Sustainability past 'toddler' stage but not there yet

We're talking the talk, but might not be walking the walk as there is still some way to go before sustainability is fully integrated into business.

That's the view of Forum for the Future deputy chief executive Dr. Sally Uren speaking at the 'Sustainable Business in Practice' conference in London today (April 26) organised by edie sister publication Sustainable Business (SB), which aims to consider how to integrate sustainability into mainstream business.

As part of the conference, which brought together business leaders, sustainability professionals and financial decision makers to share best practice and effective implementation strategies, delegates heard from a range of speakers including; Aldersgate Group chairman Peter Young, Eurostar CEO Richard Brown and BT chief sustainability officer Niall Dunne.

Introducing the session, Dr. Uren said that while "sustainability language" had hit the mainstream that she wasn't sure it was fully embedded in business as "if it was we would be much closer to a sustainable economy".

Rather, she said that sustainability is in its "teenage years as it has had a growth spurt and got us to where we are now." It has also left the toddler stage where people didn't really understand it", she added saying it is "coming of age".

Discussing how UK business can drive the development of a sustainable green economy, Aldersgate Group chairman Peter Young said that he believed that "business is better placed to move the sustainability dialogue than government" as they have "got the message about the value benefit of energy efficiency but government hasn't."

He also said that there has been a big shift in attitude from global companies which now really understand that they must act against climate change as it threatens their survival.

As a result, he said that better partnership between business and government is needed as "business can't do it all".

Mr Young also noted that the UK has the largest consumption versus emissions and called for government to close the loop in the UK and reduce imports to help cut carbon by manufacturing more in Britain.

Meanwhile, Eurostar CEO Richard Brown said that consumers are also responsible for driving change as they see sustainability as "more than carbon emissions", and as a result sustainability in business should be led by customer and market needs.

Carys Matthews


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