Orna NiChionna has been appointed as the new Chair of the Eden Trust, the charity responsible for the Eden Project. She will join the Board of Trustees later this month (March 2023) and will succeed Edward Benthall in the role in June.
Orna’s career has spanned business and the not-for-profit sector, where she has focussed on environmental and biodiversity issues.
Orna was a Partner at consulting firm McKinsey and Company for many years, and since leaving McKinsey, she has served on the boards of a number of well-known companies, including Royal Mail, HMV, Bupa, and Saga. She is currently the Senior Independent Director at Burberry.
She has also played leadership roles at several charitable organizations, including the Soil Association, where she was Chair of Trustees for six years and a Council member for 13 years, and at the National Trust, where she was Deputy Chair for seven years and Acting Chair in the last year of her term as a Trustee.
Edward Benthall was appointed Chair of the Eden Trust in 2015 and has been an Eden trustee since 2014.
The arrival of Orna as the new Chair comes at a pivotal moment for the Eden Project, following the announcement in January that Eden Project Morecambe has been granted £50m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.
Eden’s expansion to new sites will run in parallel with developments at the project’s Cornwall home, including the establishment of a state-of-the-art new plant nursery and further work on Eden’s ground-breaking geothermal heat and energy project.
Orna said: “I am truly delighted to be joining the Eden Project team at this exciting time. For more than 20 years, people have flocked to our unique Cornwall site, the result of Sir Tim Smit’s vision and drive.
“We want to build on that strong foundation to inspire even more people around the world to appreciate and protect our amazing natural world, our biodiversity, our real-life Eden. I look forward to working with our CEO Rob Chatwin and with Tim on this next phase.”
Edward said: “I am delighted that Orna has agreed to take over from me as Chair of the Eden Trust. She will have the chance to lead a wonderful team of trustees, executives, and staff at a very exciting time for the Eden Project.
“Eden is brilliant at the big things and the small, from hosting the G7 and members of the royal family to plant a tree in memory of a friend. I will leave with the fondest of memories, certain that Eden will continue to delight, surprise and inspire.”
Rob Chatwin, Group CEO of the Eden Project, said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Orna to the Eden family. Her wealth of experience and her passion for the issues that are central to the Eden Project’s mission - to work with nature to respond to the planetary emergency - make her a perfect fit for this role.
“I’m sure everyone at the Eden Project will join me in expressing our gratitude to Edward Benthall as he comes to the end of his term as Chair. His hard work, support, and guidance have been invaluable, and we wish him all the best for the future.”
Sir Tim Smit, Co-founder of the Eden Project, said: “We welcome Orna as the incoming chair of the Eden Trust with a spring in our step. We look out on a world that is waking up, not only to the perils of our planetary emergency but also to the incredible opportunities that lie in looking at the world afresh and ushering in a new green enlightenment led by a marriage between corporates and the public sector.
“Orna brings wide experience, real accomplishments in leadership, and, most important of all, a passion for the environment and a conviction that the future remains ours to make. We are delighted to have her join us and wish our outgoing Chair huge thanks for his contribution over the years and much success in his future endeavors.”