MT Sustainability Visions: Ian Cheshire on his 40-year plan

The Kingfisher boss tells MT that business must embrace sustainability - or forfeit future prosperity.

by Emma De Vita
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Speakers on the final day of last week's Start summit on sustainability included Sir Stuart Rose, outgoing chairman of M&S, Samuel J Palmisano, CEO of IBM, and Ian Cheshire, group CEO of Kingfisher and chairman of the Start advisory board.

MT had an exclusive chat with Cheshire, who (slightly hoarsely) explained why B&Q owner Kingfisher has put sustainability at the core of its business. ‘It’s about the long term future of our business,’ he told us. ‘If you’re running a business on a five- to ten-year timeframe, you can’t simply have an unsustainable business model. Unless we’re sustainable, we don’t have a long term future.’

Leaders are critical to the success or failure of an organisation becoming more sustainable, he says. ‘Organisations really do really look to see if the leadership is serious about it before they commit, but I don’t think the CEO and their immediate reports is enough,’ explains Cheshire. ‘You need to create leaders at every level of the organisation - and they can achieve great things if they are given the room to do that.’

B&Q is 40 years old. Cheshire says: ‘I’d like to see B&Q around in another 40 years. We simply can’t afford to have unsustainable business models. And the businesses that don’t understand that sustainability will affect the general economy and the general consumers won’t adapt well to it, won’t prosper, so I actually think it’s the key to the next level of corporate evolution.’

Tomorrow: Forum for the Future’s Jonathon Porritt on corporate sustainability and why it’s do or die.

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