Why sustainability matters to business

How can UK plc be more sustainable? Corporate big names came together in London last week to work out an action plan.

by Emma De Vita
Last Updated: 20 Sep 2010

It’s not often that UK plc’s biggest brains come together to discuss the future of sustainability, but from the 8th-6th September, London’s Lancaster House hosted the Start Summit – an initiative established by HRH The Prince of Wales, which, together with partner IBM, aimed to show what a sustainable future for business might look like. And most importantly: why measures have to be taken right now if future business prosperity is to be assured...

During the nine days of debate, presentations and calls to action, leaders from the private, public and charity sectors swapped ideas and real life experiences of the subject. Day Four of the conference focused on perhaps the most important aspect of future sustainability: people, both as employees and consumers. How can CEOs and managers influence behaviour and values within their organisation so that it can be made more sustainable? What do younger, Generation Y employees now expect from their employers when it comes to sustainability? How can real change actually be brought about, rather than just talked about?

The keynote speakers were drawn from every area of society and business. So Euan Sutherland, CEO of Kingfisher, rubbed shoulders with The Rt Rev James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, who spoke on the need for sustainable organisations, and Dame Ellen MacArthur, whose foundation helps young people and business work together to create a sustainable economy.

MT tracked down some of these movers and shakers for their views on why sustainability matters to business, and why it’s imperative that through collaboration and innovation, Britain can step up to the challenge. We started by asking Stephen Howard, CEO of Business in the Community for his views on sustainability, and what business needs to do ensure an enduring and profitable future. Howard joined BiTC as MD in 2005, and became CEO in 2008. Before that, he was a practising lawyer in the US and eventually became group chief executive of global manufacturer Novar.

In our exclusive interview, Howard talks about:
- how sustainability impacts on future planning, and how to manage those risks
- how to present the business case for being a sustainable business.
- what skills and talents people at board level and in middle management require
- why you have to be open to such ideas if you want to get ahead in your career

Every day this week we’ll be presenting a video interview with one of the leaders present at the conference, covering every business aspect of sustainability. Tomorrow’s focus: Generation Y.

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