Director of sustainability at HW Fisher, Jae Mather, warns that because businesses have a vested interest in making maximum returns for their shareholders, sustainability is lower down the list of priorities.

“Businesses are essentially working incompatibly with everybody else’s survival,” says Mather.

“This is because [a majority of business leaders] didn’t need to know about these issues to become successful. If you’re successful at something you generally tend to default back to the behavioural patterns that made you successful,” he adds.

However, Mather pointed out that a handful of companies are leading in sustainability and CSR, such as Unilever, Pantagonia and Puma.

“But let’s look at these leaders and say for every one of those shiny examples how many are not moving in the right direction, which unfortunately is the majority.

“That means we’ve got a lot of people leading businesses in ways that are defunct because they worked in the past – but they don’t work anymore. And that’s the challenge, how do we retrain? How do you teach an old dog new tricks?”

Mather said that people training in the business sector are being taught an economic model that is technically obsolete because it continues to exclude the major environmental implications of issues such as climate change and water scarcity.

However, he was optimistic about the rise in sustainability training but added that the private sector was still worryingly out of the loop because of these old fashioned business models.

“The fundamental issue is that the business leaders with 20 to 30 years’ experience are largely ignorant to these issues”.

Leigh Stringer

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