It opened an inquisitiveness that had become dormant

Alumni of the Ashridge MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility


It opened an inquisitiveness that had become dormant
Contact

Heidi Newton-King
Sustainability and HR Director
Spier Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

I needed the skills to help people engage with sustainability

I have worked at the wine estate for 15 years and my role had recently evolved from HR to sustainability. I was looking for a programme to support this change.

I considered doing a local course but wanted more international exposure. The Ashridge programme was introduced to me through Stellenbosch Business School. 

When I had the pre-programme call with an Ashridge tutor I knew it was the right one for me. I couldn’t wait to start.

What a phenomenal experience!

The content and delivery were fantastic. What makes it different is that it gives you a fundamental understanding of the essence of sustainability rather than a check-list of learning outcomes. I found it invigorating. It made me think carefully about the context in which we operate.

It’s so easy for our inquisitiveness to get squashed by the pressures of a full schedule. Somewhere along the line I had stopped thinking deeply – I had stopped asking questions. The programme developed my ability to enquire and encouraged me to start experimenting more.

Ashridge’s physical environment is wonderful. It almost feels like a retreat. However, it’s the interactive design of the programme that makes you appreciate and immerse yourself in the beauty. The learning approach encourages action and this inspires and catalyses change.

One of the highlights was the careful selection of the participants

There was a huge diversity of demographics and expertise in the class. The way the tutors encouraged people to ask questions helped me think about things differently. 

The alumni network is an invaluable, supportive space. People enquire, explore and continue the conversations around sustainability long after they have left Ashridge.

I am succeeding in getting sustainability onto the leadership agenda

I now look at situations more holistically and have started to experiment. I am conscious of the fact that you can make a contribution to sustainability individually or collectively.

I am inquiring into what keeps our team engaged and motivated to drive individual and collective action. I have started looking at how to change our sustainability discourse so that the goals are inspirational, people feel more connected with them, and know how they contribute.  

We have been running storytelling sessions to create space for connecting conversations. So far over half of our 413 employees have participated and the feedback has been excellent. It’s helping our team to re-connect, inspiring them to think about why they’re here and what our purpose is as an organisation.

We are seeing increased action and innovation across the organisation 

My time at Ashridge will carry me forward for many years. Action research is a life skill that has become a part of every aspect of my world. I now automatically reflect on what has gone well or not, ask questions and take actions. It’s an ongoing learning cycle. 

It’s a huge benefit to the estate to have someone who is committed to testing different approaches and ideas. The result is increased action and innovation. My colleagues are open to the action research, and to sharing insights and experimenting themselves. 

About Ashridge and the MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility

Established in 1959, Ashridge is a leading business school for working professionals with an international reputation for leadership development. It is in the 1% of business schools globally accredited by AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB; the UK, European and American accreditation bodies. Each year it works with over 6,000 managers from 850 organisations in 60 countries.

Working initially with Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop International, then at the University of Bath, the Ashridge faculty developed a radically new form of business education, placing the perspectives and methods of self-awareness and action inquiry at the heart of developing leaders for a sustainable future. Much of what is becoming mainstream in corporate sustainability and sustainable leadership development today was foreshadowed in that work – from mindful awareness to conscious capitalism, social enterprise to systems innovation, eco-literacy to collaborative dialogue, these themes have threads of their development in the work of the Bath and Ashridge programmes.



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