In memoriam: Marek Mayer

Marek Mayer We are very sad to announce the death on 23 July of ENDS' Editorial Director, Marek Mayer, after a long illness.

Marek led ENDS for over two decades. He edited the ENDS Report - the UK's leading journal of environmental policy and practice - from 1981 to 1997, thereafter becoming Editorial Director. He co-owned ENDS until the company's sale to Haymarket Publishing in 2004.

Marek had an enormous influence on a whole generation of British environmental professionals. He had an unswerving passion for the environment. He displayed dogged persistence in getting to the truth. Unearthing details that escaped most others, his reporting and analysis became the reference point for business, environmental groups and policy makers.

For those who came into direct contact with him, Marek inspired, not only through his dedication but also his sheer humanity. ENDS staff will remember him for his enormous generosity of spirit and the tremendous loyalty that he displayed to colleagues facing difficulties of any kind. We will all miss him.

Marek was a journalist ahead of his time, starting to write about environmental issues when (for British business at least) they were little understood or appreciated. When he began it was often said that the UK was the "dirty man of Europe". It is in part Marek's legacy that this is no longer the case.

Nick Rowcliffe


From The Independent

Marek Mayer
Environmental journalist at Ends
Published: 26 July 2005
Marek Mayer, environmentalist and journalist: born London 6 August 1952; Editor, The Ends Report 1981-97, Editorial Director 1997-2005; married 2003 Sue Gee (one son); died London 23 July 2005.

Marek Mayer was a consummate environmental journalist. For over 20 years, he edited the monthly intelligence journal The Ends Report, and ensured that it became essential reading for anyone seriously interested in understanding the complexities of contemporary environmental policy.

The idea for Ends (Environmental Data Services) arose from a meeting in the late 1970s with David Layton of Income Data Services and the conservationist Max Nicholson. John Elkington was hired as the first editor, and it rapidly became clear that Ends was a concept that had found its moment. It was the decade that saw the Stockholm conference on the environment, the establishment of the UK Department of the Environment, and the first European Community legislation on the environment. Indeed, it is now almost impossible for those who follow environmental developments to remember how one survived without Ends.

The need for more heavyweight writers became apparent, and Marek Mayer, who was then in his late twenties and, having recently completed a master's course in environmental studies at Manchester University, was looking for work in the environmental field, was hired as staff journalist. For the first six months or so, Elkington wondered whether he had made a terrible mistake in the appointment. Mayer read and read, and talked endlessly to people involved in environmental policy but, to the despair of his editor, wrote almost nothing. But then, as Elkington recalls, after this lengthy gestation period he suddenly went critical, like a nuclear reactor, and poured forth a regular stream of insightful and authoritative copy, something that he continued to do for the rest of his life.

Mayer's initial approach was typical of his style. He avoided sensationalism and, although sympathetic to environmental concerns, was at heart a journalist of the best sort, concerned at getting to the bottom of what was happening and explaining it in the wider context. Mayer succeeded John Elkington as Editor of The Ends Report in 1981, and for many years it seemed that each monthly issue was written solely by him - produced out of endless all-night sessions in what was a self-constructed sweatshop. Ends became a by-word for authoritative analysis. Government officials read it to find out what was going on in other departments, and sometimes their own. As industry began responding to contemporary environmental pressures, the journal contained increasingly detailed accounts of both good and bad industrial practice.

Marek Mayer knew that the devil often lies in the detail. When Michael Heseltine became Secretary of State at the Department of the Environment in the late 1980s, he introduced a new management accounting system which involved the annual production of detailed tables of departmental targets and resources. Mayer was one of the few outsiders prepared to read through these dense and turgid documents, and to understand and then explain what they really implied for the delivery of policy.

He had an extraordinary memory for detail. Name a company that had recently been in the news for promoting its environmental credentials and he would recall a successful prosecution against it many years previously. He was deeply suspicious of cant and spin. In the first years following the setting up of the Environmental Agency in 1996, he was anxious that it was failing to live up to its promise of a new integrated approach to the environment, and that the reorganisation had in practice devalued priorities being given to waste regulation. He kept up a stream of critical reports of the agency's performance, and in retrospect his concerns were largely justified, with the result that waste was pushed to the top of the agency's agenda.

Under his editorship, Ends expanded greatly. The monthly journal itself grew in size, as did the numbers of staff. A complementary daily information service was introduced, and Ends produced a number of authoritative research reports on the implementation of law and policy that would have put many an environmental academic to shame. In 1997 the size of the operation required a change of structure with the appointment of Julian Rose as Editor, and with Mayer assuming a more strategic role as Editorial Director. But his high professional standards of writing, coupled with his belief in the distinctive value of Ends, meant that delegation did not come easily to him, and his new role did not relieve him from the pressure of continued detailed involvement.

Marek Mayer was proud of his Polish ancestry, and appropriately his 50th birthday in 2002 was celebrated in the Polish Hearth Club in Kensington. He was a shy and reserved person who would normally avoid at all costs being the centre of attention. His longstanding partner, the writer Sue Gee, fearful that he would simply refuse to turn up, tried to keep the event a surprise by some elaborate ruses that were carried out by some of Britain's leading environmentalists. His journalist skills, though, soon detected the plot, but in the event he relished the evening, and it was one of the few times he was known to have given a public speech.

When Mayer discovered he was suffering from an unusual form of kidney cancer, his investigative style typified his approach to the illness. He read widely on the subject, and consultants found themselves being quizzed in immense detail on the latest research findings and new treatment methods. Throughout, he continued his writing and involvement with Ends, and secured the purchase of the journal by Haymarket Publications in order to secure its long-term future.
Richard Macrory

Reproduced by permission from The Independent, Obituaries, 26 July 2005.

The Guardian, 28 July 2005.

Press Gazette, 5 August 2005.

The Times, 16 August 2005.


Please email your tributes to

• As a student at ICCET in the mid eighties I met Marek and was inspired by his enthusiasm for environmental policy and stayed in touch with Marek throughout my career to date. For me two things stand out about Marek that you mentioned in your memorial statement: his humanity and being ahead of his time. I always felt that, whatever way the political wind was blowing, or whatever the latest environmental concern - Marek was a truth seeker and as such provided a benchmark for us all. Humanity: he was such a genuinely good bloke always time to say hello or exchange snippets of what was going on at that time. I shall miss him.
Steve Hollins, European Commission

• I am so sorry to hear of Marek's death. I have known him - on and off - since ENDS started. He very much shaped ENDS - as you'll no doubt be aware! I think that he crafted the housestyle so well over the years. He was also a very perceptive individual - I recall leaking him the odd story at various times in my professional career (more than once with my employer's consent); he had an unerring ability always to extract from me more information than I set out to give him - a sign of a brilliant journalist. Although I know that he was less involved with ENDS in later years, I still felt that - if you like - Marek was ENDS and ENDS was Marek. He always seemed to have had a magic touch of cutting through the different political positions to get somewhere near the truth - as much as there is "truth" in the environmental policy arena. And perhaps this is what made his contribution so unique. Hence he'll be greatly missed. I am so sad that he's passed away - gutted in fact.
Duncan Laurence, Duncan Laurence Environmental

• Staff from Co-operative Financial Services Sustainable Development Team would like to pass on our condolences to Marek's family and the staff at ENDS. Marek had a tremendous gift: the ability to translate complex information into easily understood stories and thus inspire action. His editorials were always thought-provoking, and many a time I'm sure national journalists must have, to their shame, been spurred into action by his diligence. Certainly we were. The environment has lost a great champion.
Liz Thompson, Environment Adviser

• I read the obituary of Marek in the international edition of The Guardian, with great sadness. So much of it rang true for me. When I started out as a volunteer at Friends of the Earth, back in the late 80s, ENDS was absolutely required reading for campaign teams, with scoops and analysis which were astonishingly reliable and accurate. Marek helped us, indirectly and sometimes directly, to spot angles, especially in new legislation or nuances in policy positions. New sources of leverage were discovered in obscure regulations, unintended implications guessed at and fruitful avenues of enquiry opened up. Andrew Lees, one of FOE's most effective and inspirational campaigners, relied a lot on Marek's judgement and intelligence. And Marek took time to meet with me when I was new in my job working on domestic waste and recycling at FOE, helping me to understand his perspective on the, then, infant packaging legislation coming out of Europe. A pioneering and generous man, of great intelligence and foresight. Thanks, Marek.
Penny Walker

• I was saddened to hear the news about Marek Mayer. I corresponded with him on a few occasions, but can't claim I knew him personally. However, as you said in your obituary he was a great influencer and I certainly felt that he had great spirit and a keenness to get to the bottom of issues and report them in an objective, unbiased way. I have been an environmental consultant for over 30 years, dating from the times when environmental consultancies were few and far between and environmental controls were similarly sparse. As our industry developed there was a huge need for information and dispassionate reporting on developing environmental issues, legislation and best practice. It was this void that ENDS and Marek filled so well. I have used ENDS as my environmental 'bible' over the years and always felt that, if necessary, I could contact Marek for views or amplification of information, which he was always happy to do. I am sure he will be greatly missed.
Paul Johnson, Environmental Consulting, Arup

• I was very sorry to read of Marek's death. He was always a challenge to us here in the Environment Agency - corporately, and professionally as press officers - in the best possible way of course. He always meticulously researched the facts, analysed the problem and the implications to present us with the (sometimes uncomfortable) reality on which to comment! That determination to see things right taught me a lot about challenging the issues internally - everything gets the 'well what ENDS would say to that is....' treatment to ensure we stand up to scrutiny. Marek was always charming and I liked and respected him very much. Please pass on my personal condolonces and those of all the press officers here in the Environment Agency.
Emer O'Connell, Environment Agency

• I came across Marek many times when I was an academic and then a Parliamentary researcher. More recently, I have worked on two specialist publications that may be regarded as competitors with parts of the ENDS stable. Marek knew this, but in my experience was always helpful and collegiate. He was a man of many words in print - in his detailed and excellent exigeses of diverse environmental policy issues - but few in public. Except once: at the annual meeting of the Environment Agency several years ago, Marek suddenly rose from his seat to berate the Board over what he characterised as its obsessive secrecy in practice, despite its protestations of openness. Marek was in pursuit of some key internal Agency papers, on which he was to write one of his magisterial critiques. I had had my own run in with the Agency over its refusal to disclose a consultants report on the Sellafield MOX plant and joined Marek in pressing the Agency to live up to its public commitment to openness. It was an unforgettable event: and Marek's persistence in seeking the truth - and publishing it - has been an inspiration for me, and I suspect many more.
Dr David Lowry, Brownfield Briefing and Climate Change Management, Newzeye Publications

• Marek's work with ENDS has inspired many of us here at Friends of the Earth and, together with Andrew Lees (Friends of the Earth's campaigns director who tragically died 10 years ago and was a good friend of Marek), taught a generation of campaigners about the need for good research, attention to detail and persistence. I know like Andrew, he didn't see work as a 95 activity and encouraged staff to put their all into work!
Mike Childs, head of campaigns, Friends of the Earth

• There is a passage in the Tao Te Ching that catches Marek perfectly. It reads:

"The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable,
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood."

I am less sure about the "yielding", though there was a deep warmth to Marek, rarely visible but always there. And I think more of granite than of wood when I remember him. But he was a master of his trade and the world benefited greatly from that mastery.

I remember the way his eyes narrowed when you told him something. No matter how well he knew you, or how much he trusted you, he accepted nothing until he had calibrated it against his own unparalleled knowledge.

I remember, too, the brief pause before he replied to any question or argument. Marek knew the importance, and power, of words and weighed them with care. Nothing he said or wrote was done without deliberation, sometimes agonisingly so for both himself and his friends.

He was not always right and we did not always agree. But there was never any doubt about his intent, and his integrity really was fashioned from rock. That is what made him such a seminal cartographer of the unfolding geography of environmental policy. He was the guide on whom so many of us relied - in government, in business, in academia and the NGOs and in the wider media - to find our way.

We will miss him but we will not quickly forget him.
Tom Burke, visiting professor, Imperial and University Colleges, London and chair of ENDS Editorial Board

• A new thread in Marek's life began when a close friend, Andrew Lees, campaigns director of Friends of the Earth, died in Madagascar in 1994 whilst researching the impacts of a proposed titanium ore mine. Marek and Andrew shared a powerful commitment to the environment, and understood how a grasp of complexity and detail could be used to pursue that goal. Marek helped to set up the Andrew Lees Trust, becoming a Trustee and helping steer its work on social and environmental programmes in Madagascar. He brought great wisdom and sensitivity to many decisions, together with wit, humanity and a wonderfully sanguine approach.

Marek requested that any donations in his memory go to the Trust, which is establishing a bursary and an award for Malagasy students in his name. For further information, visit
Christine Orengo and Mary Taylor, The Andrew Lees Trust

• We are proud that Marek chose Haymarket as the most appropriate company to continue the high standards of editorial independence and commercial flair that he brought to the protection and improvement of the environment.

We are sad that his long battle against cancer is now over and we greatly admire the great courage with which he fought against impossible odds to the very end. We are determined to build on his achievements. This is what he would have wanted. It must be the greatest tribute that we can pay him.
Michael Heseltine, chairman, Haymarket Publishing

• Marek was an essential part of the environment scene which, back in the late 1980s, was smaller. Marek was always there, probing, asking questions, always deep in conversation. That is what made Marek (and ENDS) different - a deep interest and understanding of the environmental world. His must-read articles clarified issues in a way that made them relevant and useful to the private sector at a time when this was rare. He delved into the facts, drawing on the science and cutting through emotion, hype and lobbying from NGOs and industry.

Marek enlightened a whole generation about a broad range of complex environmental issues. He influenced many of our thoughts during a critical time for the environment debate: he will be missed.
Robin Bidwell, executive chairman, ERM

• Despite being a shy and very private person who felt himself intensely Polish, and hence something of an outsider, Marek penetrated to the heart of British policy-making. Although he would not have accepted the term, he became part of the British establishment, certainly of the environmental establishment.

While what he wrote created his reputation, his influence was felt as much in his conversations with countless key players. From them he derived information, but from him they derived judgement grounded in breadth of knowledge. I came to know Marek when I started the London office of IEEP in 1980. Unlike others who should have known better, Marek immediately saw the potential impact of the EU. At the beginning I like to think he learnt from me but it was not long before the tables were turned.

In the preface to my book, EEC Environmental Policy and Britain, which ENDS published in 1984, I merely thanked Marek for "considerably more encouragement and support than an author expects of his publisher".

But by the time of the second edition in 1987 I wrote: "It is impossible for anyone who wants to follow environmental policy in Britain to do without the monthly ENDS and although I have acknowledged ENDS as a source in some places, I am conscious that I have absorbed much information that appears here unacknowledged from ENDS and from conversations with its editor, Marek Mayer. Perhaps there is a certain symmetry in our relations in this respect." Many people in government and other key positions also valued similar symmetrical relationships. Environmental policy-making will never be quite the same.
Nigel Haigh, founding director, Institute for European Environmental Policy

• It is difficult to imagine life without ENDS, which is now required reading for all forward-looking businesses. When ENDS started in the late 1970s, environment was very low or non-existent on the agenda of most businesses or indeed of most organisations. Marek, through persistent, accurate and incisive reporting, did much to change that.

He was a superb journalist who used his skills to advance the environmental agenda and to change perceptions. He won the respect of business by the quality of his information and writing and by the fact that he did not spare industry, government, regulators, or even NGOs, when they fell short of the standards expected.

His influence can be illustrated by a short anecdote. When I travelled to Kyoto for the meeting that resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, I was seated just behind Michael Meacher, then Environment Minister. He spent a significant part of the long journey reading ENDS.

Marek will be sorely missed. I can think of no better tribute than to plagiarise the words on Christopher Wren's tomb in St Paul's cathedral - "Lector, si monumentum requiris lege" ["Reader, if you seek his monument read on"].
Bill Kyte, head of sustainable development, E.ON UK

• In the mid-1980s, few people worked in corporate environmental management. This is easily forgotten given the size of the CSR industry today. Marek was pivotal in defining the business-environment agenda in those early days, not only through his probing, richly informative journalism but also, less obviously, through his mentorship to those moving into this field.

He did not suffer fools gladly and it was a true gift to have his support and interest in the emergent field of environmental investment. Marek was truly a gentle giant. As well as being tall in stature he had a massive mind which hid behind his quiet, understated character. He planted two lime trees at my home in Scotland which have already grown tall and will remind us of his towering contribution for many years to come.
Tessa Tennant, Association for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia

• Marek's contribution to the environmental cause was immense and he kept us very conscious that we were only as good as our last decision. We sometimes wished he would see our point of view but I suspect that wouldn't have been as good for us.

His incisive and terrier-like approach, linked with his warm, intelligent personality, made him someone you wanted as a friend even when he and ENDS were kicking you round the block. The world needs Mareks whose dedication to keeping both regulators and business up to the environmental mark will shine like a beacon in his memory.
Barbara Young, chief executive, Environment Agency

• Marek always took a special interest in the In Court section of the ENDS Report. Sometimes a court decision might appeal to me as a lawyer, but I could tell from a long pause and a sort of muffled grunt that he did not judge it to have real policy significance - and he was generally correct. His experience and knowledge often led him to conclude that a judge had been rather too optimistic or just plain wrong. Again his judgement was usually sound.

Marek had exceptionally high standards of writing and analysis. We may yet see a specialist Environmental Tribunal in this country, and Marek would have made a wonderful though demanding member of such a body.
Richard Macrory, professor of Environmental Law, University College

• I got to know Marek during the late 1970s and early 1980s when my wife and I were heavily involved with Friends of the Earth, both nationally and locally. ENDS was invaluable as a source of hard information, and he was always generous with resources. When I began to freelance in 1988, working for FoE and Greenpeace on nuclear waste issues, it was again ENDS that assisted my researches. Marek and I never communicated much, but whenever we did he was always the same generous person I'd known from the beginning.

I only just heard of his death, and I am, to quote another writer, 'gutted'. I am however pleased to see the tributes from others I have worked with and for over the years, and to see that he was held in such high regard by all. One can only hope for similar when the time comes!
Phil Richardson, Enviros Consulting

• My first introduction to Marek Mayer was through my then boss (and Marek's close friend) Andrew Lees at Friends of the Earth. I was an impressionable young apprentice campaigner learning the ropes and would spend evenings watching Marek and Andrew trade gossip and jokes about environmental policy (none of which I understood) while despairing of ever acquiring a grasp of the subject that they had so completely mastered. Little has changed and almost twenty years later I still found myself awe struck by Marek's incredible breadth of knowledge and understanding and frustrated that I could never match his intellectual brilliance.

Marek was an intensely private man and devoted to his work - I once shared a flat with him for six months and saw him only once since he spent most of his life at the office. I also saw his intensely generous spirit through his support for the Andrew Lees Trust and the personal commitment he could give to others.

A truly remarkable man. Marek we will miss you.
Blake Lee-Harwood, campaign director, Greenpeace UK

• I was very sad to find out that Marek had died. His high standards of research, accuracy, attention to detail and fairness in reporting, coupled with a real integrity and commitment to the environment, made ENDS a unique and invaluable publication. As an environmental writer on a much smaller scale I have found his work an inspiration and standard to aspire to, as well as the first place to look when complex legislative proposals need to be deciphered. Though I met him only briefly I will always remember his warm and intelligent personality.
Caroline Hand, Croner's Waste Management

The Times obituary of 12 August was an edited version of a piece written by me (I am the "former clerk" of the House of Lords committee); the original text (which contains some additional family material of interest) is attached here.

I first got to know Marek when I was secretary to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1981-86), when ENDS was still in its infancy. My later career was in other DOE policy areas, but when (after leaving the civil service) I moved to the House of Lords in 1996 it was a particular pleasure to find that Marek was again to be one of my regular contacts.

Marek was impressed when I told him that the Committee Office still held a virtually complete set of back numbers of ENDS, carefully filed away by my predecessors. In practice the older numbers just took up space and I rarely had occasion to look back more than a few years; but it would have been a shame to throw them away. They were still in a filing cabinet when I retired two years ago and maybe if ENDS (or anyone else) is interested in acquiring them for archive or research purposes they should get in touch with the present clerk to EU Sub-Committee D.

During inquiries by the committee we used to send Marek the uncorrected verbatim transcripts of oral evidence, so that he could check his notes of the meetings he attended or fill gaps when he was unable to attend. His blow-by-blow accounts of how witnesses performed before the committee were always a good read - especially when the committee gave them a difficult time. (I must admit to occasional feelings of Schadenfreude when I watched former DOE colleagues being given a rough ride.) He was often able to suggest helpful lines of questioning, without ever trying to influence the committee's conclusions; his subsequent write-ups were unfailingly objective. We also provided him with complete sets of the written submissions received by the committee, and his analyses of these provided an invaluable cross-check when it came to writing up the evidence for the report.
Tom Radice, former Clerk to the House of Lords EU Committee, Sub-Committee D (Environment and Agriculture).

"If you doubt everything, you miss nothing." Marek Meyer (1952-2005), personal communication c. 1985.

Marek died after questioning everything possible about the course of his cancer and its ultimately unsuccessful treatment. In exactly the same way he questioned the performance of everyone - in business, regulation, government - in relation to their responsibilities (legal and moral) to protecting the environment. ENDS, even with its smart new lay out and colour pictures, always saw the reader not the designer as the one with the responsibility for getting the magazine read. The role of the editorial team was to check that the facts were brought out in timely fashion and were100% right. Geoffrey Lean of the The Independent once shook a copy of ENDS irritably at Marek, bemoaning the fact that it was hard going but absolutely essential reading. That's what Marek made ENDS. A lot of people hope it stays that way.
Sara Parkin, Founding Director, Forum for the Future and Board member Environment Agency, England and Wales.