MATTHEW GWYTHER, EDITOR, MANAGEMENT TODAY
It's a mark of how far the subject of sustainability in business has advanced that it means so many different things to different bosses. What began more than a decade ago as a revivified conversation about corporate social responsibility (CSR) has now morphed into an urgent discussion.
In biology - where the term originates - sustainability is about the ability to endure, so those who are not sustainable are staring at oblivion. Maybe to invert the phrase from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, it's about making the genes of a business a bit more altruistic and less selfish.
Sustainability has come to signify the school of thought that considers how business operates in social, cultural and economic environments. Increasingly, it has become a story about enlightened self-interest or 'doing the right thing'. What precisely is the right thing is still open to debate. In the sphere of carbon reduction, for example, the arguments are fierce about how best to reduce footprints.
What is important is a willingness in business to listen, to learn and to adapt behaviour.
This becomes even more important when the global economy is in bad shape, as sustainability encompasses the process of surviving in a hostile environment. The way the finance sector was behaving in the first half of the past decade was not sustainable and we are all paying the price. Business is a marathon these days, not a wild, high-fiving sprint.
The individuals who have won these awards have shown not only determination, often against the odds, to get their voice heard, but also a commitment to doing what they're sure was the right thing. We need more of them out there.
JEREMY DARROCH, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, SKY
In recent years, sustainability has moved right to the top of the business agenda.
It's not hard to see why. In challenging economic conditions, more organisations have seen the potential to make their operations more robust and efficient. And when trust in business has taken a battering, customers have increasingly chosen to reward companies that act responsibly and take a lead on the issues they care about. The value of long-term relationships with customers and other stakeholders has never been clearer, and sustainability can help build them.
At Sky, we don't believe we have to choose between acting responsibly and being a successful business. We're committed to doing the right thing day-to-day, which means building productive, fair and ethical relationships with our partners and suppliers, and promoting better standards within our supply chain. We also recognise that our position as a leading broadcaster gives us an opportunity to make a positive impact on society.
Our research shows the business leaders of tomorrow are strongly committed to sustainability in their careers. We joined forces with MT to find out more about how they're turning their beliefs into action. I'm delighted we're announcing the winners in this issue. Many stood out because of their determination to overcome barriers and go the extra mile with projects and initiatives that are benefiting others. But the range of sectors and professions represented shows that all organisations can be more sustainable if they think long-term.
The winners of these awards aren't just the rising stars of sustainability, they're making a difference today and equipping their organisations to succeed in the future. There is much we can learn from them.