especially a lot of political courage to divert water to the most meaningful activities so we can optimize our use of water. It’s the one sustainability challenge I believe can be tackled in my lifetime.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

From the age of 5 I wanted to become a biologist, or more accurately  – zoologist. And then years later the realities of the 80’s crisis in Holland made me decide to become a chemical engineer. At least there was enough work in that field, but I never lost the interest in animals and ecology. 

What TV show character do you identify most with?

I’m very fond of Stephen Fry – he knows so much more and he speaks so many more languages than I do. However, if I could become Sir David Attenborough, I would.

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

That would be a short life.

What historical or fictional character would you most like to work with?

Attila the Hun. Not only was he called the Scourge of God (how’s that for a nickname!), but apparently, he was such a charismatic personality that he could bind a wide array of peoples (Huns, Goths, Alars, Sarmatians, Franks, etc.) to his person. His army scared the Roman Empire for decades and finally caused the western part of the empire to collapse in 476. 


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